"Why would you adopt a child from overseas when there are so many children in our own country who need families?"
I've been asked this question a few times. Usually it comes from a well-meaning person with little understanding of the adoption process.
Although the words may be asked in innocence, they frustrate me--because my children are my children--and I deeply believe my children are the ones meant to be in my family.
But I typically give the asker the benefit of the doubt, offer a friendly smile and a few words, and usher my children out of earshot as quickly as possible.
This question, in my mind, is a bit like asking, "Why would you become a writer (or an actor, or an engineer), when our society is in desperate need of teachers and nurses?"
Because people's hearts are drawn to different things.
Steve and I didn't consider domestic adoption when we began this journey. We had spent much of our youth and early adult years traveling the world and working on behalf of humanitarian efforts.
That was who we were and what we loved. Much of our experience overseas placed in us the openness to adopt to begin with. So it was natural for us to turn toward international adoption, and that felt right both times we adopted.
A Few Thoughts on International Adoption
(Please note that while I base these statements on my own experiences, I don't pretend to know everything about the ins and outs of the system. There are always exceptions, and the adoption process changes rapidly.)
- Wait times in many countries have lengthened. Therefore the age of children upon arrival may be slightly older. It's rare that a child is able to travel to his/her family before the age of 12 months, and it can easily be 24 months or older.
So a family who knows they want to adopt an infant may want to consider a domestic infant adoption, or will at least want to research country specifications to get an idea of the norm there.
- Countries have various requirements regarding travel, length of stay in the country, divorce or single parent acceptance, and so on.
When it came to our second adoption, we were not sure if both Steve and I would be able to travel when the adoption was complete. So we immediately eliminated as options countries that required both parents to travel.
Most countries also have age requirements for parents, which can also be helpful in narrowing down your choices.
- Trying to adopt from a country without an international adoption process in place is extremely difficult.
We've had friends who just "fell in love" with a child they met in an orphanage while visiting a country. But just because a child is in an orphanage doesn't mean that the orphanage is registered to complete adoptions, that the child is legally free for adoption, or that the country allows adoption.
That's why it's important to work with a reputable, non-profit agency who knows the process and can guide you through it.
Thoughts on Domestic Adoption
(When I refer to domestic adoption I'm speaking of the system in the United States, which is the only one I'm familiar with.)
When it comes to domestic adoption, it appears there are two main options. One is infant adoption; the other is adoption from foster care.
Domestic Infant Adoption
- From what I understand, the majority of couples hoping to adopt healthy infants domestically are also dealing with infertility. (I don't pretend to know much about this system, so please forgive me if I'm wrong. And I hope those of you with experience in this area will share in the comments.)
There is often a long wait for this type of adoption--the potential adoptive parents usually prepare a portfolio describing their lives, and birthmothers choose the adoptive family for their child.
- At one time there was a need for US families willing to adopt healthy infants who were African-American or biracial--but my understanding is that wait time for those adoptions have lengthened slightly as well.
- For those dealing with infertility, a new type of adoption is also available--embryo adoption.
This is where couples who have leftover embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures put the embryos up for adoption instead of having them destroyed. Couples can adopt the embryos and have them implanted.
Foster Care Adoption
- Usually when someone refers to the many US kids in need of families, they are talking about the children in US foster care. Again, I have no inside knowledge of this system, so I hope those of you who do will share in the comments.
- Without a doubt there are thousands of children in the foster care system. Many need either temporary or permanent families.
From my understanding (which is limited), many of the younger children in the system are not yet legally free for adoption. Often parental rights have not been terminated, or perhaps an extended family member may end up adopting the child.
For this reason, many older children (I can't give age specifics with complete accuracy, but I would say age eight and up) are available for adoption from US foster care, or perhaps sibling groups that include an older and younger child.
- If you know you want to adopt a baby (not just foster one), then foster care may not be the right choice for you. If you're open to fostering a baby (or older child, of course), whether or not it leads to adoption, then it could be a great option.
- One of the advantages of foster care adoption is that most costs are absorbed by the state. Often there are other benefits as well--like free healthcare or even college tuition guaranteed for the child.
- Many (though not all) children in the foster care system have had some level of trauma in their lives that led to removal from their families.
Often in the case of international adoption, a child may be given up for adoption because of extreme poverty or cultural stigma. That could be the case within domestic adoption as well--but it is also possible that foster care children have suffered from abuse or neglect.
- The potential needs of foster care children make it a good option for couples who don't have other children in the home or whose children at home are older. (But remember, there are always exceptions!)
We looked into an older child adoption from foster care a couple of years ago. The child we were learning about was much older than our three children at home, had sadly suffered much abuse, and needed special attention and help.
After much thought, we didn't feel we could provide for her while caring for our young children as well. But we left the experience feeling as though a foster adoption may be something we'll consider when our children are older.
This is bordering on the longest post I've ever written, so I'll stop here.
As you consider adoption remember to factor in your particular circumstances, the current children in your home, and the type of child you can best care for. These specifics will guide the many choices you face as you walk the journey toward a new child for your family.
I'd love for you to share your adoption experiences/insights with us--in a respectful tone, please. And if you have questions let me know in the comments; I'll try to address them in a future post.
If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll subscribe to Steady Mom--thanks!
Jamie is founder of this little spot called Steady Mom, editor of the blog Simple Homeschool, mama to three cute kids born on three different continents, and author of Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.