1. The Parents
Prospective applicants to the Liberia program must be at least 21 years old. Under the current Liberian adoption law, there are no other requirements regarding marital status, medical, or income for prospective parents to adopt from Liberia. Prospective parents outside of “typical childbearing age” or other unique circumstances should consult an accredited adoption service provider with experience in the Liberia adoption program. U.S. parents must also fit the USCIS requirements for international adoption, outlined here. If applicants are married, both parents are required to adopt the child. Adoption by same-sex couples – whether married or unmarried – is not explicitly addressed in Liberian law.
2. The Family
Again, there are no restrictions for family size to adopt from Liberia. Families must prove their ability to provide for the children according to the USCIS requirements listed in the link above.
3. The Kids
Liberia refers children 1 – 15 years of age, of both genders. Most referrals are for children ages 3-13 years old. There is a mix of healthy children and children with special needs. Adopting a sibling set, more than one child (related or not) at a time, or a kinship child are all unique situations that an adoption service provider and The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (the adoption authority) of the Government of Liberia consider on a case-by-case basis. The children are of indigenous African descent.
A child 16 years and older cannot use the I600 system to enter the U.S. unless they are being adopted with a younger sibling, even then they cannot be more than 16. Your adoption agency will guide you through the process of applying to adopt an older child.
Children in Liberia are often abandoned or surrendered to orphanages due to poverty-related social problems or birth parent illnesses. However, not all children in orphanages are eligible for adoption. It’s crucial to work with a reputable adoption service provider to identify the child(ren) available for adoption to ensure ethical adoption practices.
4. The Process
The process to adopt a child from Liberia will be guided by your accredited adoption agency to comply with both USCIS laws and the Government of Liberia’s Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection.
- Choose a US-accredited or approved Adoption Service Provider (ASP) for a primary provider and apply to the Liberia program. Currently there are only 3 ASPs accredited by the Government of Liberia to process adoptions.
- Apply to USCIS to be found suitable and eligible to adopt (Form I-600A). Once approved, parents submit an adoption petition through the adoption agency to the Probate Court, which informs Liberia’s Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection evaluates the adoptive parents’ eligibility to adopt a child.
- Liberia requires the U.S. approved adoption agencies to have their own transitional home for children, so the agency issues a referral from the licensed homes. The Probate Court is petitioned, and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection investigates. The conclusion of that investigation is a Case History Report submitted to the Probate Court recommending or not recommending approval of the adoptive parent and approval of that specific child. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection confirms the referral.
- When the parents accept the referral, the agency files a petition for adoption with the Probate Court. Upon receipt of a petition for adoption, the Court schedules a hearing and serves notice on all interested parties. Again, Liberian law does not permit adoption by proxy; the petitioners, the parent, parents, or guardian(s) of the child, and the child are required to attend the hearing in person. Though the court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause and the waiver must be stated in the order of adoption. All adoption hearings are public and held in open court. The court must be satisfied that the “moral and temporal interests” of the child will be satisfied by the adoption. Upon this showing, the adoption is ordered.
- Once the adoption decree is ordered, parents then apply for the child’s new birth certificate, Liberian passport, and travel visa. Obtaining the visa after the immigration visa interview generally takes at least three business days. Therefore, you should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia before making final travel arrangements. Once the travel visa is issued, you are free to bring your child home to the US.
5. The Travel
Travel to Liberia usually occurs about 6 to 12 months after acceptance of the referral, usually closer to 9 months. Your agency will notify you when a court date has been assigned and travel arrangements can be made (see The Process, steps 4 and 5 above). It is preferable for both parents to travel, though one may travel alone if necessary. Your ASP will provide information on the requirements of single-parent travel when a married couple is adopting. In-country travel must include court appearances and the finalization of the adoption. The trip to Liberia is usually 3-4 weeks long. Your agency should provide information on safety measures, guided travel plans, and accommodations.
6. The Program
The adoption program of Liberia is very small, with only 54 children placed in the US according to the Department of State’s Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, FYE 2019. This represents a decline, much like other international adoption programs have experienced in recent years.
7. The Cost
The Liberia adoption program is not a signatory to the Hague Convention. Therefore no Median Adoption Service Provider Convention Fee is documented in the State Department’s FYE 2019 Annual Report. However, hopeful adoptive families should expect the costs to range from $35,000 to $50,000, factoring in documentation, travel, and living expenses.
8. The Needs
There is a wide variety of needs represented by the children adopted from Liberia, including but not limited to mild or correctable health conditions to severe, including emotional, developmental, and physical conditions. It’s important to remember that children in orphanages frequently also develop behavioral and emotional needs related to living in institutional care as opposed to a family. There are not enough referrals annually to get a consensus from international adoption clinics on the prevalence of FAS/FASD.
The referrals in the Liberia program are generally reliable. However, it is highly recommended that families consult with a reputable adoption medicine clinic to review the needs of the specific child. Each family must decide for itself whether it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for that child.
9. The Post-Adoption Reports
According to the most recent updates by USCIS, the Liberia adoption program no longer requires post-adoption reporting. However, most adoption agencies working with Liberia will still require reports at 6 months, 12 months, and 24 months, by a social worker approved by the adoption agency.
Creating a Family always urges families to comply with post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your cooperation contributes to the program’s stability and adds to Liberia’s history of positive experiences with US citizen parents.
10. The Additional Resources
- The US Department of State Intercountry Adoption from Liberia
- The US Department of State Annual Report FYE 2019 on Intercountry Adoptions
- The US Embassy in Liberia, Adoption in Liberia
- Creating a Family’s International Adoption Resource Page
- Adoptions Plus/Joyful World Ministries, Inc., Liberia
- Small World Adoptions, Liberia Adoption Program
- New Horizons Adoption Agency, Inc., Liberia
This information is current as of December 2021 and represents our best estimates and approximations only. Depending upon your individual circumstances, even the widest ranges can vary greatly. Please always refer back to your chosen adoption service provider for specifics regarding your process.
This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an agency approved to place from this country for the most current information.
© Creating a Family
Image Credits: jnwilliams76; Ken Harper