As United States citizens, you generally have the option of working with an independent facilitator such as an attorney or going through an agency to handle your adoption. Depending upon the country from which you choose to adopt, however, these choices may be limited or restricted in some manner. Some countries do not allow independent adoptions at all while others do. Likewise, some countries have specific requirements about which agencies they will work with. So, the first thing you’ll want to do after deciding to adopt internationally is to speak with a few different facilitators or agencies and find out which countries they can work with.
Once you’ve decide on an agency or independent facilitator, you’ll undergo a home study which is usually conducted by a social worker. The home study can take anywhere from three to six months and will explore all facets of your life, so be ready. At the end of the home study, the social worker and adoption agency will compile a dossier. Once approved domestically, this will be presented to the appropriate authorities in the child’s country.
The requirements for the dossier will again vary from country to country and can include everything from basic information such as financial details and marital status to religious beliefs, cultural upbringing and physical condition. In addition, some nations have residency requirements that must be met before an adoption will be considered.
After the foreign country’s requirements have been met and the parents are approved for adoption, they are matched to an eligible child. This is known as the “referral process”. Many countries provide information upfront about the eligible child. Others require that the parents first travel to the country before any information is released. Known as a “blind referral”, this means that the parents will fly to the child’s country before knowing anything at all about the child.
Referral information includes everything that is known about the child, including medical information, background on the child’s birth parents, developmental milestones and social behaviors. The referral also normally includes pictures and/or video of the child. While many referrals are very in-depth and provide a considerable amount of information, some are quite sparse. Countries with poor economic status have many orphans that were simply abandoned and, as a result, little if anything is known about the birth parents and their family history.
In addition, you should also note that many children suffer some developmental setbacks initially as a result of being in an orphanage. This does not mean that the child won’t develop properly given the right environment, but you should be prepared to let go of initial expectations with regard to how advanced the child should be according to their age.
Should the parents decide to accept the referral, they will have to complete additional paperwork and this can sometimes require additional trips before they are allowed to bring the child home.
Upon entering the U.S. with an IR-3 visa, a foreign born child is automatically granted U.S. citizenship if at least one of the adoptive parents is a citizen under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. However, there are still several legal issues to be considered such as a legal name change and obtaining a U.S. birth certificate. These can be addressed by re-adopting your child in the United States.
Some countries, such as Korea and India, require the final adoption process to be completed in the U.S. In these instances, the child would enter under an IR-4 Visa instead of an IR-3 with the parents or the agency acting as legal guardians until the adoption is complete. This type of Visa is also required when both parents do not travel to meet and/or pick up the child or when the foreign adoption does not otherwise meet adoption regulations under U.S. law. Children entering the U.S. under this type of Visa are not granted citizenship until the adoption is final.
You will also likely have post-placement follow up visits from the social worker and you may likely be expected to prepare post-placement reports to be sent to the authorities in the child’s birth country.
You may enjoy this book on the overall adoption process as well as this book which focuses on international adoptions .