International Adoption – Where to start


You have thought long and hard about adopting. You considered the option of adopting domestically but then the idea of finding a child overseas to adopt really spoke to you. Yet, where and how do you start an international adoption?

There are several things that you need to consider:

  • Which country you will adopt from?
  • What agencies are there that will support you?
  • What are the health and social needs of the child?
  • How long will the whole process take?
  • Do I have the stamina to go through the process?
International Adoption - Where To Start

An international adoption is certainly a great option though, sadly, it is an option that has been declining: Adoption Statistics

Country2004200520172018
1. China7,0387,9031,9051,475
2. Russia5,8624,63100
3. Guatemala3,2643,78311
4. South Korea1,7131,628276206
5. Kazakhstan83575500
6. Ukraine794824215248
7. Ethiopia284442313177
Other Countries3,1992,7602,0041,952

( Source: U.S. Department of State.)

So, if you are thinking of taking the step into the world of international adoption, here are some tips on how to start the process.

Deciding which country to adopt from

Choosing the country from which you want to choose your adoptee from isn’t simply a means of closing your eyes and throwing a dart wildly at a world map. When you decide which country you want to adopt your child from you need to ask yourself “Why did I choose this country”?

Which Country to Adopt From

Do you have any personal or cultural ties with the country you are going to adopt from? Have you ever visited the country before? What do you know about the country? Will you be able to provide your adoptee with an open-minded and unbiased perspective of the country?

Be aware that each country has its own set of rules and regulations regarding international adoption and the requirements of prospective parents (which can include the parents’ sexual orientation, religion, and age). If you are unaware of what these are, then you need to jump online and do research. Find blogs, Facebook groups, international adoption forums where you can connect with others who have experience in international adoption.

By doing the due diligence will ensure that you are well prepared and informed so that you aren’t met with any nasty surprises. There are some countries that may allow you to adopt a child, but the adoption may be unethical or even illegal in your country of choice.

Choosing a placement agency

International adoption agencies are great at helping you through the overwhelming process of adopting from overseas. Yet, like any service provider, there are some that are great and others that are more interested in your money. 

Choosing an Adoption Placement Agency

So how do you determine which placement agency is amazing and which ones to avoid? Again, it comes down to spending time researching. Reach out on your social networks and get advice from those who have used agencies. Which ones do they recommend and why? It’s all about getting honest, unbiased customer feedback.

Also, look at whether the placement agency you are thinking of using is accredited. You can see if an agency is accredited by visiting the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity’s Adoption Service Provider Search

A professional agency will walk you through the adoption process, offer you education on how to become prospective parents, help you with any legal matters and will also be there to support you after you have come back home with your adopted child.

Don’t settle on the first agency you have looked at. Consider two or three different agencies. Compare them and then settle on the one that you think best meets your needs.

Consider the needs of your adoptee

Each country has its own rules regarding the age of adoptees (which can range from as young as 6 months old to 16 years old or even older). These children may have suffered the loss of both parents, abandonment, poverty, a family environment of substance or alcohol abuse or maltreatment, a natural disaster or war.

Considering The Needs of Your Adoptee

If you are adopting from an orphanage or institution overseas then you have to be aware that sometimes in these environments there is the possibility that the child has been physically or sexually assaulted by the staff. Something that the orphanage or institution may cover-up. 

Because of the background of the child, they may be suffering from physical and mental issues or these may surface in the future.  How willing are you to support the child in dealing with these issues? How well are you able to cope, yourself, when these issues arise? Can you afford treatment or counselling for your adopted child? 

A good adoption service provider will give you as much information on the physical and mental health of a child as they can. However, be aware that this information can be inaccurate or limited through either error in translation or deliberate withholding of information by orphanages and institutions that have a history of abusing children.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the medical information of your child. It shows that you are taking the process seriously and want to prepare as much as possible so that you can support the needs of your adoptee. 

How about the social integration of your child? They are coming into a new world and a new culture. It could be a shock for them, especially if they are older children. With the language barrier and culture shock, it could be hard for your international adoptee to make friends and fit in.   Spending time looking at your social network that will be available to help your child adapt and integrate into his/her new life will help them grow and develop socially. Questions you need to ask are:

  • How accepting are my current children towards the idea of a new sibling? What about the friends of my children?
  • What youth groups or friendship groups are available in my area?
  • What policy does the prospective school of my adoptee have regarding bullying? Can the teacher(s) cope with the specific needs that my adoptee may need? (You have to be aware that some internationally adopted children suffer from mental developmental issues because of the institution they were placed in before you adopted them).
  • What support groups are available in my area that can give me advice and guidance on how to socially support my child? (This is where you can go to the adoption placement service you chose and get information from them).

By taking the time to really think about the mental, physical and social needs of your international adoptee will allow you to build up a healthy support structure that will help your child grow and develop.

How long before you can take your child home?

You have found the country and the placement agency (which is an amazing one because it gives you all the support and advice you dreamed of and more). You have background information of the child, the child’s health and psychological situation and you have got a great social support system in place. Kudos to you! You have done an astounding amount of homework!

How long before you can take your child home

Now you are chomping at the bit and want to bring your adoptee home. However, your heart sinks when you hear the news. The process doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. 

“How much time?” you ask. That all depends on the country you are adopting from, the placement agency you have chosen and the child, themself. The entire adoption process can take between 1 to 5 years. If your heart is definitely set on intercountry adoption, then you can endure the lengthy process. If you get frustrated easily and run out of patience, then you need to consider if international adoption is really the right option for you. After all, it’s a child’s future life we are considering here.

Can I endure the process?

Now you know how long it can take to bring a child home, you seriously need to question whether you have the stamina to last the distance. Five years can be a long time and you will definitely face frustrations along the way. 

Another thing you need to realise is that intercountry adoption isn’t done remotely. Sure, you can think of jumping online and finding a child. But we aren’t talking about an online shopping experience. The child isn’t going to be sent over to you in a package! 

There will come a time when you will have to go to the country of adoption during the process. Be prepared to go at least twice to the country. That means you need to consider the cost of airfares. Can you afford to travel several times to the child’s country?

Can you endure the process

On top of the cost of travel, you have the cost of the adoption process which can range from $15,000 through to $45,000 (depending on the country, placement agency and needs of the child you have chosen).

Also, there will be a home study that has to be done prior to adoption, immigration forms to be filled in, personal information that needs to be gathered regarding your finances and health, personal identity checks are done and clearance checks made. Be prepared to be asked some hard and searching questions about your personal life. 

Then there is the training. Any prospective parent needs to have at least 10 hours of training before adopting.

After all that comes the waiting as the placement agency finds a child to match with you (which can take anywhere between a few months to a year). 

If you think you have what it takes to endure the process, then international adoption is a great choice as it provides a child with the opportunity to have a life that they may only have dreamed about. 

To stay up-to-date with the latest changes in individual country requirements for international adoption, or if there are any changes within US regulations, please visit the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs Intercountry Adoption News and Notices page

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