A Guide to Beginning Your International Adoption Journey
In October 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau issued its first-ever profile on adopted children, Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000. The report indicated that there are now 1.6 million children under the age of 18 growing up adopted. International adoptions increased from 8,102 in 1989 to 17,718 in 2000. In the time since the census was completed, the number of foreign adoptions has risen to 20,099 in 2002. As of 2000, there were 258,000 foreign-born adopted children of all ages living in America.
The Census also indicated that adopted children tended to live in households that were better off economically than those of biological children and adoptive parents are also more educated.
More than 17 percent of adopted children are of a different race than their parent who "heads the family."
Things to consider..
International adoption is steadily growing. However, the process is still emotional, complex, expensive and uncertain. There are many issues over which agencies have no control. For example, adoption laws may change in the foreign country, sometimes unexpectedly, causing temporary or permanent shutdowns; political strife and civil unrest may cause delays; bureaucratic slowdowns may create delays; uncertainties exist with respect to health issues due to limited medical information, technology in the foreign country, and lacking medical histories. It is important to consider all of these issues and the risks involved before deciding to adopt internationally.
Once you decide..
Once you decide that you want adopt internationally, there are several decisions that must be made and some steps that can be taken to prepare you for whichever foreign program you choose i.e., choosing your home study agency, choosing your international adoption agency, gathering basic documents.
Choosing your Home Study Agency..
Choosing the right home study agency is important. You will be sharing personal details about your life and experiences so you want to be comfortable with your agency and social worker. This is also a critical step in the adoption process so you want to make sure your home study is completed accurately and efficiently. If possible, interview as many home study agencies as possible. The following questions may assist you in deciding which agency is best for you:
- How long does it take to complete a home study and receive the final report?
- How many home/office visits are required?
- Does the home agency require any special training or educational classes prior to home study approval?
- What is the fee?
- What forms and other background information are needed to complete a home study?
Choosing your country..
Deciding from which country you will adopt is going to be based on a number of factors, including:
- Age of children available for adoption
- Gender preferences
- Health issues
- Number of required trips
- Length of travel
- Length of process in the foreign country
- Race and ethnicity of the children
Take the time to explore, in detail, these and other issues with various agencies that you contact so that you find the best fit.
Choosing your international agency..
You may or may not use the same agency for both your home study and your international adoption. For example, you may not have a local agency that handles international adoption or you may just feel more comfortable with another agency, one that may not even be in your home state. Your international agency is responsible for handling all aspects of your foreign adoption so this is a critically important decision. Some issues to consider include the following:
- Does the agency work directly with the foreign country source or does the agency network through other agencies?
- Who will you be working with you on a daily basis while your adoption is in process?
- What is the background and experience of agency personnel with whom you will work, particularly those in charge of foreign programs
- Ask for references and determine from the references how well the agency handled problems? Did they communicate well?
Take the time to explore issues and concerns with your agency and make sure that your agency is willing and able to take the same time for you.
You must apply with and obtain approval from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) to adopt a foreign-born child. Depending on the particular office in your location, this can take several months; therefore, you may want to consider applying immediately upon deciding you want to adopt a child internationally. You must complete Form I-600a which can be downloaded at www.uscis.gov which also provides information on where to file the form.
If you have not yet decided on an agency or a foreign country, then you can indicate "undecided" for the questions in Block II of the form. Your application must be accompanied by a copy of your birth certificate(s), marriage decree, and divorce decree(s). You can indicate that originals are available upon request in your cover letter. The form must be submitted to BCIS along with your supporting documentation and the fee of $460, plus $50 fingerprint fee for each adult in your home. The fee must be paid by money order or certified check.
Gathering your documents..
Document requirements differ for each international program and agency; however, there are certain documents that all programs will require and which you can begin to gather while you are making final decisions, as follows:
- Birth and marriage certificates. You will need to obtain certified copies from the Vital Records office in the appropriate state. You can obtain further information at www.vitalrec.com.
- Divorce decrees. You must obtain divorce decrees from the court that issued the decree. Be sure to ask for a certified copy.
- There is a also a service that can obtain your vital records for you. Their number is 1-800-255-2414. Their Internet address is: www.vitalchek.com.
To begin your adoption journey, please complete our application.
Candace goes far beyond the others with her legal, physical, and emotional help for you, your child, and your child's foster parents. I am very impressed with the professional and personal way that AI [AdoptInternational] handled our adoption case. They treated us as if we are their only client and all their time is devoted to our case. Of course this isn't true but the extra personal touch really helped....I thank God every day for Candace and her agency—helping the children in Guatemala (and other countries) and their biological mothers. Candace is truly an Angel of God working to find good loving homes like yours and mine (I sure try to keep it that way...ha! ha!) to care for God's children.
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