Timing of Adoption Update: 2007-2008

Our survey data on the average length of time it takes to complete an adoption from the 2007-2008 Adoptive Families Cost and Timing of Adoption Survey.

With the enactment of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, and revision of the adoption policies of many sending countries, timelines to adopt varied considerably during 2007 and 2008. Here’s what more than 1,000 AF readers experienced during their journeys to adopt from the U.S. and the top-five sending countries, in 2007 and 2008 as reported in our annual Cost and Timing survey.

U.S.A.: A Better Option for Many

Because of changes in international adoption, more would-be moms and dads are looking closer to home to build their families — and finding that adopting an infant born in the U.S. can be a smooth, fast process. The birth mother match happens in less than six months for more than half (55%) of prospective adopters. The baby is born less than one month later for one-third of adopting families — and 63% find themselves at home with their new addition just one week after the baby’s birth.

Current estimated wait: 0-18 months

Readers say:
“It took seven months to complete my homestudy and assemble my ‘Dear Birth Mother’ profile. Two months after that, I took custody of my daughter. It felt like a long time, but, looking back, I see that the entire process took only nine months.”

“We were fortunate to adopt quickly because we were open to any race, to contact with birth parents, and to some prenatal drug use (but no alcohol). Our girls are happy and healthy, and they are meant to be part of our family.”


U.S. Newborn Adoptions

Average time from preparation of portfolio to match with birth mother (includes time spent in false starts): 

55% — 6 months or less
77% — 12 months or less

Time from birth mother match to birth of child:

33% — Less than 1 month
68% — 3 months or less
19% — Match after birth

Time between birth and the day that baby came home:

63% — Less than 1 week
83% — 2 weeks or less

Time between birth and legal finalization:

54% — 6 months or less
92%12 months or less

  • Of the 29% that experienced false starts, 39% percent knew within a month that the adoption would not take place

Ethiopia: Smooth from Start to Finish

The number of families adopting from Ethiopia continues to increase (2,980 adoptions during 2007-08, compared with 1,173 in the previous two years), as parents-to-be learn about Ethiopia’s set process and timelines. Fifty-five percent received referrals within three months. Another 55% brought their child home just three months later.

Current estimated wait: 12-24 months

Readers say:
“It took us less than a year from the beginning to the end of the process. This was due to Ethiopia’s streamlined process, and to our motivation to get our paperwork done quickly.”

“We were open to a boy up to 30 months old, so we received a referral months sooner than families waiting for girls or infants of either gender.”

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

26% — 1 month or less
55% — 3 months or less
81% — 6 months or less

Time from referral until child came home:

55% — 3 months or less
94% — 6 months or less

For those who traveled, time spent in Ethiopia:

20% — 1 week or less
90% — 2 weeks or less

  • Families that adopted two children at the same time: 19%

China: The Wait Continues

As this issue went to press, authorities in China were matching families who had submitted their applications in the spring of 2006, and adoption professionals weren’t sure when the wait would begin to drop. Although 75% of the families who brought their children home during 2007-08 waited less than two years for referrals, families just beginning the process will wait longer. The wait can be shorter for parents able to adopt a special-needs child.

Current estimated wait: 34 months or longer

Readers say:
“When we began the process, we were told it would take eight or nine months to receive a referral. By the time we finished our paperwork, the timeline had more than doubled. The wait was very difficult!”

“China’s process slowed down around the time our paperwork was logged in. We chose to adopt a special-needs child, due to the shorter wait.”

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

22% — 12 months or less
55% — 18 months or less
75% — 24 months or less

Time from referral until child came home:

59% — 3 months or less
84% — 6 months or less

Length of time spent in China:

95% — 3 weeks or less


Russia: After Interruptions, Order Returns

After a shutdown in 2007, and a delay in reaccrediting adoption agencies to operate in the country, Russia’s adoption process is now relatively stable. Two-thirds of families received referrals within six months of submitting their dossiers. Travel time increased, however — just 12% spent less than two weeks in-country, and 18% stayed longer than six weeks. Timelines tend to be shorter for parents open to adopting older boys.

Current estimated wait: 9-24 months

Readers say:
“We requested a boy and were open to having a child up to 24 months in age, because we knew the adoption would be faster. It took nine months, total, from the time we completed our dossier.”

“As I was adopting, Russia restructured its entire process. Then, my agency had to wait 13 months to receive reaccreditation. The time between trips also lengthened, because new judges reexamined my dossier and made new requests.”

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

46% — 3 months or less
66% — 6 months or less
84% — 12 months or less

Time from referral until child came home:

44% — 3 months or less
90% — 6 months or less

Number of trips made to Russia:

72% — 2 trips
28% — 3 or more trips

Total time spent in Russia:

12% — 2 weeks or less
52% — 4 weeks or less
82% — 6 weeks or less


Guatemala: In the Process of Change

The adoption process in Guatemala slowed down when the country failed to implement Hague-compliant guidelines, and ceased entirely (with the exception of pending cases) after the U.S. enacted the treaty. Families who adopted during the past two years faced longer wait times. Seventy-one percent received a referral within three months, compared with 86% in past years. More than half (52%) waited more than 10 months to welcome their child, compared with 75% in years past who brought their child home within nine months of receiving a referral.

Current estimated wait: Country not accepting new applicants

Readers say:
“When we began our process, in January 2006, adoptions from Guatemala were taking four to six months. Then a number of issues arose, and adoptions began to take much longer. We feel lucky now that ours only took the year that it did.”

“Our agency fell apart, so our case sat on a desk somewhere for approximately four months.”

“My adoption was without problems, for the most part. I had an ethical and diligent attorney. The entire process took less than 10 months, which was short by Guatemalan standards in 2007 and 2008.”

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

49% — 1 month or less
71% — 3 months or less
82% — 6 months or less

Time from referral until child came home:

9% — 6 months or less
48% — 9 months or less
52% — 10 months or longer

Number of trips made to Guatemala:

23% 38% — 2 trips
35% — 3 or more trips

Total time spent in Guatemala:

44% — 1 week or less
74% — 2 weeks or less
92% — 4 weeks or less


South Korea: Gradual Slowdown

Korea did not join the Hague Convention, so intercountry adoptions were unaffected by the U.S.’s ratification of the treaty. However, the process has slowed down as the country has made an effort to encourage domestic adoptions. Parents open to boys or children with special needs generally have shorter waits. Just over half (54%) waited six months for a referral, and 35% waited three months or less for their child to come home. Travel to Korea is optional, but just over half made the relatively brief trip.

Current estimated wait: 18-24 months

Readers say:
“We requested a girl, which means a longer wait to adopt from Korea. Our wait time was also extended by paperwork mess-ups here in the U.S.”

“We adopted one of our children’s biological siblings, so our wait was much shorter than usual.”

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

31% — 3 months or less
54% — 6 months or less
73% — 9 months or less

Time from referral until child came home:

35% — 3 months or less
96% — 6 months or less

Percent of families who traveled to Korea to adopt: 54%

For those who traveled, time spent in Korea:

64% — Less than one week
100% — 2 weeks or less




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Adoption Agencies

Children’s Home & Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
Open Door Adoption Agency, Inc.
Thomasville, GA
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents)
Seattle, WA
U.S. Foster, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
MLJ Adoptions International
Indianapolis, IN
International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
Children’s Home Society & Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
Saint Paul, MN
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
Holt International Children’s Services
Eugene, OR
U.S. Foster, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
Family Life Services
Lynchburg, VA
U.S. Newborn, International
Gladney Center for Adoption
Fort Worth, TX
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
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