USA International Adoption Process and Cost


US citizens adopting children from other countries is very popular and has long been in place. They’ve come to rescue the children who were in need of new homes after the World War II. The number of orphaned children then had risen. Other than that, help in the form of adoption has also been extended to those who are suffering from poverty because of famine and other calamities in their countries.

International or intercountry adoptions done by American families are still of the same reasons now as it began in the past, aside from desiring to have a child in their homes. However, even the US permits outgoing international adoptions to accommodate hopeful prospective parents who are overseas, who want to adopt American children. 

USA International Adoption

International adoption in the US will take about a year or more. It  will require adoptive parents to register and apply through facilitating agencies in their country, and also in coordination with a respective US state authority. Next, the adoptive parents must complete a home study which is to be provided by their service provider, wait for a child to match with them, and attend legal proceedings. The cost of international adoption from the US will depend on where the adoptive parents are residing since traveling to the US is mandatory. Also, agencies within the locale of the adoptive parents or from the US may or may not charge service fees. However, the estimated total cost should be around the average of international adoption, which ranges from $30,000 to $50,000, including agency, country, legal, and travel fees and expenses.

Other than the summary of the adoption process and the cost estimate, prospective adoptive parents who want to adopt from the US should also take note of the requirements that the country set to qualify parent/s applicants as eligible to adopt. The country is also, in fact, deliberate in making sure that certain measures are done to place a child domestically before the child is set for international adoption; hence, prospective adoptive parents must know when a child is available for international adoption. Below is a detailed overview of what to expect when planning to adopt from the US.

Key Points to Know in Considering US International Adoption

  • The US is a Hague Convention country.

Before anything else, prospective adoptive parents who are planning to adopt from the US must note that the United States outgoing international adoptions are governed by the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). The Hague Adoption Convention is aimed at safeguarding the intercountry adoptions fundamentally in the best interests of the child and taking apt consideration for his or her rights. 

USA International Adoption

Since the US adheres to the Hague Adoption Convention agreement, it means that the country where a family applicant is receiving their adopted child should be among the Hague Convention adherent countries; otherwise, such prospective adoptive parents should less likely consider pursuing the adoption from the US. 

Below is a list of the Convention countries allowed to adopt from the US:

AlbaniaCzech RepublicItalyPeru
AndorraDenmarkKazakhstanPhilippines
ArmeniaDominican RepublicKenyaPoland
AustraliaEcuadorKyrgyzstanPortugal
AustriaEl SalvadorLatviaRomania
AzerbaijanEstoniaLesothoRwanda
BelarusFijiLiechtensteinSan Marino
BelgiumEswatiniLithuaniaSenegal
BelizeFinlandLuxembourgSerbia
BeninFranceMacedoniaSeychelles
BoliviaGeorgiaMadagascarSlovakia
BrazilGermanyMaliSlovenia
BulgariaGhanaMaltaSouth Africa
Burkina FasoGreeceMauritiusSpain
BurundiGuatemalaMexicoSri Lanka
CambodiaGuineaMoldovaSweden
CanadaGuyanaMonacoSwitzerland
Cabo VerdeHaitiMongoliaThailand
ChileHondurasMontenegroTogo
China ColombiaHong KongNamibiaTurkey
Côte d’IvoireHungaryNetherlandsUnited Kingdom
Costa RicaIcelandNew ZealandUruguay
CroatiaIndiaNorwayVenezuela
CubaIrelandPanamaVietnam
CyprusIsraelParaguayZambia

  • Adoptive parents may or may not choose their children.

Generally, the US State laws mandate that efforts should be made before a child, especially a newborn, is put up for international adoption. However, exceptions can be made in cases where the birth parent/s is able to choose an adoptive parent/s, and service providers or agents did not help the birth parent/s in coming up with the choice. If the adoptive parent/s accepts, after the birth parent/s agreed to surrender the child for adoption, then the adoption process proper should commence. Usually, the birth parent/s should have already signed the surrender document within 72 hours after birth.

However, if the prospective adoptive parents would rather adopt children from welfare centers or foster care, depending on their agency, the children should generally be within the age range of 3-14. The institutions or agencies should be able to provide information about the children, including pictures, and should allow visits in order to allow the applicants to make informed decisions about choosing a child. Visits should also help the child transition into the adoption.

