Adoption Self Help Manual
International Child Adoption
Advantages and Disadvantages of International Adoption
There are children all over the world. They all have certain characteristics in common:
They all come into the world like a clean slate blackboard: You can write whatever you want to on them. They will grow with it.
They all need love and care.
They all can love you.
These things apply no matter what the child looks like. If the child has eyes that are shaped differently than yours, he/she will still need your love and care.
If the baby has skin and eyes that are a different color than yours, he/she will still love you.
The question is, can you accept the fact that everybody in your family or neighborhood may know that the child is not your natural-born child?
Realize that this child will one day be the parent of your grandchildren. Can you accept the fact that your grandchildren may not look like you? That they may have a different racial and/or cultural heritage?
If you can accept this, then there is another whole population of children available to you. If the most important thing to you is to find a child to love and care for, there is another avenue for you to explore. Think about an international adoption.
Let's clear the air right here and now. Don't assume that you're going to waltz in and find a child somewhere who looks just like you. He or she just happens to be born a few thousand miles away. That isn't the way it goes.
In most Westernized countries, there is a shortage of healthy babies, just as there is here. So don't be thinking you'll go to Germany or to England and find a baby. Perhaps you will, but don't count on it. Those are not the countries adoption professionals have in mind when I talk about international adoptions. The majority of foreign-born children come from Russia, China, former Soviet Union countries, and Third World countries.
Some Advantages of an International Adoption Services
- You may be able to find an adoptable child where all other efforts have failed.
- You can be assured of securing the placement of a child within a certain time frame.
Some agencies allow you to be very specific.
- The rights of the birth parents will already have been terminated.
- You don't have to be concerned about the birth mother changing her mind.
- You will know the total costs early in the process.
- If you work with an agency, they will "walk you through" the process, step by step.
And Some Disadvantages
- The baby may not pass for "yours." The baby may not look anything like you. You will have to accept the fact that people may stare at you as you walk down the street with this child.
- The cost can be considerable. International adoptions can be more costly than some agency adoptions within the U.S.
- There is a "blizzard" of paperwork to be done. The foreign adoption process is complex, filled with detailed procedures and has many uncertainties built in.
- You may not always get accurate information on the child. Some countries use terminology like "developmentally slow" when they really mean mentally handicapped. Health conditions of the child are not always fully known or accurately reported.
- You may have to travel to the foreign country one or two times and stay there for 7-14 days.
- You must make certain the process you follow satisfies not only the laws of the United States, but your state and county, as well as the laws of the country of origin of the child. Not an easy task!
I hope you are getting the picture that this is an area where many demands will be made on you. Demands that you educate yourself to what is happening. And, as has been stressed repeatedly, you should know what is going on.
Where to Begin
International adoptions are in a class by themselves. I'll warn you now: Don't attempt to do this alone! Unless you are very experienced, fluent in the language of the country where the child is born, and/or working with a large parent group in the foreign country, it is foolhardy for you to try an international adoption on your own.
Foreign adoptions always require a lot of advance reading and preparation. You will do a lot of consulting with agencies and private referral sources.
There is always the temptation to think you can cut a corner or overlook a detail. You get lulled into a false sense of security. You think that because there are so many details, a few can slip by unnoticed.
Don't do that! Remember the Adoption Commandments. Don't try to ignore or evade established procedures. Resist the temptation to pay "finder's fees" or in any way become involved with what is called the "black market" for babies.
In an international adoption, you will have to be aware of the Federal laws relating to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (I.N.S.) of our Department of State.
The I.N.S. is particularly concerned with three things:
- The appropriateness and eligibility of you, the adopting parents.
- The identification and status of the adoptable child.
- The entry of the child into the United States and the application for either naturalization of U.S. citizenship.
Where to Begin? What to do First?
- Get a copy of IMMIGRATION OF ADOPTED AND PROSPECTIVE ADOPTIVE CHILDREN, published by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. This will help you make some of the decisions below.
- Contact your I.N.S. office and ask for a 600A packet.
- Just as is the case with adopting a child in the U.S., you must begin the process by deciding what kind of child you want to adopt. Perhaps now is a good time for you to re-read Chapter Four. Get clear in your mind what it is you want before you proceed
- Decide who you're going to work with. That means you must determine what is going to be your source of children. You have three methods to choose from:
• Method #1 – You can apply directly to an orphanage in the foreign country, to a foreign agency, or to a foreign intermediary, such as a lawyer or doctor – just as here in the U.S.
• Method #2 – You can work with a U.S. agency which specializes in international adoptions.
• Method #3 – You can seek out an appropriate private referral source on your own, and do the adoption directly.
- Prepare and collect the various documents which are required. You will need your birth certificate and marriage certificate. If you or your wife is a naturalized citizen, you will need those papers, also. You must also be concerned with documentation about the birth parents' – whatever is available, the childbirth, evidence of the orphan status of the adoptable child (as required by the I.N.S.), clearance through the federal law enforcement agencies, and the completion of all forms needed for the I.N.S.
- Have a home study completed (this will be described later in this manual). The home study should be done by a licensed agency in your state of residence. The study will be submitted later to the I.N.S.
- If you are living and working overseas, the home study must be done in the foreign country by a source acceptable to the I.N.S. And not only the I.N.S., but acceptable to the state where you will reside once you return to the United States.
- Begin to plan for the entrance of the child into the United States. Sometimes this can be handled directly by the agency or private referral source. In most instances, you will have to go to the child's country of origin and physically bring the child back to the United States yourself.
Method #1 – Foreign Agency, Orphanage or Intermediary
While it is not exhaustive, the checklist below is a good one for you to use as a guide. Don't rely only on what is on this checklist. There is a great deal more to be considered.
