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International Adoption Basics

Typically, international adoption is more structured and predictable than domestic adoption. Though all pre-adoptive parents should learn about open adoption before rejecting domestic opportunities solely to avoid the birth parents, it’s certainly reassuring to know that available children overseas are legally free for adoption, with an extremely low risk of any birth parent contesting custody. International adopters can enjoy the rich benefits of incorporating your child’s cultural heritage into your family life. At the same time, adopting a child from a developing country brings certain risks.

Available Children

Children are available from more than fifty countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and some African countries. No children from Western Europe, Australia, or Canada are eligible to be adopted by Americans.

As the availability of newborns in the U.S. diminishes, more Americans (over 17,000 in 2008 turn abroad to build their families. In 2008, about 75% of foreign children adopted in the U.S. came from Guatelama, China, Russia, Ethiopia and South Korea.

No two intercountry adoptions are alike, and the current top five countries represent a broad range of conditions. In China, for example, infants (usually girls) are abandoned by birth parents who would otherwise suffer penalties for violating that country’s strict population control policies. Severe poverty in countries like Russia and Ethiopia makes it impossible for many families to feed, clothe and house their children. And in South Korea - a well established, longstanding source for American adoptions since the Korean War - unmarried mothers face severe social stigma, whereas women who choose adoption are entitled to substantial financial support.

By the time you’re matched with your child, his or her birth parents will likely be out of the picture for any number of reasons, including family issues (such as alcoholism or abuse), abandonment, poverty, illness or death. Because of the time-consuming, bureaucratic process that’s required, you won’t be able to adopt a child from birth. But nearly half the children adopted from foreign countries are infants under one year old, and almost all of them are under the age of four. If you want to adopt more than one child, sibling groups are available in many countries.

Political and economic changes can abruptly disrupt potential adoptions from any country at any time.

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Credits: Excerpted from A Beginner's Guide to Adoption, © Sandra Lenington, Sara Lively, M.S.Ed.

Visitor Comments (9)
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Valerie - 7 months ago
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I am an unmarried, childless,and retired person in my early fifties. I am interested in adopting an adult cousin as my daughter located in another country. Does anyone have information they can share about the process, is it possible and where do I start? I know a lawyer would be the first step, but I want to do as much of the work before approaching a lawyer for assistance. Thank you in advanced. #1
Beckylyn - 4 weeks ago
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I am looking for a first cousin born in Knoxville, Tn on March 27, 1956 at the Fort Sanders Hospital. I beleive my cousin is a female. My cousin tried to contact her birth mother to get medical information but was refused. The mother was told her baby died at birth so it was her sister that refused to give any information. My mother was the birth mother's sister and she is elderly and would like to meet her niece before she passes. (It was a different sister who refused info, not my mother). All other siblings of the birth mother have passed. If you think your my cousin please leave a message here so we can get in contact. I have wanted to meet you for years. #2
Jean-Philippe - 7 months ago
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Nice web site :) #3
Tami - 3 weeks ago
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I have several siblings that my bio mom adopted out, I know twins and a boy from Tulsa. the boy was born around 1960 and the twins were adopted by a nurse in Tulsa #4
Bonny - 10 months ago
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Hi...I have two grand daughters in foster care and their parents lost their rights to the children and so I wanting to my grand-daughters. Just wished They would start the adoption papers. How long does it take. #5
Anthony - 11 months ago
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Hi - my partner and I are looking to start a family. We are currently looking for qualified affordable surrogates to help us start our journey. Any thoughts.... #6
Sherry - 11 months ago
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Hi....me and my soon to be husband are wanting to adopt a child, (I can not have children) we want a child from mexico, (this is where he is from) any information that anyone can offer us on where to start would be greatly appreciated, you may contact me @ xxxx #7
madelines - 9 months ago
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Hello All. my two children are college age. My husband and i are in our early 40s, I would like to give aleast one child a mother and father to call. A home, love and everything i given my birth children! I want this chance. #8
Darlene - 1 year ago
1 0 0
I am looking for a biological father, only to meet family. Iam 44 years old, not looking for anything but family history. #9
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