What are the qualifications for adoptive parents?

Eligibility qualifications may vary depending on the agencies, but generally, like most countries, adoptive parents who want to apply for international adoption from the US should meet the following requirements:

  • At least 25 years old, 
  • Financially stable and capable to provide for the family and the child’s needs, physically and psychologically healthy (must be able to provide documents for proof), and 
  • Must have a clean criminal record (background check). 
  • Moreover, adoptive parent applicants may have children; usually, a maximum of 2 or 3, or none at all already present within the household, can be married, widowed, or single. Authorized entities commonly should require that the prospective adoptive parents undergo a physical and mental examination concurrent with the adoption. 

The rest of what is mentioned is also to be examined thoroughly during the home study.

The International Adoption Process Proper

US outgoing international adoption process can vary from agency to agency, and depending on the type of adoption program prospective adoptive parents are going to take. However, provided below is the general flow for all US outgoing adoptions.

Registration and Application

Prospective adoptive parents may reach out to service providers or agencies to register and apply for international adoption in the US. Some service providers will directly provide a home study to the applicants. Otherwise, applicants may need to coordinate with home study agents or social workers that are within close proximity to their residence.

Home Study

A home study includes gathering personal information and other documents about the applicants’ home and life in general. It is aimed at evaluating the capacity of the applicants to attend to the needs of the child and the suitability of their lifestyle to parenting. Furthermore, it is also aimed at educating and preparing the applicants about adoption, the challenges of it, and the transition to the actual parenting period. Training may also be necessary for line with the preparation. Here is a list of the general home study stages for adoption.

  • Orientation Session. This is the preliminary stage of the home study where the applicants meet with a social worker or a service provider agent to discuss the adoption process in detail and the entire home study process details as well. The social worker or the agent should be able to answer the questions of the applicants and should be able to help in completing the formal application.
  • Preparation Sessions. This is a training period, mandatory under the Hague Convention, to all prospective adoptive parent applicants. It should last for weeks, generally ten, and could occur with several applicants to be trained at the same time, depending on who is conducting. Married applicants should be able to participate in these preparations sessions together.
  • Home Visits and Interviews. The social worker or adoption agent should conduct a good few numbers of home visits and conduct interviews. The frequency depends highly on who is conducting the home study, but generally, home visits should at least be three times. Furthermore, the interviews should cover the applicants’ health statements, income statements, and criminal record, requiring documents for proof. Health statements should be a recent medical examination, and income statements could be payslips or income tax. The interview may also include the children already at home if there are any and the applicants’ references who are not blood-related but must have known them for a long time.
  • Autobiography. This may be necessary, depending on the home study agent. This is a written narration of the summary of the lives of the applicants, concurrent with the application, or could include prior to the application. The agent should be able to help upon the composition of this document.
  • Report. This is to be done by the home study agent after the above-mentioned elements. The home study report should highlight the strengths of the applicants suited for parenting, especially with a child that may have some special medical or emotional needs. Moreover, the preparation done should be included to emphasize that the applicants are prepared enough to welcome a child. 

Referral/ Proposal

Depending on the adoption program the prospective adoptive parents applied for, whether it is in coordination with foster care or welfare institutes, or directly from the birth parent/s- the child’s medical and developmental information, information about the child’s upbringing or ethnic, religious, and cultural background should be provided to the applicants. For infants, due consent from the birth parents should also be transmitted. For older children, it should be a significant determiner for the child-family match that the child actually consented with the adoption, and the adoption is in his or her best interests.

USA International Adoption

Legal Proceedings

If the applicants approve of the match, the agency must seek the applicant’s country or receiving the country’s authorization for the entry of the child and the permit that the child will be residing permanently in it. Moreover, court proceedings should occur in the US to examine whether to approve of the international adoption and to grant guardianship of the child to the applicants. 

