Myths About International Adoption
by Julie Kink
HOPE Adoption & Family Services Int’l Inc.
Published April 2011
Edited May 2011
Myth: It’s even easier than domestic adoption.
Busted!: “Easy” is a subjective term, especially when it comes to adoption; no adoption is “easy.” International adoption has its challenges: finding a country whose children and whose adoptive parent criteria suit your family, dealing with the added layers of documentation required by another country and U.S. Immigration, perhaps (but not always) having to travel once or twice before you can bring your child home, or even the possibility of political turmoil necessitating a switch to a different country. International adoption often involves selecting an international “child-finding” agency with expertise in that country, as well as a local “home study” agency to do your parent training and follow-up, and the two must work together to help you bring your child home. By choosing a local agency and an international child-finding agency carefully, researching the agencies’ licensure, complaint status, obtaining references and learning about the status of adoptions from that country, parents should be able to make informed decisions that ultimately lead to the joy of adopting internationally.
Myth: Even more noble than domestic adoption.
Busted!: People who want to become moms and dads through adoption are motivated not only by a desire to help a child who needs a family, but also by their own deep desire to be parents. It’s true that orphaned children in other countries, if not adopted into loving families, often end up on the streets or not surviving childhood at all. But children in the U.S. who are waiting in the foster care system and “age out” at age 18 often suffer similar fates. One in four will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care, one in five will become homeless, only half will graduate from high school, and less than three percent receive college degrees.¹ While the desire to adopt is a two-way street, any type of adoption – providing a loving family for a child who needs one – is noble.
Myth: International adoption is more expensive than domestic adoption.
Busted!: In addition to costs for a family’s training and adoption preparation, home study, coordination services, and post placement supervision, international adoptions usually involve fees to child-finding agencies, court or attorneys in the other country, travel, possibly care of the child until they can travel home. These costs could total anywhere from $15,000 to upwards of $50,000. The most expensive international adoption agency isn’t necessarily the most reliable, the quickest, or the most reputable. In U.S. infant adoption, the fees paid by the adopting parents are designed to cover the costs of services provided to birth parents, and can range from $15,000 to $30,000. In U.S. waiting child adoption, several states have funding programs that pay for prospective adoptive parents’ costs to adopt children with significant special needs. There are many ways to pay for an adoption, including the federal adoption tax credit, state reimbursement for some specialized services for children with special needs, employer adoption benefits, grants, loans, fund raisers, and adoption assistance payments for some types of adoption.
Myth: You can adopt from any country you want.
Busted!: When a single person or couple decides to adopt internationally, they must follow the criteria of the country from which they choose to adopt. For instance, some countries allow only couples to adopt, while others work with single clients. Some countries are uncomfortable with an age difference of more than 40 years between the oldest parent and the child, while other countries seem to prefer older parents. Because of societal values, some countries set restrictions on whether a family can already have children upon applying, some have income or weight requirements, and some work only with people who have a certain ethnic heritage. Because of political disturbance, natural disasters, or long-held beliefs, some countries do not participate in international adoption. The best place to find out whether or not it is possible to adopt from a particular country is the U.S. Department of State’s Intercountry Adoption web site, http://adoption.state.gov.
Myth: People will judge if you have a child of another race.
Busted!: People who adopt often face questions from friends, relatives and strangers that sound more intrusive than questions faced by people who have children by birth. During the adoption process, prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to involve their family and friends in the educational process so their child will have the support they need to grow up with strong self esteem. Still, well meaning (or not so well meaning) strangers can make remarks that cast multicultural adoption in a negative light. How to respond to these questions or comments in a way that corrects adoption myths and stereotypes while being respectful of their child and their personal story is something each adoptive parent needs to address in a way that is comfortable for them and their family.
¹“Time for Reform: Aging Out and On Their Own – More Teens Leaving Foster Care Without a Permanent Family,” Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, copyright 2007, The Pew Charitable Trusts.