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