- Write to overseas placement agencies and orphanages. Many names and addresses to contact are found in the ‘Report on Foreign Adoption' issued by the International Concerns Committee for Children (ICCC). Contact them at 911 Cyprus Drive, Boulder, Colorado 80303. This booklet is published yearly and is updated several times throughout the year.
- Contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. They also have information you can request. Specifically, though, you want them to advise you about the documents you will have to collect. Later, when you have been notified by your foreign source that there is a child for you, the I.N.S. will be able to tell you the rest of the forms you will have to complete. They should also inform you about fees to be paid. Be sure to ask them about filing for a visa.
- Have a home study completed by a local, licensed agency. Be sure that whoever does the study knows that you are planning an international adoption.
It would be helpful if the agency can also provide post-placement supervision, once the child has been placed with you. Ask about this service. Be sure to ask about the costs.
- Begin to collect all the information and support documentation. You will need your marriage licenses, birth certificates, naturalization papers, income tax returns, divorce decrees. Anything you can think of that will be helpful.
- You may need to make arrangements to travel to the foreign country to pick up your child.
- Once back in the United States, call the local agency about that post-placement supervision I mentioned above.
- Begin the process of having the child naturalized, in compliance with federal and state laws.
- You will need to get a birth certificate issued for the child by authorities in the state where you live.
Method #2 – U.S. Agency Specializing in Foreign Adoptions
There are obvious advantages to dealing with a U.S. based agency.
They speak your language. They are easily contacted. They are readily available. They should also be aware of what is needed to bring the child into this country and how to take care of the paperwork.
The good ones will make sure that the birth parents' rights have been properly terminated. Generally, they will see to it that pre- and post-placement counseling are available to you and your spouse. They will provide you with meaningful information about the child.
They can guide you through all the requirements and can often arrange for the child to be brought directly to this country, if permitted. You may have to get the baby yourself if the foreign country requires it.
If you are beginning to feel that I think this is the best way to go – at least as far as international adoptions are concerned, you are right!
International adoptions are tricky and complex. They require great attention to a great number of details.
It is worth repeating: Don't try to do this alone. You need help.
In my experience, you will do best in an international adoption by locating and working with a U.S. based agency specializing in this type of service.
Hints on How to Select Such an Agency
Guidelines and questions are somewhat similar to those I discussed in Chapter Eight. Go back and review the part, "What You Want The Agencies To Tell You."
Here are some of the things you want and need to know now:
- Have they done similar adoptions for people in your area? Can they let you know who these people are so you may call them and use them as additional resources?
- What kinds of children do they place? Are they able to provide babies from only one country, or are they able to place children from more than one country? What countries are they approved to work with.
- What is the relationship between them and the foreign source?
- What range of services do they provide? What will be the costs for their services?
- What are their processing procedures? How many interviews will they need to conduct with you?
- Do they have any specific requirements regarding the age or health conditions of the adopting parents? Does it matter to them how long you have been married or if you have other children? Do your religious beliefs make any difference?
- What kinds of services do they provide after the baby is placed with you?
The Ideal Scenario For Method #2
If everything went simply and smooth as silk, here is generally how things would proceed:
You find a U.S. based agency that has contacts with other agencies or private sources in foreign countries. You register with the U.S. agency. If they are not in your state, then they should be in contact with a local agency in your state. Hopefully, this will be near your home.
The U.S. based agency does a home study for you if they are in your state. If they cannot, they will instruct you to arrange for a local agency in your state to do the home study for them.
The U.S. based agency with whom you are registered makes contact with the foreign agency or foreign referral source. They tell the foreign source of your wishes to adopt a child.
The foreign source identifies an adoptable child. They call your U.S. based agency.
The U.S. agency will provide you with all the information about the child. They can do this directly. They may also go through the local agency – the one that did your home study.
After you have looked over this information, you will have to decide whether you want to accept this referral or not.
The U.S. based agency helps the foreign agency to complete the paperwork and helps them deliver the child to you in this country, or helps make arrangements for you to travel to the foreign country to receive and adopt your child.
Let's Say You Decide to Accept This Referral Child
If you have accepted the referral and the child is placed with you, the agency that did the home study may need to provide supervision for approximately six months to two years. The U.S. agency with whom you registered will be the one to determine how long this supervision with last.
Method #3 – Doing It Yourself, Directly
All the discussion so far should have convinced you that an international adoption can be the most complicated of all the adoptions available to you.
And doing it yourself has got to be the most difficult and complicated method of handling this most complicated and difficult type of adoption.
Unless you are extremely familiar with the country of origin, you are better off not trying to do this alone. To do so only creates greater risk and expense.
For instance, think about this: You have no guarantees about the health of the child. And what if the child you receive is different from what you expected? Who are you going to call? Washington?
If you have intimate knowledge of the country, its customs and languages, however, this advice does not apply. Perhaps you are considering adopting a child from the country in which you, yourself were originally born.
Perhaps you still have family in the foreign country. They will be able to help you.
In such circumstances, the arrangements in the foreign country will be no harder than they would be if you were adopting an American baby here in the U.S.
However, you still have to satisfy all of the rules and regulations of the foreign country as well as those of this country and your state of residence.
In some international adoptions, the adoption is finalized before the child and the adopting parents leave the foreign country. In these cases, if you and your child re- enter the U.S. with the final adoption decree, the adoption may be recognized here as being completed. No post-placement supervision is required by the United States government but may be required by the foreign government. In all situations you will still have to meet all federal and state requirements.
But suppose the adoption was not finalized in the foreign country? You don't have an adoption decree? What then?
In this case, post-placement visits and the length of supervision will depend on the country of origin and your state government.
What's the point?
Get the advice of experts. Don't try to cut corners or save a few dollars by trying to accomplish it all by yourself.