I frequently talk with prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) and I’m always humbled to be able to do my best to give honest answers, helpful info, and resources to help them as they move forward.
If you’re local to us, we’d love to see you at Adoption and Foster Care 101 hosted by Miriam’s Heart, our local foster and adoption support group.
If you’re U.S. based, there are three main ways to adopt:
- International Adoption
- Domestic Adoption through the Foster Care System
- Private Domestic Adoption
While I personally know more about International Adoption, I am pretty well connected with resources for domestic adoption and would be glad to help anyone whose interested learn more about it. There are thousands of children in the United States waiting for a permanent family to commit to them with unconditional love. ALL children need families, including those waiting in the U.S.
International Adoption raises up some common questions with most of the PAPs I talk to:
- Where can I adopt from?
- How much does it cost?
- Will I have to travel to the country?
- What is the process like?
- How do I choose an agency?
- How do I find my child?
Quick Tip: The right agency will require a home study process that guides you through exploring these critical issues so that you are equipped to welcome your child home and journey through the often deep waters of parenting a child from a hard place. If your home study agency/social worker, isn’t making you do some really tough work
Where can I adopt from?
International Programs are available around the world, but unfortunately there are not as many as before. There are various reasons for this. We all hope that the closed countries will be able to enact effective reforms so they can once again open their doors to international adoption with ethical practices to protect children and ensure adoptions are carried out with integrity. Asia, Europe, Latin America and South America have multiple countries with international adoption programs. There are agencies advertising adoption in African countries, but most of these are on temporary holds or closed due to ethical concerns. The United States has a couple of domestic adoption programs.
Depending on your own country of citizenship, your options for adoption may be limited. Australia, for example, currently has strict limitations on what special needs an adopted child may have before approving them for immigration.
Each country’s international adoption program has different requirements of PAPs. An adoption agency will be able to tell you more. For China specifically, HERE are the current eligibility requirements.
Though we didn’t utilize this ourselves, CAFO offers a helpful assessment for prospective adoptive parents to identify their eligibility for various adoption options and programs. Click HERE to go to the assessment tool.
How much does it cost?
Again, this is going to vary greatly by country. The U.S. Foster Care system is often referred to as being “free” with mention of the stipend that foster families receive. The reality is that while the costs are lowest in this program, there are still costs associated with it and every family needs to understand going in.
Private domestic adoption often starts at $10,000 and can go as high as $30,000 on average depending on the particular circumstances.
With international adoption, it can vary so much because of the travel costs and the specific country’s program fees. Agency fees vary as well. MineinChina offers a very helpful post about agency fees and the larger financial picture HERE. The total costs include homestudy fees, U.S. immigration fees, placing agency fees, dossier prep and courier fees, Visas, travel, in country costs (food, lodging, guide, etc.) and post placement visits. In total it can be anywhere from $20,000 – $40,000+ depending on the country, agency, how many travel, and how many children are being adopted.
Will I have to travel to the country?
It’s my understanding that nearly all current international adoption programs require PAPs to make at least one trip to country. China is a one trip country. South Korea is 2. European countries can be 2-3. This is something you should discuss with your agency when considering which country is a fit for your family.
What is the process like?
It’s not easy, it takes time, effort, organization and endurance. And you will be frustrated at times and it will stretch your faith. That’s what is universal about the process. But within that, each adoptive family will have a little different story. Our adoptions were pretty quick compared to many. James was home in 9 months from signing with an agency to arriving on U.S. soil. Emily was home in 8 months from signing to U.S. soil. China is one of the most stable and predictable programs with a major network of online support from experienced parents. So while it required a lot of diligence, and waiting to get your child that long is reeeaallly hard, it was easier on us than many other families. It’s all going to depend on your family, your agency, the country you’re working with, and ultimately your perspective.
How do I choose an agency?
Feel free to reach out to me in regards to my own personal opinions and experiences. I’d be glad to tell you the ones we’d work with in a heartbeat and the ones we wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole (ha!).
- Please, please, please! Review all of the information on the Council for Accreditation’s Website before you sign with ANY agency. NEVER work with an agency that is not accredited.
- A great resource from CAFO – 12 Questions for PAPs to Ask an Adoption Agency
- Rate Your China Adoption Agency group on Facebook. I’m sure there are others for other country programs.
- Mine in China (the website and book) – this is an awesome go-to resource for all things China adoption process. This PAGE in particular lays out some helpful tips for choosing an agency.
How do I find my child?
Yea. This is one of those questions that is messy, to be honest. Some people have very strong opinions about finding your child first, versus letting an agency match you. But either way, I want to be clear here – this is not “child shopping.” You are not browsing a catalog. These are lives of precious, valuable children and they are not “lucky” to get a family. They are equally as deserving of a family as any of us, and what they have experienced is anything but “lucky.” WE are the ones privileged to have the opportunity to love and parent them. The matching process is one that should be undertaken with humility and care, covered in prayer.
If you are seeking to adopt through the foster care system this is a question better asked to someone more knowledgeable on the topic – just let me know and I can connect you. If you are seeking to adopt an infant domestically, an agency can better answer this question for you.
On the International Adoption side you will hear a variety of experiences. Many families find their child first through online advocacy sites, their agency’s advocacy list, or a friend sharing a specific child with them. Others are matched by their agency later in the process.
The bottom line in international adoption today is that the majority of children available for adoption have at least one identified special need, many are 6 or older, and many are boys. This is what we tell everyone who asks us about international adoption – If you are not open to special needs, you are probably not a fit for international adoption, and should probably consider a different path for building your family.
Let’s say you are open to special needs. That’s awesome and we need so many more families like you! But having done this twice now, and having interacted with hundreds of other adoptive families, here’s the thing. What you really need to understand, process, consider, accept and plan for is this – There are absolutely NO guarantees in international adoption about the actual developmental, physical and emotional needs of your future child. Files can be inaccurate and incomplete – intentionally or not. What IS guaranteed is that your child comes from a place of trauma and loss and their greatest special need IS for a family. Your child is in desperate need of committed, unconditional love from a parent that has done the hard work to prepare themselves as best as they can to give this child a permanent, loving, safe home. So understand what you are saying yes to. Understand that you are taking a risk. Understand that you need to be wise and be prepared. And understand that a child’s life is worth it.
If you’re ready to get to know some of the world’s waiting children, I’d suggest the following:
- Agency waiting lists – most agencies have an online listing of children they are currently advocating for. You will likely have to fill out a brief form to gain access to their listing. You could start with Agape, WACAP, CCAI, or Madison just to name a few.
- Red Thread Advocates
- Rainbow Kids
- Reece’s Rainbow
- Facebook Groups – China Waiting Child Advocacy, China Waiting Child Advocacy, Under 2, China Advocacy for Jie Jie, China Awesome Older Boys Advocacy