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Should You Adopt Internationally?

Because you are dealing with two countries and usually have to travel overseas to go and get the child, international adoptions are by their very nature more complicated than U.S. adoptions. In addition to the fact that U.S. adoptions are usually less complicated, here are some of the reasons some people cite for not wanting to adopt internationally:

  • They are concerned about the health of a child raised in an orphanage.
  • They are worried about the high cost of many international adoptions, including the cost associated with foreign travel.
  • They don't like the idea of traveling to a foreign country and staying for days or weeks in another culture while waiting for the paperwork to be processed.

Other adopters have equally strong views about why international adoptions are preferable:

  • They believe their waiting time to adopt a child will be very short.
  • They feel they can't adopt a same-race child in the United States but can do so from another country.
  • They are opposed to open adoptions involving contact with birthparents (most intercountry adoptions are not open).
  • They think that birthparents from other countries will be less likely to change their minds about an adoption.
  • They think children living in overseas orphanages will not have been exposed to abuse and neglect.

Take a look at the number of adoptions in the top 10 countries in the world from 1999 to 2003, based on immigrant visas issued to children adopted by Americans. As you can see, China has been the number-one country from 2000 to 2003.

International Adoption Statistics, Top 10 Countries, Based on Immigrant Visas Issued to Orphans Coming to the United States, FY 1999-2003
2003 2002 2001 2000 1999

China
6,859
China
5,053
China
4,681
China
5,053
Russia
4,348
Russia
5,209
Russia
4,939
Russia
4,279
Russia
4,269
China
4,101
Guatemala
2,328
Guatemala
2,219
S. Korea
1,870
S. Korea
1,794
S. Korea
2,008
S. Korea
1,790
S. Korea
1,779
Guatemala
1,609
Guatemala
1,518
Guatemala
1,002
Kazakhstan
825
Ukraine
1,106
Ukraine
1,246
Romania
1,122
Romania
895
Ukraine
702
Kazakhstan
819
Romania
782
Vietnam
724
Vietnam
709
India
472
Vietnam
766
Vietnam
737
Ukraine
659
India
500
Vietnam
382
India
466
Kazakhstan
672
India
503
Ukraine
323
Colombia
272
Colombia
334
India
543
Cambodia
402
Cambodia
248
Haiti
250
Bulgaria
260
Colombia
407
Kazakhstan
399
Colombia
231

Source: U.S. State Department (http://travel.state.gov/orphan_numbers.html)

In the following sections, I examine whether people's perceptions match the reality.

Are International Adoptions More Difficult?

Adoption Alert

In many countries, the adoption is considered final after a court proceeding in the country the child is from; and as a result, if there are any problems after you leave the country—such as undetected medical problems or other issues—the child is still your legal responsibility. You can't return the child.

Is it easier to adopt a child in the United States than in another country? With a few exceptions, I don't think adoption is easy no matter what, whether your child comes from the United States or anywhere else. Children don't drop into your lap from the sky (which is good—it would be pretty painful if they did!).

In some ways, U.S. adoptions are easier. For example, there's no language barrier with most U.S. adoptions. (You are not allowed to consider a Southern drawl or New England accent as another language!) But language barriers are frequent with international adoptions, in which you must rely on your agency and their interpreters for a lot of information.

U.S. adoptions also seem easier to people who want to avoid the expense and difficulties of foreign travel, which is mandatory in most cases. In some countries, including China, Russia, and many others, you actually adopt the child in the country itself; thus, your presence there is required. In the case of a married couple, sometimes one person can travel; however, it's best if both go and provide moral support to each other. Also, some countries may require that both parents be there prior to the finalization of the adoption. If only one parent travels overseas, then you need to do a readoption, or complete the adoption again in the state in which you live.

Are International Adoptions Faster?

Adoption Alert

If you are considering using an international adoption agency, find out whether the director or any of the staff has ever traveled to the countries with which they arrange adoptions. It's not a good sign if no one in the agency has ever traveled to the country from which they make placements. How do you find out? You ask!

The time it takes to successfully adopt a child in the United States can be measured in months or years, depending on the speed of your adoption agency or your own efforts.

Whether the wait to adopt a child from another country is shorter than adopting a child in the United States depends on a lot of variables: which country you choose to adopt from, the age of the child you want, how fast you can put together your application, and other factors. It might be six months, several years, or longer (which is also true with U.S. adoptions). Or you might apply for a child from a particular country, and then the country decides to put all international adoptions on hold. If that happens, you'll have to wait until your agency gets the word that adoptions may resume again.



More on: Adoption

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption © 2004 by Christine Adamec. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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