While there are many options in adoption—domestic, newborn, foster care, relative, etc.—perhaps the scariest can be bringing a new child into your home from a foreign country. The costs, the language barrier, the paperwork, the cultural differences, oh my!
Despite the unique obstacles, people are still drawn to international adoption. Many Americans and Canadians trace their ethnic heritage to a certain map dot, some want to provide a home for children who might lack proper health care in under-resourced nations, others have been visiting a certain country for years, and still others may have been adopted from overseas themselves. So don’t let the metaphorical mountains scare you—learn how to climb!
First, not every American and Canadian is eligible to adopt. There are government income requirements (Canadians click here) and citizenship rules (one U.S. spouse must be a citizen, for example, or single parents must be citizens), while certain criminal histories are disqualifying. And that’s just the American or Canadian side; some potential parents are only eligible to adopt from certain countries. China, for example, prefers that its adoptive parents be at least 30 years or older, while Haiti gives a firm non to anyone over 50. Some countries love single parents; other ban them. So be sure to examine each country’s requirements thoroughly to find your best fit.
The rules for eligibility requirements aren’t the only factors to consider, however. Cost and travel time can vary wildly! Contrast Hong Kong ($15,000 and five to seven days) versus Kyrgyzstan ($43,000 and over a month). Certain jobs allow for some flexibility on time off (hello, teachers!), meaning multiple trips and longer times in-country might not be an issue. Furthermore, keep in mind that not all countries require both husband and wife to travel; one can legally be more flexible than the other in most cases. Additionally, U.S. law provides mandated unpaid maternity/paternity leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act once you arrive home with your new American or Canadian citizen.
That is just a small sampling of the what; now it’s time for the who. Many people mistakenly assume there are scads of healthy baby boys and girls just waiting for American moms and dads whose first parents have been lost to natural disasters or disease. While it is true that healthy babies are occasionally available for international adoption, the reality is that the vast majority of waiting kids waiting are non-infants (and if you want a healthy baby, your wait will typically be several years longer than toddlers on up) and/or those with special needs.
And speaking of special needs: They are not necessarily major. Many kids are lumped in the “disabled” categories for something that could be medically addressed, such as a crossed eye or an extra finger. Even so, families can be intimidated by the “special needs” label, meaning there are usually far more kids with disabilities available for international adoption than there are “healthy” ones. So keep an open mind; you may fall in love with a child who comes with something extra special.
Once you decide to take the plunge,
- Find like-minded groups of adopting parents.
- Take an educational course.
- Study the ethics of international adoption,
- Beware of trafficking schemes.
- Dive into your chosen country’s culture, language, history, and customs.
- Be open to changing course from “beautiful perfect foreign baby” to areas like family preservation, sibling groups, or disability parenting.
- Apply for grants from organizations like Show Hope, Rollstone Foundation, Gift of Adoption, LifeSong for Orphans, Every Child Has a Dream, Both Hands, Katelyn’s Fund, JSC Foundation, and Help Us Adopt. (Note: Some grants are religiously affiliated.)
- Build up a personal support network. Read adoptee and adoptive parent memoirs.
Most important, realize that international adoption is a reachable, worthy dream, and buckle up for one of the hardest, most thrilling, joy-filled, fulfilling rides of your life.
By Crystal Kupper