The rate of international adoption has been steadily increasing in the past few decades. Between 1988 and 1998, the number of foreign adoptions based out of the United States nearly doubled and over 20,000 international children were adopted by American families in 2002.
The advantages of international adoptions vary. With declining rates of children available for domestic adoption, accompanied by a rise in female and male infertility in countries such as the United States, it is no surprise that more and more couples and single parents are looking to international adoption agencies and opting for foreign and transracial adoption.
Benefits of International Adoption
International adoption has become an ideal resource for couples seeking to experience the joys of parenthood, and build a family by adopting children. International adoption has many advantages for both adoptive parents as well as the adopted children.
Both boys and girls of all ages can be adopted from various countries including China, Russia, and Guatemala. There are many reasons why there is a surge of children available for foreign adoption. Unfortunately, these often have to do with political issues that prevent the child from being cared for with appropriate resources. For this reason, many couples opt for international adoption in order to provide a child with a loving home.
Some of the more practical benefits associated with international adoption include the following:
- Foreign children are legally considered "orphans." This means that birth parents do not have legal custody over a child, minimizing the risk of custody battles
- Waiting periods for the arrival of the child may be shorter. However, parents should be aware that international adoption will require them to travel to their child’s home country
- Once parents are approved after a home study, they are likely to be guaranteed a child. The waiting period upon approval is typically between 12-18 months
- The international adoption process often has more predictable waiting periods and costs
The Adopting Process
The international adoption process is typically guided by a private, nonprofit adoption agency. In some cases, domestic adoption agencies may also provide international services. Adoption laws and the adoption process will differ depending on the country and likely include criteria for adoptive parents including restrictions on age, income, the number of other children in the home, marital status and stability, and in cases of single parenthood, gender may be considered.
Some international adoption laws will be more specific; for instance, some countries have restrictions based on the religious beliefs of the adoptive parents, while others may pose limitations based on weight and height.
Citizen issues, legal adoption, and birth parent rights are just some of the issues that will require paperwork. This process can take several months, so remain patient. In addition, be sure to perform your own research when it comes to choosing an adoption agency. Check the agency history to make sure that it is reputable, and choose one that you feel can meet your needs.
International Adoption Concerns
The prospect of international adoption raises some realistic concerns for potential parents. Many adoptive parents worry that their child may not adapt to their new surroundings, particularly when it comes to older children. However, while children up to the age of fifteen are eligible to come to the United States for adoption, 44% of internationally adopted children were under the age of one, while an additional 43% were between the ages of one and four in 2001.
Studies have shown that the majority of internationally adopted children grow to be physically and emotionally healthy adults. However, some of the concerns initially facing both adoptive parents as well as children in the early phases of international adoption include the following:
- Some children may suffer from malnutrition or developmental delays
- The child's background and medical history will likely be incomplete or unknown
- The child's birth mother may have received poor prenatal care
- The process will take some time, and it is unlikely that parents will be able to adopt a newborn
The total cost of an international adoption process depends on many factors and can range from $10,000 to $50,000. It is important for adoptive parents to recognize and understand that barriers such as language differences, greeting customs, and displays of affection may exist when adopting an older child. Fostering communication is the best way to support your child during these stages.
Lastly, there are many resources available to adoptive parents, including medical, psychological, rehabilitative, and educational resources that can provide support for families along the way.