International Adoption

What are the health, emotional, and developmental issues common to children adopted from abroad. What should parents and professionals consider before adopting internationally. Our guest expert is Dr. Dana Johnson, Professor of Pediatrics and one of the founders of the Adoption Medicine Clinic at the University of Minnesota. He is the parent of two birth daughters and an adopted son from India.

Hit the Highlights

96.48 (b)(1

  • What is the general process for intercountry adoption.
  1. Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider.  Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity 
  2. Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt.
  3. Be matched with a child by authorities in country.
  4. Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption.
  5. Adopt the child in country of origin.
  6. Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home.
  7. Each country has a different process,
  8. Must meet the legal requirements of the country, the US government, and your state;
  9. Go to State Dept. website to get specific info on the process for the country you are considering. Use your search browser with the term “state department international adoption” to find the website. Click on Country Information.
  10. You can also file complaints against your agency if you have problems-  Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity 
  • What are some of the general characteristics and needs of kids waiting for adoption abroad?  

96.38 (b)(1)

  • Generally, what factors across the world lead children to be in state care and to need adoptive families?

96.48 (b)(2), 96.48 (c)(2), 96.38 (b)(7) 

  1. What are the most frequent medical or psychological problems you see in children adopted internationally?
  2. What are the effects of malnutrition?
  3. What are some common environmental toxins currently seen in the primary placing countries and how might they impact children? Additional info may be found at World Health Organization, World Health Rankings, World Food Program.
  4. Impact on children of maternal substance abuse (alcohol, drugs). 
  5. For the main placing countries to the US how common is:
    1. Maternal substance abuse
    2. Malnutrition
    3. Emotional issues
    4. Genetic abnormalities
    5. Developmental Delay
    6. Other known health risk factors

96.48 (b)(3), 96.38 (b)(2)

  • What is the general impact of a child leaving everything they know?
  • What is the experience of most children leaving their family of origin?
  • What types of behaviors are typical and how do they differ by age? 

96.48 (b)(4), 96.38 (b)(5)

  • How does institutional care impact children?
  • How does institutionalization affect child development?
  • What types of care are you seeing in the various countries?
  • Is the degree of impact worse the longer the child is in an orphanage or child welfare institution?

96.48 (b)(5)96.38 (b)(3), 96.38 (b)(8)

  • What children are at the greatest risk for attachment disorders?
  • What are the symptoms of a child with attachment disorders?
  • What is the general process of developing attachment and emotional ties to their adoptive family?
  • How long post adoption should you wait until you begin to worry about disordered attachment?

96.38 (b)(4), 96.48 (b)(3) 

  • What are the psychological issues children who have experienced abuse, neglect or trauma may face?
  • What is post-traumatic stress disorder and what children available for international adoption are at risk for this?
  • What are the symptoms of PTSD?

96.48 (b)(6)

  •  Best place to get information on the country specific laws and the adoption process is your agency and the US State Department website on intercountry adoption, in the country information section. Easiest to just search for State Dept International adoption, and click on country information.
  • Each year the State Dept is required to do an Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption and it includes length of time it took to complete an adoption in the last year from specific countries. Also includes cost information. The country specific pages at the State Dept. website also has some of this info.

 96.48 (b)(7)96.38 (b)(9)

  • What are some of the acculturation and assimilation issues children may face post international adoption?
  • How does the age and temperament of the child impact this assimilation?
  • What can families do to help their children adjust to their new country and environment?

96.48 (b)(8)

  • A big problem in international adoption is families not completing their post adoption reports as required by the country of origin. This is a problem for the family, but also for the future of all international adoption. To learn more about the specific reporting requirements ask your agency or any agency with an adoption program in that country. Also, you can check the US State Department Intercountry Adoption website under “Country Information.”

96.38 (b)(6)96.38 (b)(10)

  • Why is it better for kids to be raised in families?
  • Generally speaking, how are the kids adopted internationally doing?
  • How does adoption itself impact children, adolescents, and adults?
  • Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self co-authored by David Brodzinsky and The Primal Wound by by Nancy Verrier are great resources.

Photo Credit: Zszen John 

Music credit: Michael Ashworth