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International vs. Domestic Adoption

International Adoption

The number of international adoptions has increased dramatically in recent years. According to, Americans adopted nearly 6,500 children from foreign countries in 1992 and more than 20,000 by 2002.

One thing to understand when considering adopting internationally is that you will never receive a newborn baby, as you may with a domestic adoption. By the time a the paperwork is completed and a match is made, the baby will most likely be several months old - on average between 6 and 18 months, according to However, virtually all of the children adopted internationally are younger than five years old.

There are many reasons couples decide to adopt a child from a foreign country, including:

  • They wish to create a more ethnically diverse family

  • They want to adopt a child from their own culture or ethnic background

  • The adoption process may be much shorter than a domestic adoption

  • They want to adopt a child who would otherwise grow up in poverty or social/political instability

Agencies that facilitate international adoptions are usually private, non-profit organizations (public adoption agencies generally do not handle international adoptions) that may specialize in adoptions in one specific foreign country or in many. International independent adoptions are possible; however, not every country allows them, so be sure to research the laws of any country you are interested in. You may experience a smoother and less expensive adoption if you use an agency rather than trying to adopt independently because agencies have established contacts in many foreign countries that may help the adoption proceed more smoothly and quickly.

Under current U.S. immigration law, a child adopted from a foreign country must be orphaned or abandoned or have only one living parent who is incapable of providing care. These guidelines are in place to protect children from being bought and sold on the black market. Children up to 15 years in age are eligible for adoption into the U.S., and children aged 16 and 17 may be adopted if their siblings have been adopted by American families. Most children adopted into the U.S. are from Asia, Eastern Europe or Latin America; many Western European, African and Middle Eastern countries currently do not allow international adoption. To find out which countries currently allow U.S. citizens to adopt children, go to the U.S. Department of State Web site.

Certain foreign countries have specific age, financial, or religious requirements for adoptive parents, and all certified agencies require prospective adoptive parents to complete a homestudy and undergo an investigation of their financial, physical, and emotional stability. The homestudy is designed to help the adopting parents prepare to deal with some special adoption issues, such as when to talk to the adopted child about adoption, their home country and birth parents. Adopting parents are also counseled on how to deal with the reactions of family and friends, as well as the implications of adopting a child that is of a different race or ethnicity. Once you have signed on with an agency and have completed your dossier, homestudy and background check, you will be matched with a child. Once this has occurred, the adoption process begins, which can take just a few weeks or several months, depending on the country. Many countries require the adoptive parents to be physically present for an adoption hearing and some require you to live with your prospective adopted child for at least three months before the adoption is completed.

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