How to Begin an International Adoption

An international adoption can be both a challenge and a joy when successfully completed. If you are weighting this life choice, here are some suggestions to consider.

1. Learn the difference between international and domestic adoptions.  The rules for domestic and international adoption differ. In the US, a domestic adoption is “open” which entitles the birth parents to communicate, visit and have access to their child after an adoption. If you are open-minded and welcome the “extended family” concept, this can be a rewarding experience for all. It also makes it easier to access medical information and family history as it may come up.

On the other hand, if adding strangers to your life makes you uncomfortable, international adoptions free you from this. A parent must sign a release for a child to be eligible for international adoption. This gives you the benefit of a clean start with your new child. It’s best to learn all you can about the child’s birth parents before you return home, however, because information is limited and finding it later is nearly impossible.

Also, while international adoptions free you of birth parental involvement, be prepared for post-placement agency involvement. Many countries require an independent review of the progress of the child for up to three years. This requires you to agree to a counselor’s visit with you and your child so the counselor can prepare and submit a written report to the original home country.

2.Interview parents with experience.  Seek out families who have adopted from other countries. Ask questions and explore what lessons they have learned.  Every adoption is different and families will have unique stories to share. Each one will help you both decide if this is right for you and prepare you if it is.  Most parents are happy to share with others who are considering this important life choice.

3. Select a trustworthy agency.  Research and find a credible agency with experience.  International adoptions require considerable work, since both the domestic and international countries require background checks, fingerprinting, police clearances, registrations and filings, home studies, translations of records, etc.  It can feel daunting, intrusive and – literally – foreign, without the guidance of a trained expert. Choosing a reliable agency is key to easing the process and reducing your personal stress.  Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency in Southern California is an example of a reputable agency with reasonable, clearly understandable fees.

4. Take parenting classes seriously.  Parents participate in parenting classes before they adopt internationally. These classes are invaluable in preparing you for what to expect in bringing home a child from another country, how to handle the uncertainties of a child torn from their culture, what psychological needs to address and how to ease the transition to a new culture and family.  For example, many children remain highly doubtful the adoption is permanent.  My family planned a move from New York to Texas after we had our 7 year-old adopted daughter for 3 years. After explaining what to expect in the move, she asked simply “May I come, too?” Fortunately, the class prepared us for this otherwise heart-breaking question.

5. Learn the culture.  Well before an adoption, read and learn about the country of your child. Understand its history, its values, its norms and foods.  Appreciate what you can bring home with your child that will ease the transition and enrich your overall life and a more global family.

6. Keep a sense of humor.  International adoptions are ripe with surprises. The newness of a country, legal differences, diplomacy required in working with judges and orphanage directors, and possible translation issues all contribute to potential mishaps along the way. Relax and keep your perspective. Most things work their way through and your smile is key to moving through gracefully.  Whatever happens will always make for great stories to share with family and friends.

An international adoption can be joyful for you and a child. If – after thoughtful consideration – it is the right direction for you, these suggestions will guide you to a happy outcome.


Nightlight Christian Adoption Parent Guidebook

Adopt International

With special thanks to Ron Stoddart, Director or Nightlight Christian Adoption, who made my three international adoptions especially wonderful.