Every child deserves a place to call home and loving parents to raise it. Sometimes the parties must travel thousands of miles to meet each other. International adoption is a process which can take anywhere from nine months to several years depending on the child's country of origin. Unlike domestic adoptions, international ones usually involve children that are placed in orphanages or have been made legally available by their parents.
Each country has its own set of guidelines and having an understanding of the culture can help before bringing the child into your home. Most families interested in international adoption work with an agency to help them through the process. Among the most popular countries Americans adopt from are Russia, China, Taiwan, Ethiopia, Vietnam, South Korea and Kazakhstan. Last year, 17,438 children were adopted internationally.
Qualifications: Like the domestic adoption process, families register with an agency and attend information sessions. They then go through the home-study process, which involves criminal and medical background checks, fingerprints, a safe home and stable living environment inspection, a financial records review, references, interviews with adoption counselors and monitoring of marital status. The family must then receive approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before submitting their paperwork to the country they are interested in adopting from.
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Timeline: In the past, international adoptions from countries such as China were popular due to their fast turn around, but new restrictions have lengthened the process considerably. Once the family receives a referral for the potential child, they must then review the child's health information with a pediatrician specializing in international adoption, such as Dr. Jane Aronson who has worked with Angelina Jolie and Mary Louise Parker. These doctors review the medical history to help a family determine if the child is healthy enough to be adopted. The family then prepares for travel to the country to pick up their child, including immigration forms and vaccinations and travel arrangements.
Costs: International adoptions range from approximately $13,000 to $51,000, depending on the country's program fee and the agency's fee, and not including travel expenses. Some, like Spence-Chapin, base their fee on the couple's income (usually 7 percent of the income) while others, like The Cradle, charge set fees.
Considerations: Before deciding to adopt, parents must be comfortable incorporating someone from another culture inside their home. Most likely, the child will not look like them and this will raise questions for the rest of their lives. Future moms and dads should also consider how they will incorporate their adopted child's culture into their own – some opt for roots discovery tours or bi-annual trips to the country of origin, while others learn the native language as a family.