Furthermore, the applicants should also apply for a Hague Adoption Certificate, which entitles the adoption’s recognition in the US and other Convention countries, or the Hague Custody Declaration, which entitles recognition in the receiving country and other Convention countries, including the United States. This should be requested by the Department of State in the US, which could also ask for additional information or documents in line with the request. The Department has the right to deem the application abandoned if the applicants fail to comply with the additional requirements that are compelled by the Department within 120 days of the request for the certificate.

Placement and Post-Placement

Once the stages are duly complied, the adoptive parents may be granted to bring the child home to the receiving country. Post-placement monitoring is necessary and it will be done by the service provider or US authorized entity.

The Estimated Cost for US International Adoption

As mentioned earlier, the estimated cost for US outgoing international adoption ranges from $30,000 to $50,000.

Below is a breakdown of the common expenses:

Registration & Application$1,000-$2,000
Service provider fees
Document compilation assistance/supervision
Communication
Match/referral aid
Childcare concurrent with the adoption
$18,000-$18,000
Home Study$2,000-$5,000
Management of legal documents
Dossier
Authentication and translation
Child’s visa, passport, and birth documents
Post-placement report
$1,000-$4,000
Travel expenses
Airfare
In-country transportation
In-country accommodation
Food
Frequency of the trips
$5,000-$15,000

Each figure above will vary as it depends on the services the facilitating agencies will charge and the travel from the receiving country where the applicants are residing since the US state laws mandate that they travel to the US to attend some part of the adoption proceedings and bring the child home personally. For those who are nearer, the cost will be relatively lesser.

The process and cost of international adoption from the US is highly similar to those of other countries, it could also be daunting and costly. However, with ample preparation and thorough research, hopeful adoptive parents can take on the entire process with the assistance of a facilitating agency.

Related Questions

What happens to the citizenship of the adopted child from the US? 

Usually, the child may acquire the citizenship of the adoptive parents once he or she is placed in the receiving country. Moreover, upon the request for authorization of entry and permanent residence of the child that the adoptive parents, with the aid of the US authorized entity or service provider submitted to the designated legal offices of the receiving country, the receiving country should already have anticipated that the citizenship of the child is granted upon placement. This should take place given that the adoptive parents, or one of the adoptive parents, is a citizen or of native heritage in the receiving country.

Moreover, the child may maintain his or her US citizenship. Therefore, the child can grow up in the receiving country with dual citizenship – that of the receiving country and of the US. The child may, nonetheless, have to surrender the US citizenship one day, sometime within his or her 18th or 21st birthday, to be of the same citizenship of his or her adoptive parents. The point, however, is that children who emigrated from the US should be residing permanently on the receiving country as what is required by the Hague Convention.

How should a case of US citizens who are abroad and that would want to adopt a US citizen child be treated? 

This case should be considered as an outgoing adoption as the child shall be emigrating from the US to a receiving Convention country. Hence, the process discussed in the article should be applicable and is to be finalized in the receiving country as well. However, the country where the applicants are residing may have their own rules regarding international adoption; thus, the prospective adoptive parents must consult with the receiving country’s central authority before proceeding with applying for international adoption in the US. Prospective applicants may also tap service providers within the area to consult regarding this certain case, as they shall know how to address the concern concretely.

How should a mixed-raced married prospective adoptive parents pursue a US international adoption – one spouse being a US citizen and the other is not? 

This type of applicants should consult first-hand the central authority of the Hague Adoption Convention country they are residing in, or they are planning to receive an adopted child in. The Department of State in the US would consider adoption of a child immigrating to another Convention country with US citizen adoptive parent as a US domestic adoption type. Moreover, the more it is a US domestic adoption type of the prospective adoptive parent has the US as his or her permanent residence or citizenship and is planning to establish domicile there within the child’s 18th birthday.

However, if the prospective adoptive parents have dual citizenship (the US and the of the Convention country they are residing in), and one of the couples is a habitual citizen or is of the native heritage of the receiving Convention country, the receiving country may pursue their local adoption laws and methods. Therefore, it is greatly advised that this type of prospective adoptive parent applicants primarily consult with the central authority they are residing in, as is already advised earlier.

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Eni Gordove

is a freelance writer who has a degree in Bachelor of Arts major in Political Science. She has also taken Bachelor of Laws, making her adept in domestic and international adoption regulations and processes.

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