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How to Adopt a Child Overseas

Updated on October 31, 2015
VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne is an educator with two adopted Chinese daughters She has studied Mandarin and how to teach children about China.

We are blessed to have added two children to our family through international adoption from China.
We are blessed to have added two children to our family through international adoption from China. | Source

Number of Internationally Adopted Children By Year

Information from visas issued by the U.S. State department. Year is U.S. Government fiscal year (October 1 to Sept. 30)

Do You Want to Add to Your Family through Intercountry Adoption?

Over the last decade, Americans have adopted over 200,000 children from other countries and given homes to children who did not have one. People from Spain, France, the Netherlands, Canada and other nations have also done inter-country adoptions. Adoption gives children a chance to have a "forever family" and receive the care, love, education and family that each child needs.

Why is Overseas Adoption Difficult?

People interested in overseas adoption often have an overwhelming desire to do something good in providing a loving home to a child. Therefore, it doesn't always seem fair that the process of intercountry adoption is difficult, complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. Why? Countries often worry about the image they project by allowing overseas adoptions and try to mitigate problems with changing regulations.

Many Families Still Adopt from Other Countries

If you are interested in adopting internationally, you should know that the process is rigorous, and sometimes the regulations between the U.S. and other countries can change, making adoptions slower than expected. Even so, over 9,000 international adoptions took place last year, and if you are willing to persevere through paperwork and the inspection of a social worker doing a home study, there is a good chance for you to add to your family through international adoption too.

What is Your Interest in Overseas adoption?

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Intercountry adoption is worth the effort.  My first moments home with our daughter Steffi.
Intercountry adoption is worth the effort. My first moments home with our daughter Steffi. | Source

Number of Adoptions by Country

South Korea
Adoption numbers change based on regulations within adopting countries and also U.S. regulations regarding adoption. Countries with less than 20 adoptions not included. Information from:

Getting Started in International Adoption

Step One: Decide which country or countries you are interested in adopting from. The majority of internationally adopted children in the last decade have come from:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Ethiopia
  • Ukrane
  • South Korea

However, as you can see from the chart below, there are many other countries that children are adopted from. You may want to consider some of these countries, with the understanding that regulations for adopting from a country can change at any time. Find out the status of adoption from a country at the Intercountry Adoption page of the U.S. State Department. China has had the most stable adoption program, which is why so many parents have chosen to adopt from there. What to consider when choosing a country:

  • Status of that country with the U.S. State department.
  • Whether they do Hague Convention adoptions or not.
  • History of International adoptions in that country.
  • Requirements in that country for adoptive parents such as: age, health history, weight, marriage etc.
  • Type of travel required to do adoption.
  • Expenses of adoption from that country.
  • What kind of child you are able to add to your family. Consider race, age, health status, special physical needs, and possible emotional needs.

Our Adopted Children

Our adopted daughter,Mollie, nine years later with her two older siblings.
Our adopted daughter,Mollie, nine years later with her two older siblings. | Source

Step 2: Choose an international adoption agency to work with.

Selecting your adoption service provider is a very important step. Because adoption from some countries has been limited, many agencies have started programs in new countries. Be careful about a small agency, or a new agency. International adoption requires the coordination of many people and you need to be sure your agency will be strong enough to advocate for you if problems arise. You will want to consider:

  • The status of the agency with the State Department and Hague Compliance.
  • What countries the agency adopts from.
  • The size of the agency and how long they have been doing international adoptions.
  • How many adoptions they've done in the past and how many they've done from the country you are interested in.
  • Does this agency have you do most of your own paperwork (making the process less expensive), or do they handle many of the arrangements for certification and authentication through government agencies and foreign consulates?

Faces of Adoption Overseas

How to Evaluate an Adoption Agency

  1. Read through the website of the agency and call them up to discuss your situation. Ask for references from parents who have adopted through the agency and also for home study providers.
  2. Contact adoptive parents who have used this agency and talk to them, preferably by phone. Also call the home study provider to find out what they expect and to get a feel for whether you can work with this person (who will be doing extensive interviews of you and your family in your home).
  3. Read through the State Department Guidelines on adoption and check out the status of the agency you are considering through them.
  4. Talk to an agency representative about the process of adopting from the country you are considering. Be sure you understand what the agency will do for you, and what they expect you to do in your paperwork.
  5. Look carefully at the agency agreement in regarding finances and agency responsibilities.

Age of Overseas Adopted Children 1999-2011

Number of Children
Information from U.S. State Department

Process of Intercountry Adoption

Once you have chosen an agency, they will lead you through the process of your adoption paperwork. While there are variations depending on the country, this is what you can expect.

Step One: Fill out Adoption Agency Application. Answering the questions on the application honestly is important because the application is designed to make sure you are eligible for a successful adoption from the country of your choice. Generally, a part of the application process is a discussion of fees and a service agreement with the agency, so look over this contract closely.

How Much do You Know about Overseas Adoption?

