How to Adopt a Child Overseas
Number of Internationally Adopted Children By Year
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?
Number of Adoptions by Country
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:
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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).
- Read through the State Department Guidelines on adoption and check out the status of the agency you are considering through them.
- 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.
- Look carefully at the agency agreement in regarding finances and agency responsibilities.
Age of Overseas Adopted Children 1999-2011
Number of Children
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 ChinaClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.