Sunday, November 2, 2008

International vs. Domestic Adoption

In May of this year, our family was featured in an article in our local newspaper. The article focused much of its attention on the international adoption of our two boys, Joshua and Evan. In response to the article, many people wrote in to express their views on international vs. domestic adoption. Several people stated that they did not agree with international adoption when there are so many children in the US in need of forever families. This was not the first time that I had heard such opinions expressed. When we were in the process of bringing our boys home people would often question us as to why we were adopting a child internationally when we could adopt a child right here in the United States. Weren't the children from our own country good enough for us, worthy enough to be part of our family?

Truthfully, one is not superior to another. A child is a child and all children living without the love, support, encouragement and nurturing of a permanent family are equally deserving of that love and permanency no matter where they come from. The decision to adopt domestically or internationally is very personal and the needs and circumstances of each family (and the intended child/children) must be considered individually.

Throughout the month of November, I will be sharing information about both international and domestic adoption. To begin, here are some commonly asked questions about the differences between international and domestic adoption.

Is International adoption more expensive than domestic adoption?

The answer to this question depends on many different factors. The cost to adopt internationally varies from country to country with the average cost being about $25,000. Adopting an infant domestically can be just as expensive, averaging about $20,000, whereas, adopting a child through foster care may not cost you a penny (or may only cost you the legal fees necessary to complete the adoption). Generally speaking, adopting internationally does tend to be more expensive than adopting domestically. Because there are so many variables that figure into the cost of adopting, I will break things down a bit more as I cover each topic individually.

Is domestic adoption "riskier" than international adoption?

Every adoption is a leap of faith and involves risk. Until an adoption has been finalized and you are legally declared that child's parents, there is always "risk". The risk tends to be highest with domestic infant adoption. When adopting an infant domestically, prospective adoptive parents are generally "matched" with a birth mother and an adoption plan is made. Unfortunately, this does not mean that the adoptive couple is guaranteed that baby. The birth mother can change her mind at any point during her pregnancy or immediately following the birth. In many states, the birth mother has up to 30 days to change her mind after the baby is born. In other states, where adoption may not be finalized for 6+ months, the birth mother can decide to parent her baby or relatives may be allowed to step forward. This can often be the case when adopting a child in the foster care system.

When adopting internationally, prospective adoptive families generally receive a referral prior to traveling to their child's country (some countries, such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, operate on a blind referral system, which means that you do not receive a referral for a child until you are in the country). Unfortunately, accepting this referral does not guarantee you that child. Many times a child's paperwork is incorrect or incomplete, leaving them "unadoptable" according to US standards (remember, when adopting internationally you are working with two different governments (three if you really want to get technical, since you must also abide by the laws of your state) with many different requirements, all of which must be met). In some instances a country may change their adoption laws (such as Ukraine in April 2008. Under previous laws there was no age limit imposed upon adoptive parents and singles were permitted to adopt. In April 2008 a new law was passed which stated that there could not be more than a 45 year age difference between the child and adoptive parents and only married couples were permitted to adopt. Many singles and older couples who were in the process (several who had already met their children) were not longer allowed to complete their adoptions) or may close their doors to international adoption completely (this often happens when adoptive parents from a foreign country fail to meet requirements previously agreed upon, there are changes in the foreign country's government or if there is corruption within the adoption process). In rare cases, a relative or a citizen of the country you are adopting from may step forward to adopt the child you have been referred, but these situations are not as prevalent internationally as they are domestically.

As you can see, there is risk involved in any adoption situation.

Is international adoption "faster" than adopting domestically?

Again, the answer to this questions depends on many variables. Which country are you adopting from? Are you hoping to adopt a boy or a girl (more people request girls than boys so the wait for a girl will be longer)? A baby or an older child (the wait for a baby is generally much longer)? A healthy child or a child with special needs (the adoption of children with special needs often takes less time)? If you are adopting domestically are you hoping to adopt an infant or will you adopt a waiting child in foster care? Will you adopt a child residing in your own state or another state?

Generally speaking, the finalization of an international adoption DOES tend to happen faster than the finalization of a domestic adoption, but this is not always the case.

Making the Decision

Obviously the small amount of information that I have provided in this post is just the tip of the iceberg. Making the decision to adopt is a leap of faith and is a decision that should be considered carefully and prayerfully. Learn as much as you can about every adoption option and prayerfully consider the needs of your family and of the potential child/children that will be joining your family. Each family situation is unique and the "right choice" for one family may not be the right choice for another.

Tomorrow I hope to post more about the different types of domestic adoption. If anyone has additional questions or comments about the information in this post or has specific questions about domestic adoption, please leave a comment and I will do my best to address each comment and question (please be sure to let me know if you would like me to keep your questions/comments private).


traceylynndel said...

As far as the speed of adoption goes, it took us two years to complete an adoption from overseas. All due to paperwork problems and waiting times. My friends started a domestic fostercare adoption a year after us. It has now been over two years for them and they have loved and lost many children and are still waiting for "the one that stays". Both international and domestic have the option of being fast or slow. Some people have completed internationally in less than a year. Others have done the same domestically. It just depends on the case and luck of the draw.

Thank you for the post. I look forward to the rest of them.

Jamie J Stansfield said...

wow. You are inspiring. I mean I read your blog and cannot imagine living the life you do. You are amazing woman! I love all the info on adopting...we plan to do it someday...we both just feel impressed to do so. But I haven't researched much so this is awesome! Your children are beautiful!

Jenna Marie Howard said...

Hello Valerie,
I just wanted to stop by and tell you I enjoy reading your blog. I am adopted and have three other adopted brothers and sisters and find such encouragement knowing you a adoptive parent who obviously loves your children. I really was touched by your pre-adoption and after adoption picture. it was just so encouraging to know that you are so proud of your family! I am the Director of Public Relations for a non-profit organization called World Orphans. We build family style church based orphan homes all over the world and our mission is simple E3 to reach each church…each child…each community. I would love for you to take a look at our website and let me know if you have any questions. ( I hope you will have a glorious blessed day!

Jenna M. Howard
-Director of Public Relations