International Adoption Timeline-How long will it take?

International adoption is a noble and fulfilling undertaking for many families. As a prospective adoptive parent, being aware of the international adoption timeline is very necessary. How long will the adoption process take?

Well, this is a plane whose tickets have no exact arrival dates! Probably because the flight routes are complex with unpredictable weather patterns! The international adoption timeline is never fixed.

Naturally, as you begin this journey of bringing a member in your home, the long wait will not be your best friend! Just don’t make it your worst enemy either and you’ll all get along just fine!

International Adoption timeline depends on many factors that you, need to factor in before you become a happy benefactor!

Yes, it takes a long time. Granted. But how long is a long time? And why the long and often difficult wait?  Let’s process these “raw” questions to extract some answers with “healing powers” of hope, understanding, and expectations.

international adoption timeline

Why The Long Wait For International Adoption?

Each country has its own international adoption policies and timelines. Adoption Agencies in different countries also have varied adoption time frames based on their programs.

For time estimates, it’s, therefore, necessary that you do research on the country you would wish to adopt from. Contacting your country’s representatives or agencies is also advised.

Further, both the age and characteristic of a child also affects the adoption timeline. There is less time restriction for the international adoption of children with special needs compared to normal children.

For instance, in China, the average adoption time for a normal healthy infant is 3 years while for those with special needs, the wait is 1 year.

Yes! We cannot be specific on how long International Adoption will take, but there are 3 major stages that you need to prepare yourself for both patiently and diligently. After all, good things especially children, come to those who are prepared to wait, right?

Before we look at the 3 major waiting phases, let’s check out different international adoption timelines for countries having their children adopted in the USA.

International Adoption Timeline for Selected Countries:

Country International Adoption Timeline (Months or Years)
China Up to 5 years
South Korea 1-4 years
Ukraine 12 months
India 3-12 months
Colombia 18-30 months
Poland 12-16 months
South Africa 18 months ( referral time)
Philippines 1-3 years
Uganda 12 months

For in-depth information on waiting periods, it’s prudent to evaluate the various adoption phases and their estimated waiting duration.

As already discussed, keep in mind that different factors come into play and most of which are far beyond your control. This is a walk of faith, hope, and determination. Your reward will be more fulfilling!

Now, let’s identify the main “trekking paths” you need to know and how much time you’ll require to conquer them successfully.

Phase 1: Home Study and Adoption Dossier Processing (Up to 6 Months)

This initial stage entails a compilation of all the necessary documents needed to initiate your inter-country adoption process.

These documents generally referred to as adoption dossier, include but may not be limited to fully filled Application Form, your Home Study Report, and any other requirements as advised by your selected adoption service provider.

adoption dossier

The documents compiled are to ascertain that you fully comply with laid down policies and procedures. Adoption Home Study process can take from 2-3 months and helps in gathering valuable information about your home environment.

Conducted by a professional or qualified social worker, this is a comprehensive application and interview phase. This ensures that the well-being and safety of your new family member are taken into consideration.

During this phase, therefore, several factors will determine the waiting time. These include your country’s requirements for dossier preparation, required references, schedules for home visits, authentication of various documents, and other background checks that may be deemed necessary.

For the USA, your adoption dossier then has to be presented to the US. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for processing before you can get any referral from your target country.

Since USCIS has its own schedules, it may take some time before your true waiting time begins in earnest.

Phase 2: Referral Wait-International Adoption(1 to 4 years)

The referral waiting period is indeed the longest and the most difficult phase. If the adoption timeline has a “mother”, then the referral wait is the mother of all international adoptions!

You’ve to be tolerant and understanding if you’ve to cope with her unpredictable emotions that can last from 1 to 4 years!

Just remembers: when a mother asks you to wait, there’s often a good reason. You don’t complain or talk back and risk missing your final reward!

In pregnancy, consider this time as an “Advanced Pregnancy Period”. It’s more than the normal 9 months! This is understandable, right?

 Let’s check out the unpredictable reasons that often lead to the long wait.

Which Factors Affect Referral Wait?

The principle of first-come-first-served applies in the international adoption process. Your referral country will have to deal with previous submissions before they can begin working on yours.

Thorough scrutiny has to be done to protect a child from possible unethical practices and this consumes time.

Further, a country’s policy may specify the maximum number of children to be adopted internationally each year.

If your submission was received after the year’s limit has been reached, you may be forced to wait for consideration the following year.

For special needs children, your referral waiting time may be significantly shorter. This is because most of these children find it hard getting suitable families willing to take them in.

To ensure that they get the necessary care and love, those ready to adopt them often have to wait for a shorter period.

Other conditions that will affect your waiting time are child’s age, health status, and the available number of children ready for adoption.

For more insight on estimate time, ask your adoption agency to share with you data on recent successful adoptions that correspond to your type and country.

The records or magazines will provide you with the desired “therapy” for curing your waiting discomfort!  You’ll also be psychologically in a better position to prepare for your coming family member.

And yes, it’s also the best time to keep praying for patience and good health for both you and your expected child! Learn to enjoy the pregnancy!

Phase 3:Your Child Finally Coming Home!

This phase begins after you’ve been successfully matched with a child. At this stage, the processing of all the necessary travel documents begins. The duration this can take varies from country to country.

Your agency will help you arrange for your travels to go and get your adopted child. During this period, you may require to make one or several trips before you finally bring your child home.

In some countries, only one parent is allowed while for others, both parents are required to travel.

International Adoption Timeline - How long will it take?

The number and duration for each trip also vary from country to country. In Ukraine for instance, you are expected to take about 2-3 trips covering about 5-6 weeks

In America, you’ll be required to initiate the USCIS Orphan visa. This may take as short as 5 days or as long as 4 months depending on different adoption circumstances or programs.

You can easily get information on the visa processing duration by contacting the Embassy in your target country.

Summary-Adoption Timeline

International Adoption timeline is long and calls for patience, more awareness, preparation, and of course if you are a believer, lots of prayers.

Before the process begins, take time to research on your target country so that you are well aware of their adoption programs and timelines.

Identify and consult a reputable and experienced Adoption Agency. Collaborating with your selected service provider will facilitate prompt and correct submission of adoption dossier and other necessary documents.

While some factors will be beyond your control, your initial efforts, availability, and full collaboration with social workers for home study are paramount.

To get more information on referral wait time, consult your agency for recent adoption records from your target country.

Get in touch with families or couples who have undergone the same process. These will help you to gauge the expected waiting period and to psychologically help you cope with the long wait.

After walking the long path through difficult waiting moments, your new child will be finally home. A celebration will be in order before your fulfilling journey of making a difference in his/her life now begins.

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Meshack Sewe

Meshack, is a tech-savvy Creative Copywriter, Poet, & Entrepreneur who is very passionate about Adoption and Humanitarian activities. He has served as both Program Officer, and Program Manager with two Non-Governmental Organizations focusing on orphaned children and vulnerable girls

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