In international adoptions, the birth parents’ rights are typically terminated before a child becomes available to adopt. But, while birth parent involvement typically does not cause disrupted international adoptions, there are other ways in which these adoptions can “fail.”
While most international adoptions will be success stories, there can be situations where things don’t work out. Here are five such instances:
1. International laws change during the adoption process.
When you adopt from another country, you must abide by the adoption laws within the U.S. as well as within that specific country. Adoption laws change as often as global relationships, so it’s possible that midway through the adoption process, something may interfere with your current match.
Families pursuing international adoption often wait longer to be matched with a child and then wait some more as that match is processed. Not every country regulates adoption as carefully as the U.S., so they may not bring home that same child due to new legal complications or confusion with the foreign adoption professional. Adopting from a country that has a history of stable adoption laws and working with a professional that is highly experienced with those laws will be the best way to prevent disruptions.
2. A natural disaster, war, or concern of corruption disrupts the process.
There may be unavoidable circumstances that force a country to halt adoptions and withhold visas — sometimes even if you’ve almost completed the adoption process with a child. This could be due to conflict, disaster, or valid national concerns about how their adoptees are being treated by foreign adoptive families. All of this requires the bureaucratic process be stopped, examined and likely altered to better protect that country.
Generally, when that country restarts adoptions, there are too many new restrictions for adoptive families to continue there. It’s best to restart the process in a different country or consider domestic adoption. It’s recommended to work with an international adoption agency that works with several different countries, in case one country’s program is suddenly suspended and you need to switch countries.
3. The child’s medical or emotional needs are too much for the adoptive parents.
Any child may have medical, mental, or emotional challenges. Those struggles may be greater than the adoption professional described, they may unexpectedly worsen after the placement, or the adoptive family may have overestimated their ability to cope with the child’s needs. Sometimes distance and language barriers make it hard to communicate a child’s physical or emotional needs, so hopeful parents arrive in the country and are surprised.
Some children experienced severe traumas —neglect, physical or psychological abuses, sexual abuses and more. Some children were placed for adoption because they had medical conditions that their birth families were unable to care for. Behavioral issues from a child’s trauma may create a safety issue within the family, or the adoptive parents simply find that they’re not as able to meet the child’s needs as they had initially hoped. These matches are only dissolved as an absolute last resort after pursuing every other possible solution.
4. An older child is unable to adjust.
It’s a sad cycle. People adopt healthy infants because older children have often endured more years of trauma and lack of stability in their lives, then the older children (especially those who have significant medical or emotional needs) are often the only children available to adopt. There’s a perpetual abundance of older children.
It’s understandable to want to “save” those children and offer them the consistent and loving parental figure they’ve never had. But, the more traumas a child has suffered and the older they are, the more likely they are to have difficulty adjusting to a new life. Even internationally adopted infants can struggle to adjust to entirely unfamiliar surroundings, a new language, strange food, faces and more. Older children will take longer to adapt to an entirely new culture.
Although many internationally adopted children will adjust beautifully to new families and homes, it can be a struggle for a while. As always, difficulty to adjust in and of itself is no reason for a placement to be dissolved. It’s only when a child’s behavior becomes a serious threat and hasn’t improved with significant time and therapy that this option would even be considered.
Improved support for international birth families, foster families and child care facilities is one of the best ways to help children develop healthy attachments with consistent caregivers while they’re young to benefit their long-term emotional wellbeing.
5. Legal steps were skipped or circumvented.
This typically only happens in adoptions that are completed without the guidance of an experienced agency or professional in either country. However, important steps may also be glossed over by adoptive parents in an attempt to expedite the adoption process.
There are so many legal steps involved in international adoption. Small but important errors in the process could include improperly filed paperwork, incorrectly obtained visas, failure to comply with international processes and more.
Cutting corners could ultimately put the legality of an adoption in jeopardy. Some of those horror stories of internationally adopted infants, now American adults, being deported could have been prevented with a correct re-adoption process on U.S. soil. That’s why it’s so important to work with a diligent adoption professional that will make sure you complete the correct steps.
Sometimes, despite all the best planning, support and effort, an adoption may be disrupted for some reason. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of a disrupted adoption as much as possible. Choose your international adoption agency carefully, ask plenty of questions and to make sure you’re educated about the process and about the child you may bring home.