So you think you’d like to adopt, and international adoption sounds like the option you’d like to pursue. But how to pick a country? After all, there are so many options, the possibilities can sound overwhelming.
For some, this choice can be an easy one. Perhaps you’ve traveled to this country, and feel a connection to the culture or the people. Maybe you have family there. But for others, there are many other considerations. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider which country to pursue.
What age child do I wish to adopt? We’ll start here as this is the most obvious question to consider. Each country will have available children of different ages. For instance, some countries have predominantly children of toddler or preschool age available while others have mostly school age children or even older available. Some countries have many sibling groups available while others do not. Start your adoption search by thinking about the age of the child you’d wish to bring into your family. Consider the age of other children already in your home and how they might respond to a child younger, the same age, or even older than they are. One thing you’ll note as you explore international adoption: fewer and fewer very young children (0-5) are available for international adoption and there might be a very long wait for these young children in the countries who have them available.
Am I open to children with special needs? Next tremendously important question! Have you considered adopting a child with some special needs? Many countries have younger children available but they often have some degree of special needs. China, for instance, has primarily quite young children, but the vast majority have some kind of special need. Many people hear the words “special needs” and think, “oh no, I don’t feel equipped for that”. But take a little time to do some research and exploration of the types of special needs which can occur and you might find that you’re more open to this possibility than you originally thought. There are many children who are considered to have special needs who might actually have a correctable health issue. Perhaps they have a condition which can be corrected with surgery, or maybe they have something else which is not correctable (missing or partially missing fingers or toes for instance) but would not significantly impact their overall health or quality of life. Some countries will distinguish between special needs, by which they typically mean more cognitive or emotional impairments, and health issues, which can range from milder in nature to more severe.
While you’re considering this option here are some other factors which should weigh in. First, consider your financial situation and health insurance coverage. Before requesting a child with special needs you’ll want to make sure that your health insurance will cover that child’s medical care. Now that pre-existing conditions are not allowed to be excluded from health coverage, you can have more confidence that your child would be covered. But you’ll also want to consider co-pays, deductibles, and percentages of the expenses covered. Next, how close do you live to medical or other resources which your child might need? If you live in a very rural area, are you comfortable driving an hour or more to get your child medical care? Would you be willing to do this for a brief period of time, for instance if your child needed a one-time surgery, or would you be comfortable doing this on a regular basis?
Children with special needs are most often overlooked for adoption. There are many beautiful, sweet children with a variety of milder issues who might be a wonderful addition to your family. They could blossom and flourish in a loving family given the opportunity.
How long do I want to wait for a child? Again, for more and more countries, waiting for a young healthy child can come with wait times of years. Carefully investigate how long you might wait in a particular country program before you commit. Are you comfortable with a long wait time, or do you want to add to your family more quickly? A few programs can be as fast as 6-12 months while most take at least a year to complete. Countries with younger, healthy children available are typically predicated to take several years, with some even longer.
Do I want my child to look like me? You’ll want to do some soul searching for this question. Many adoptive families are comfortable with their child not resembling them physically. Are you comfortable parenting a child with a different skin color or ethnicity? How will your child be accepted into your community if they are from another race? Into your extended family? As difficult as these questions can be to ask, they are immensely important. When you parent a child from another ethnicity or country you are committing to honor and celebrate their heritage. You’ll want to try and prepare their birth country’s food, to celebrate their traditions or holidays. You will need to be comfortable talking about physical differences with your child, to answer hard questions, to defend or do your best to protect your child from any racism they might encounter.
What are the requirements to adopt from this country? Relatively speaking, this question is an easy one as it’s determined by the foreign country and you simply have to check to see if you meet their requirements. Remember, each country sets their own requirements for who may adopt. Different countries have different age parameters, allowances for health issues, income, or may take only married or both married or single parents. Make sure to talk this over with your adoption caseworker to ensure you meet the foreign country’s requirements. Also ask about the dossier (paperwork) requirements. Different countries will have different requirements to complete for a dossier.
What kind of travel is involved to the foreign country? One trip? Three trips? How long must you be away? Can one parent travel or must both? These kinds of factors can also impact your choice.
Don’t forget the less obvious details! The above issues are “the big ones”. Every family will consider those. But there are some other important factors to keep in mind when you decide on a country from which to adopt. First, how does the foreign country handle the termination of parental rights for orphaned children? Is this aspect handled by a government authority or by a private attorney or associate of the adoption agency? Make sure you feel comfortable with the ethics of the foreign country’s process, and with those of your adoption agency. While the United States and most adoption agencies work very hard to prevent corruption and unethical behavior, it can still happen. Stay alert to these details to make sure you don’t worry that corruption is involved. Choose a reputable Hague Accredited adoption agency and ask for references.
Next, how many adoptions occur from that country each year? The number can vary dramatically from one country to the next, with some having hundreds and other countries only having 1-2 or even 0 in a given year. You can find information about how many adoptions occur from a country on the Department of State’s website: adoption.state.gov. Go to Country Information on their main page, choose a country, and you can get a tremendous amount of information about the country, their requirements, and basic procedures. They also have a statistics chart showing the number of adoptions for each of the past several years. If you are considering a country with very few adoptions (say under 10) per year you may want to think carefully. In these cases it’s possible that the country does not have a well-established adoption process. Talk with your adoption agency about the certainty of getting matched with a child from a country like this and the stability of their program.
Open Door would love to help you explore your international adoption options. You can start with exploring our website, http://www.opendooradoption.org/. View each of our International Country pages to learn more and for some countries, to view waiting children. Then contact one of our fabulous caseworkers to talk about the programs you’re most interested in. Our goal is to help each family find the best adoption program suited to their situation. We love to help families just like you. Call us! 229-228-6339.