Adopting a Relative from Abroad

What issues should parents think about when adopting a relative (niece, cousin, sibling) from abroad. We talk with Mary Beth King, who has a Master of Science in Social Administration and is Frank Adoption Center’s Executive Director, and with Katie Schultz, an International Adoption Specialist with Madison Adoption Associates.

In this episode, we cover:

  • What level of genetic relationship is required to call it a kinship adoption as well as what circumstances make a child eligible for an international kinship adoption, especially in the eyes of USCIS.
  • At what age is a child no longer eligible for international kinship adoption?
  • Changing relationship for both adopter and child – to go from the “cool, exotic US visitor” to everyday caregiver.
  • Relationship with bio family in home country.
  • Helping children navigate (and choose) the language of family – will they continue to refer to you as “aunt” or will you be “mom,” etc.
  • Blending children by birth and this newly adopted child.
  • Understanding that trauma and loss are still a part of the child’s story even though they are remaining in their biological extended family.
  • It can take a long time for adopting a relative to come to fruition, the child can be much older than when the family started the process and so helping families adjust to the fact that they may be bringing home an older child can be challenging.
  • Helping families embrace pre-adoption education as necessary even though they have experience in parenting or they know this child and therefore don’t need education on how to parent.
  • Recognizing that the child’s immigrant experience will be different than your own and how to separate the two.
  • Navigating two identities, for example – Preparing your child to embrace their identity not just as a Cameroonian, but also as a Black American.
  • Managing expectations of cultural changes – Understanding that these children are very likely to take on cultural norms of America kids and teens which may be different than the parent-child relationship expectations of your country of origin
  • Understanding the importance of hobbies, sports, extracurricular activities, play time, etc. in addition (and sometimes even as backseat to) academics, especially as kids adjust to these big changes, make new friends, and heal from trauma and loss
  • Navigating the American school system and understanding that grade levels don’t always translate internationally. Accessing services to help the child transition.
  • Adjusting to parenting as an older parent. Things may have changed since you parented last.

Don’t miss an episode. Be sure to subscribe.

Leave us a rating or review.

Music Credit: Michael Ashworth

Image Credit: RODNAE Productions