International Adoption

International Adoption

adopting from abroadAmericans have been adopting children from abroad since the 1950s. While international adoptions have decreased in recent years, primarily due to countries closing their international adoption programs and costs and wait times increasing, it is still a popular choice for many adoptive parents, and there are still many children growing up in orphanages abroad in need of families.

Most of the children available for international adoption are toddlers or older kids and most have some special needs. If you are trying to decide if international adoption is best for you, check out our Quick Comparison Chart for the Different Types of Adoption.

How Do You Adopt a Child From Another Country? What Is the International Adoption Process?
International adoption requires that families use an accredited adoption agency.  Since each country has specific requirements on what they want in adoptive parents (age, marital status, health, etc.) and different ages of children available, we think it is best to pick a country first and then select an agency. These resources will help:

What Countries Are Open To International Adoption?
The US State Department lists countries that are currently open to international adoption. The Creating a Family Adoption Comparison Charts analyze the top ten sending countries for the ten factors we think parents should consider when choosing a country including the type of kids available for adoption, the cost, waiting times, and stability of the program.
How Much Does International Adoption Cost?
The cost of adopting from abroad varies depending on the expense of airfare, how long you have to stay in-country, and how much the country charges. The average cost for overseas adoption for the top three sending countries is:

  • China – The Median Adoption Service Provider Convention Adoption Fees are $15,725.00 (not including travel or documentation fees). Total ranges from $25,000 to $35,000 generally.
  • Ukraine – The average cost to adopt from Ukraine is about $35,000  (with a wide range of variance due to travel requirements).
  • Colombia – The Median Adoption Service Provider Convention Adoption Fees are $14,410.00 (not including travel or documentation fees). Total ranges from $35,000 to $40,000 (with a wide range of variance for travel requirements and sibling group adoptions).

It is important when choosing a country and an adoption agency to look at total costs. Use this form for comparing agency costs. We include more information on total costs for the top placing countries in international adoption on our Adoption Comparison Charts.

How Long Does It Take To Adopt Internationally?
Wait times for international adoptions have been rising in most countries. It is important when choosing a country to look at how long it has taken families in the last few years. The Creating a Family Adoption Comparison Charts give wait times for the top placing countries in international adoption.
How To Choose an International Adoption Agency
Your adoption agency will be your guide in international adoption, so choose wisely. Creating a Family has a 3-step process for finding an adoption agency, and we include a list of questions that you must ask agencies before you select. We also have a list of red flags for unethical adoption agencies. Note that all international adoption agencies must have Hague accreditation in order to place children in the US.
What Are the Health/Medical Issues Adoptive Parents Should Be Concerned About in International Adoption?
Children adopted from abroad are at an increased risk for physical and emotional health problems. All potential adoptive families need to think through what type of children they are best able to parent. Not every family is the right family for every child. Creating a Family has many resources listed at the additional resource icons below that can help you decide what you are best able to handle. Here is a sample of what you will find:

Please refer to our Adoption Comparison Charts, which are updated regularly, to get a better picture of what needs are most common per country.

How To Find a Pediatrician That Specializes in International Adoption To Review Your Referral Information
Before accepting, many families choose to have their referrals evaluated by a doctor to help them assess the health risks of the child. Although general pediatricians may be able to help, you might prefer to use a doctor that specializes in international adoption medicine (IA doctors). The American Academy of Pediatrics has a tool to find a pediatrician by name, specialty (in this case, Adoption Medicine), and by location. Members of this specialty focus on the health and developmental issues for adopted children and keep up with pertinent, new developments.

It is not necessary that you choose a doctor located locally to you, but some families want to be able to talk with someone in person or take their child for a post-adoption evaluation with the same doctor who reviewed the referral.

Different doctors have different personalities, so talk with them first to see if it is a good fit. When interviewing an IA doctor consider the following questions:

  • How many adoption referrals have they evaluated? In the last year?
  • How many adoption referrals have they evaluated from my country?
  • How long does it usually take to have a referral evaluated if we have medical information before we travel?
  • How do they arrange to review data if we receive medical information when we are in-country?
  • How comfortable do they feel with diagnosing FAS in a child of ___age and ___ethnicity?
  • How much do they charge and what is included? Are phone calls after the initial review included or an extra charge?
Things You MUST Do When Traveling To Adopt a Child in International Adoption
When you are in-country to adopt your child, there are specific things you can do to make the transition easier for you and for your internationally adopted child.

Are Internationally Adopted Children Emotionally Messed Up or Damaged?
An increasingly common perception based on news reports is that all children adopted from orphanages abroad are damaged beyond repair. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is very important for adoptive parents to realize that children in orphanages have likely experienced abuse and neglect, and these traumas can have a lasting impact on children, but with good adoption education and support for adoptive families and children, most children and adoptive families will thrive. We have many resources in our section on Attachment Issues in Adoption including:

Is International Adoption Ethical?
Ethical is a loaded word. Of course, there are ethical international adoptions, just as there are some international adoptions that are unethical. The key with international adoption is to provide homes for children who would otherwise not have one, without creating a demand which pulls children from functioning families. There are many children abroad (as well as in the US) who will never have a family if not adopted, and it is possible to adopt these kids while also making all efforts to preserve family units so that children do not need to be adopted in order to be raised in a family. It is important for adoptive parents to think through the ethics of international adoption in general, and the ethics of the country from which they are adopting and the agency they are using in specific. The following resources are a good place to start:

How Can Adoptive Parents Help Instill Cultural Awareness and Pride in Their Internationally Adopted Child?
One of the responsibilities of parents who adopt internationally is to help their child identify with their birth culture. These resources can help. We have many more at the icons at the bottom of the page.

Creating a Family has many more resources on international adoption. Here are a few more recent ones we think you will find particularly helpful:

Many more Creating a Family interviews with experts, blogs, and fact sheets on adopting from abroad can be found at the icons below.

Sources: Creating a Family resources listed below,

Additional Resources

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Creating a Family Radio Shows on International Adoption

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Creating a Family Blogs on International Adoption

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Creating a Family Factsheets, Tips on International Adoption