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Home Study Process

Generally, your home study provider will ask you to write answers to some questions and then will visit with you several times in your home. They will speak with each person in the home, including any children you have. The goal of the home study is to determine if you are ready to parent a child from overseas. Having someone evaluate you as a future parent can be uncomfortable, but most social workers doing home studies hope to help you in the process of adoption. In fact, many parents find the home study process is a good preparation for getting ready for their child.

What will the home study provider ask?

The home study provider will ask you many questions about your own upbringing as well as your preparation to be parents. Here are some of the typical information they will ask about:

  • Own childhood and parents.
  • Feelings about adoption and intercountry adoption.
  • Views on raising children and discipline.
  • Experience with children
  • Reasons for wanting to adopt, including infertility.
  • Preparations in your home for the child.
  • Safety of your home.
  • Attitudes of your extended family about your adoption.
  • Employment and how you will arrange child care.

You may also be required to start taking classes or reading books to learn about your child's country, history and language.

China Heritage Camp for adoptees

Adoption Paperwork Process

Step Three: Begin Collecting Other Paperwork. What you will need to do will vary by country, and some adoption agencies will do a portion of this work for you. Typically, you will need to:

  • Get police clearance reports, which may require local fingerprinting.
  • Get advance approval form from USCIS, which generally requires fingerprinting.
  • Have your criminal record checked by state agency
  • Have a health exam by your doctor, along with any recommended vaccinations (for the whole family).
  • Have your home safety inspected by your city inspector.
  • Apply for a passport, or make sure yours is current.
  • Get verified copies of birth and marriage certificates.
  • Make a self-report of current finances.
  • Get letters of employment.
  • Write a petition to adopt.
  • Gather family photos for the dossier.
  • Most recent tax return
  • letters of reference
  • bank statement

Step Four: Get paperwork notarized, Certificated through your State, and Authenticated through the Embassy of the Country you are adopting from. This was perhaps the most complicated part of the process for a first-time adoptive parent. Some agencies do some or all of this part of the paperwork for you. The reason for getting these approvals locally, through your state and through the embassy of the country you are adopting from is to make sure they are authentic. Generally, the process means sending in your original documents with a fee and a return Fed Ex envelope. For authentication, people out of the local area sometimes employ a courier service because the documents require being dropped off in person and collected the next day.

Step Five: Send all your documents to your agency, who will file them with your country.

Step Six: Wait for your Referral, or in some cases start looking through lists of children you can adopt.

Step 7: Prepare for Travel to Adopt. You will need to get Visa, travel approval form and travel arrangements. Some countries require two trips or an extended stay in the country.

Step 8: Travel to meet your child and complete adoption paperwork within the country. Then travel to the U.S. embassy to get a Visa for your child to return to the U.S.

Step 9: Bring your child home! Complete post-placement reports with your home study provider as required by your country. Complete U.S. re-adoption if required.

Step 10: Continue to connect with other adoptive parents and children. Help your child learn about their country of origin through attending Heritage Camps, taking language or cultural classes, and perhaps making a Homeland trip when they are older.

Adopting from China

Click thumbnail to view full-size
China Adoption day with my daughter Steffi.China adopted children groups always take a red couch picture at the White Swan hotel. Swan.Adoptive parents taking the red couch picture!
China Adoption day with my daughter Steffi.
China Adoption day with my daughter Steffi. | Source
China adopted children groups always take a red couch picture at the White Swan hotel. Swan.
China adopted children groups always take a red couch picture at the White Swan hotel. Swan. | Source
Adoptive parents taking the red couch picture!
Adoptive parents taking the red couch picture! | Source

Our China Adoption Story

China adoptions began in 1994. In 1999, I met a woman in our local preschool playgroup who had adopted from China. One day, I sat down and asked her about her experiences. That night I told my husband about her adoptions and, to my surprise, he said, "I'm very interested in adopting from China." I got on the Internet and started looking, just like you may be doing now!

After filling out a lot of paperwork and waiting 15 months after sending it to China, we got our referral for our daughter Mollie. In 2002, I traveled to China to bring her home. I returned in 2004 to complete the adoption of Steffi. Adding these two wonderful girls to our family has been a remarkable experience. Just as we adopted them into our family, we've also adopted China as a country and people special to us. We go to China camps for other adoptees, spend time with Chinese people in the U.S. and are learning Mandarin. Next year we will bring the whole family on an extended visit to China!

Along with the joy of our two daughters, the other unexpected benefit of international adoption has been joining a wonderful community of other adoptive families. Other families in our town who have adopted have become close friends through the experience. Families we traveled with in China meet together regularly and keep in contact through social media. We truly feel that other adoptive parents have become as close as family.

Reasons to Adopt


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    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks glassvisage--I've really appreciated your own articles about your won experiences about adoption. In fact, my adopted daughter is looking at your photo now and asking about you! I'm glad that my daughters have the experiences of others to help them understand their own thoughts and feelings.

    • glassvisage profile image


      6 years ago from Northern California

      This is great information. I was adopted a long time ago and am interested myself, but the process has changed so much from when my parents went through it. It's nice to have this info laid out like this, like what paperwork you need and what questions they ask for the home study. Thank you and you have a beautiful family!

