*Please note – Thompson Law does not offer international adoption services. However, we often get questions regarding this topic, and the article below is provided for informational purposes.

Intercountry adoptions, or international adoption, is quite simply the process of adopting a child from another country. In 2018, according to the U.S. Department of State, there were 4,059 intercountry adoptions to the United States. Since 1999, international adoption has experienced a steady decline. This decline (mostly in China) is the result of an improvement in economic circumstances and a desire to create permanent domestic programs for orphaned children to keep them in the country. Even so, international adoption is still very much a dream for many American families. The international adoption process is a complex one that involves a number of parties, departments, documentation, laws, and processes. Since adoption is life-changing for the child, parents, and siblings, it is important the adoptive parents understand the magnitude of this decision. We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to better understand the process.

Q1: Why do I want to adopt a child from another country?

A: This is a great first question and one that only YOU can answer. Adding another human being to your family is a lifelong commitment that will require a lot of personal reflection. International adoption isn’t a nice gesture or a celebrity trend. It is having a willingness to work to overcome any physical, emotional, and mental challenges that arise – both before, during, and well after the adoption. It is opening your heart and your home to a different culture and another country. So spend some time honestly evaluating the reasons why you (and perhaps your partner) want to adopt internationally.

Q2: What laws govern the international adoption process?

A: Three different sets of laws govern international adoption:

  1. U.S. federal adoption laws;
  2. Adoption laws of the country from which you are adopting; and
  3. U.S. State laws (in the place you live)

Legal counsel, with a specialty in international adoption, can advise you on the laws applicable to your case and country. For example, some laws require you to spend several weeks in the child’s country of residence before beginning adoption proceedings. These laws are in place to ensure you are willing to commit to this adoption fully with your time and money, as well as to the emotional and physical wellbeing of the child.

Q3: What is a “Hague adoption?”

A: If you’re in the beginning stages of an international adoption, you may hear or read about a Hague Adoption. This simply means it is an adoption that follows the process according to The Hague Adoption Convention. This is an international treaty used to ensure the best interests of all parties involved (the child, birth parents, and adoptive parents) in the adoption process. This means adoption is closed, for a variety of reasons, in many countries because they do not meet the Hague Adoption criteria.

For a child to be classified as a Hague Adoptee, he or she must meet the following criteria:

  1. Be under age 16 at the time you file Form I-800;
  2. Live in a country that is part of the Hague Convention;
  3. Be determined to be eligible for intercountry adoption by their country of residence; and
  4. Have obtained all necessary consents for adoption from their country of residence.

Q4. What requirements do the parents have to meet?

A: For international adoption, all prospective adoptive parents must be at least 25 years old. At least one parent must be a U.S. citizen. Each adopting person must complete the U.S. Government I-600 or I-800 form (Application for Advances Processing of Orphan Petition), must have a home study, and receive FBI and state child abuse clearances.  Other than these two requirements, marital status, age, income, etc. may also be taken into account per the country’s eligibility standards.

Q5: What emotional challenges will I experience during the international adoption process?

A: Although we could continue to discuss the laws and logistical hoops you will have to jump through, we think it’s important to discuss the emotional ones. These are factors that, if you or someone you know hasn’t gone through an international adoption, you may have not considered. In the beginning process, you have the ability to choose which children you are open to adopting. This checklist is a struggle for every prospective adoptive parent. Do you want a boy or girl? Are you open to a sibling group? Would you be willing to adopt a special needs child? Are you equipped to address those needs?

Once you have determined your preferences, be prepared for the paperwork and the substantial financial commitment. We bring this up in the emotional challenges because it will require a lot of emotional endurance. Depending on the country, an international adoption will cost you somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000. This price tag comes from a variety of areas, including agency fees, government fees, donations to the country/orphanage, travel costs, and legal fees.

Finally, every child who has lost his or her birth family and lived in an orphanage or in foster care has experienced some form of trauma. This trauma has shaped the way their brains have developed, and will affect their behaviors and thinking. Fortunately, traumatized brains can be rewired over time with consistent, intentional, and compassionate parenting. Other potential obstacles may include language barriers, diet changes and food preferences, potential digestive issues during this transition, religious practices, cultural norms, and developmental delays.

In Closing

Adopting a child will change your life profoundly, let alone a child from another country. International adoption certainly has its list of challenges, but it also has a list of profound joys. We encourage you to find a community online and in person where you hear about this joy more fully.

There are millions of children in this world that are growing up without families. So if you’re hoping to grow your family through adoption, international adoption is a great way to do it.