International Adoption: Choosing a Country

Some families who have decided to adopt a child already have a specific country in mind. Perhaps a particular country speaks to their hearts because of their own cultural heritage, or perhaps a natural or political disaster has made them feel called to open their home to a child from a particular country. Other families know they’d like to adopt internationally, but aren’t sure which country interests them. Whether you know which country you’d like to adopt from or you are just beginning to learn about international adoption, it’s important to understand the laws that will impact your adoption.

The Hague Convention

The most important factor you’ll encounter when choosing a country is whether that country is a member of The Hague Adoption Convention (for a list of Hague Convention countries, click here). Adoptions from Hague Convention countries have several additional requirements that are designed to protect children. An adoption from a Hague Convention country can only be done through an agency that is licensed by the U.S. State Department to conduct such adoptions. Adoptions under the Convention have many more bureaucratic requirements, but it’s important to know that the requirements are intended to protect children from trafficking and to try to find them homes in their own countries before sending them abroad for adoption. Thus, the fact that a country is a Hague country is not a reason to rule it out! It simply means that the adoption must take place through a Hague-accredited agency and will have more legal steps to complete.

The Laws of the Country of Origin
Each country has different laws about:

  • Who may adopt a child Factors such as age, marital status, health, and number of children already in the household affect which country you may adopt from.
  • Who may be adopted The age of the child and how long they have been eligible for adoption are the most common factors affecting what children may be adopted internationally. It is rare to be able to adopt a child under 18 months of age from any country.
  • Characteristics that the adoptive parents may choose Some countries allow adoptive parents to request a certain gender or ethnicity, while others do not.
  • Travel The number of visits to the country and how long you must stay each time will vary depending on the individual country’s laws.
  • Information shared Some countries are notorious for giving very little or even false information about the medical and social history of adopted children, while others share such information fairly readily.
  • Wait times and red tape Each country has different documentation requirements and different wait times for an adoption to be processed.
  • Common health and psychological problems Some countries have a higher prevalence than others of health issues such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, attachment disorders, malnutrition, etc.

More Information
The best source of reliable, up-to-date information about the requirements for adopting a child from another country is the U.S. Department of State. At their website adoption.state.gov, they list information about each country, a guide to understanding the Hague Convention, and up-to-the-minute alerts regarding changes in a country’s adoption requirements. There is also information about obtaining a visa for your internationally adopted child. A reliable agency or adoption attorney can also give you information about the laws and requirements of different countries and help you to choose the right adoption type for your family.

Have you adopted a child from another country? What was your experience with the process like? Share in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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