7 ways International Adoption has changed (2005-2013)

I remember first learning of international adoption as a college student at my Resident Director’s apartment. One day, we decided to watch a Steven Curtis Chapman concert dvd. At one point during the concert, Steven spoke about his biological daughter’s desire for their family to adopt a child. Over time, the family decided to adopt a daughter from China. Here’s a photo of Steven and their first daughter from China:

ImageI remember being completely captivated by the idea of adoption. With such great need for homes for children (in this case girls in China), why not adopt?

Well, since my first exposure to adoption in spring of 2005, I have learned a lot about adoption. I’m a research addict so when some people I knew started adopting, I began to research adoption and international adoption in particular. Here is what I have learned:

1. There is no longer a need to adopt “healthy” baby girls in China. Hard to believe, but the program has slowed to a halt.  In Canada, it is not possible to even work with an agency to adopt a “healthy” girl from China as the wait list reached 10 years! It IS still possible to adopt from China through the Waiting Child Program (children with special needs), although this program is often too full to accept new perspective parents in Canada.

2. To adopt internationally, be prepared for a looong wait. For example, an Ontario adoption agency lists the wait for a child under 32 months from Ethiopia to be 4-5 years.  2 years + is the expected wait in any country from when the application is received in country (it can take several months to a year to reach this point) to when a child is proposed to the family. Expect to wait, and wait, and wait…

3. Very few adoption agencies (at least in Canada) allow the perspective parents to request to adopt a girl. This is due to there being waaay more boys available for adoption than girls in most countries. If adding a girl to your family is what you are after, international adoption is often not the best way.

4. Adopting a young “healthy” child, especially a girl, does not give a person any bragging rights for their “deed” in helping orphans. I won’t get into the “rescue” movement re: adoption in this post, but here me out. The reason why adopting a “healthy” child under 3 isn’t really “saving” an orphan by any stretch is that there are waaay more prospective parents wanting to adopt a “healthy” child (often a girl) under 3 years old than there are children available. Does this make it wrong for a person to adopt a young healthy child internationally? No.  Just realize that numerous people proclaim that their #1 reason for adopting is to care for orphans and then they choose to adopt a young “healthy” child. The reality is that if they did not adopt the child, someone else would have. And this is especially true when one is adopting a “healthy” girl under 3 years old.

5. Be prepared to travel, in most cases, at least 2 times to the country before the adoption is complete. I have heard that its extremely difficult to meet your child and then have to leave them in their country for several months before being able to bring them home. Some countries, like Russia, require for the adoptive parents to make 3 trips. As you can imagine, one must factor in travel to the over-all adoption cost.

6. Don’t adopt internationally because you want a “closed” adoption. It’s true that a lot more foster care and domestic infant adoptions are “open” adoptions these days. It is also true that in this day of internet and travel that a child adopted internationally has the resources to be able to find their biological parent(s) too. International adoptions do not automatically mean closed adoptions, especially today.

7. There have been quite a few of Korean adoptees who have publicly shared their opinions of growing up with white parents and in a white culture.  Many grew up feeling like outsiders in their home, school, and town, as well as feeling out of place with other Korean’s who weren’t adopted. Race/culture/language are being considered and talked about more now than ever before as it pertains to adoption.  In 2013, there are several countries that will only adopt to perspective parents who share their child’s heritage.

With all that said, who are the international children in need of adoption in 2013? Now more than ever, these are children with special needs, children over 5 years of age, and sibling groups. And way more boys than girls. These are the children that wait the longest to be adopted, these are the children who are at risk of never being adopted.

A lot has changed in the international realm since I was first made aware of the need for adoption of healthy baby girls in China (no longer a need!) back in 2005. The reality is that international adoption is always changing. What’s known today (August 27, 2013) may change tomorrow. The doors to international adoption seem to be slowly closing a little more each year. While I won’t be adopting a daughter from China (something I thought I might do back when), I still carry with me a soft spot in my heart for adoption and international adoption in particular.  Complicated – you bet ya! Yet intriguing and goose bump providing when it happens and it’s truly needed and in the child’s best interest.

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