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks IslandBites. I spent a lot of time on this particular article because I found it was so difficult to get this information all in one place on the web. I appreciate your vote!

    • IslandBites profile image


      7 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Awesome hub. Vote up!

    • rwmaurer profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative and thorough article. I was interested to see that we had a very similar adoptive experience to your story. I am glad to see this pro-adoption view as there are passionate voices for and against adoption.

    • glassvisage profile image


      7 years ago from Northern California

      Oh my goodness, what a beautiful family! Well, I'm certainly partial to adoption... :) But a wonderful Hub nonetheless. I'm so glad to hear that you have opened your heart to others and that you are so giving!

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Super hub, very well written and thorough. A great resource for someone considering this kind of adoption. Wonderful photos!

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks for stopping by Crystal--I love knowing that people are sharing about adoption.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      What a great and informative hub. I did a story several years ago on overseas adoption, profiling local families who adopted from overseas. It's truly a difficult but rewarding process. Voted up and shared.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a beautiful hub! I love how your family has adopted China and Chinese culture, and helped keep that culture alive for your daughters.

    • dwachira profile image

      Danson Wachira 

      8 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      I find a lot of interest now days in adoption, even famous people want to adopt. You did well to put it here how to go about is and this is valuable information. Voted up, useful and more.

    • Wesley Meacham profile image

      Wesley Meacham 

      8 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Very interesting hub. I've a friend I used to work with who was born in Nicaragua and adopted by an American family. I think your hub would be very encouraging to someone who is interested in adoption. Voting up. Also shared with followers and pinned.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much toknowinfo. As most other families who have adopted would say, we receive so much more in blessings than we ever give!

    • toknowinfo profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a such a beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing it. I admire you and your husband very much, you are a family to emulate. It was wonderful to read how many positive influences are associated with an international adoption, including meeting other adopted families. This is truly an inspiring read.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Seeker7, I do know that a lot of people are very daunted by the process, and some very good parents are prevented from adopting because of some of the regulations. Everyone in the home must be fingerprinted but people who have worked with chemicals or harsh cleaning agents may have worn off their fingerprints. My husband (a scientist) had to go for a second fingerprinting each time (driving 4 hours to do that). Putting lotion on your hands each day for a couple of weeks can bring back the fingerprints. Another family I know had to stop the process because her elderly mother, who had been a nurse, could not get fingerprints to read. However, domestic adoption in the U.S. has even more hurtles and close and intrusive social worker supervision of families. With so many children needing families, I think it is a shame that it isn't easier. However, the blessing of these kids makes the process one I would do again in the blink of an eye!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      What an excellent hub and the photograph with your beautiful little girl is very moving!!

      I thought that the process would be complicated, but it's even more so that I had imagined. Do you think the extensive paperwork etc puts a lot of people off? I would feel quite daunted by the legal aspects I think, but then you mentioned the importance of a good agency so I guess they would manage most of that side for you.

      This was a very informative and interesting hub and I think it will encourage more people to go ahead and give a wonderful home and life to another child!

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much Trinity. So much of the information on this is only gathered by going through a lot of different webpages. I wanted to make something more concise for people to learn from. I met some dear friends yesterday who had also adopted and shared with them that only 9,000 international adoptions happened last year. That makes us sad because it means fewer children are finding forever families. How hard to enter the world from growing up in an orphanage with no one to be your family!

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 

      8 years ago

      Wow VirginaLynn what an interesting and informative hub. I never realised how complex international adoption can be. I think you are a remarkable lady to have gone through such a rigorous process and what a beautiful family you have. Kudos to you and your entire family for opening up your hearts and your home for a precious child. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. Voted up and useful.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much Helena!

    • Helena Ricketts profile image

      Helena Ricketts 

      8 years ago from Indiana

      What a wonderful, informative hub. Absolutely love the story and your babies are so beautiful!

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much kissayer. One of my dearest online friends is a woman from your country who has worked since 1996 in a Chinese orphanage. From her I understand that adoption is difficult in Australia. In fact, that is how I met her online, she joined our U.S. adoption yahoo group to find out more about the people who adopt. I'm so glad you stopped by.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much for your kind comments arkirchner. I actually did mission trips with our church in Mexican orphanages when I was in my 20s. Since we were in So. California it wasn't far. I so vividly remember that at one orphanage the kids just got a large cookie for dinner. That was all they could afford to give them. Adopting is a wonderful process and we feel so very, very blessed. Your daughter is lucky to have a mom who is so encouraging!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Gosh Virginia, that is so cool and your pictures are awesome~ What a happy family you have!!

      My daughter and her hubby just got back from Mexico where they did a mission trip to an orphanage there. I was rather surprised that they did not come home saying they were adopting at least 3 of the kids they worked with - they fell in love. I still am going to see if my girlie decides to adopt one of these days - she is totally the kind of person who would do it - as you - giving, caring and potentially the godsend some of these children need and deserve.

      Impressive - your life AND your hub~!

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Great hub! So useful for someone interested in adopting a child overseas! I love that you included your own story, it really makes the process seem more real and doable! Voted up!


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