Social Worker: Adoption Travel Options

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So many questions come to mind. So many variables to consider.

Domestic travel: By airplane or a driveable location.

International travel: How many trips are required and for how long a stay is needed.

If you already have children at home: Should I bring my children with me when I travel or leave them home?

Should we both go and if so, should we travel on the same flight?

There is no right or wrong answer to this situation, just pros and cons and food for thought. The right thing to do will differ from family to family. There are three key issues to consider: First, how long your trip will be. Secondly, the maturity of your children you are considering traveling with or leaving at home and lastly, your finances. Just how mature are your children? Can they travel by airplane, car or train for several hours? Are they flexible to try new foods? How much time away from school can they afford to miss? Will they resent their new sibling or feel abandoned by you if they do not travel with you to pick their new sibling up. Will they bond well with their new sibling? The questions go on and on. Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this. You know your family best, so no one else can make the ‘right’ decision for you.

When traveling to pick up your child whether it is domestic or international, you will need to consider how long the drive or flight will be, as well as, the length of stay required. Most people assume that a domestic adoption is the quickest travel experience and overall this tends to be true. However, there are many families that will tell you, that when they went to pick up their new baby, the birth mother was late to deliver or they were delayed in another state waiting for the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children to give them clearance to leave. One could potentially be ‘stuck’ in a hotel room with a newborn and your other children for a minimum of a week to one month. Everyone knows that there’s a big difference between being gone for one week and being gone for four weeks! Food for thought: Can you be away from your children for an unexpected extended period of time if they don’t come and /or can they be away from school for more than a week?

There are positive and negative aspects of bringing your kids along. On the plus side, international travel is educational. Your children will learn about their siblings’ culture and country of origin, try new foods and begin the bonding process immediately. Bringing your kids with you to welcome their new sibling to the family lets them feel like they are an important part of the process. One needs to remember, that adoption travel is not for every sibling. Your child may suffer from jet lag and be susceptible to illnesses in another country. If they are very young, they may need a great deal of your attention, causing a stressful time to become more nerve racking. They may not have the patience to wait for visa appointments, as many families have to do when finalizing their adoption in other countries. When traveling alone, you as parents are then allowed to completely focus on the new child and give him/her your undivided attention. Many will say that this one-on-one approach makes it much easier to get to know the personality of their new child and for the child to get to know and begin to trust. This familiarity and trust leads to attachment and bonding, especially in an older child adoption.

Adoption travel can be a wonderful perk, but it’s not a vacation. If you decide to leave the children home, they can still be very involved in the adoption process. They can help with getting the adoption documents together, decorating the new baby’s bedroom, choosing a name and planning a homecoming celebration. Help them prepare for their new sibling’s adoption with lots of family discussion. Discuss the trip and how much you’ll miss them, on their developmental level. You may decide to travel alone or with someone other than your spouse or partner. If this is the case, then try to highlight their time at home alone with their Dad, Mom, relative or caregiver as having them all to themselves. Leave them with a transitional object to help make the separation easier, such as a photo, toy or notes to read while you are away. One advantage of not bringing the kids with you when you travel is for them to continue their normal routine, with minimal disruption to their life.

Lastly, travel whether it is domestic or international can be very expensive. Even the cheapest coach-class tickets can cost hundreds of dollars, not to mention hotel expenses. It may come down to a simple matter of economics. Adoption is a wonderful way of forming a family. The travel part is only the beginning of this lifelong journey. Listen to the pros and cons, speak to others who have traveled with their children, traveled without their children, traveled alone or with their partner and then make your decision based on your individual family’s needs and know that it is the right one for you and your child.

by Leslie Zindulka, LCSW-R

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The information and advice provided is intended to be general information, NOT as advice on how to deal with a particular child's situation and or problem. If your child has a specific problem you need to ask your pediatrician about it - only after a careful history and physical exam can a medical diagnosis and/or treatment plan be made. This Web site does not constitute a physician-patient relationship.

This material has been provided by, an innovative adoption medicine private practice and educational service, dedicated to helping parents and adoption agencies with the complex pre-adoption medical issues of internationally adopted children. All medical interactions are performed via, e-mail, express mail, telephone, and fax. There is no need to make a live appointment or travel outside of your hometown. For more information, visit or call 631-499-4114.

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