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Top 10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know About International Adoption

Families who are considering adoption for their families have three primary options: domestic infant adoption, foster care adoption, and international adoption. While each of these paths has its own benefits, challenges, and special considerations, they are all viable options for you to grow your family. If you are thinking about pursuing an international adoption, here are the top 10 things you need to know first.

1. It is becoming less common – but there are still children in need of homes.

Over the years, international adoptions have declined because children have been able to find loving homes in their home country or because of certain country’s changing policies on international adoption. As a result, many families turn instead to domestic adoption, but there are still many children across the world waiting to find a family.

2. Every country has different adoption laws.

One of the first decisions you will want to make is where you want to adopt. During this time, you can benefit greatly from researching adoption laws and even speaking to an adoption professional about whether or not you are eligible to adopt in a specific country.
Some of the common criteria in other countries can include:

  • Age – It is very common for countries to have a minimum and maximum age for adoptive parents. Sometimes, they will also state a minimum or maximum age difference between the parents and the adopted child.
  • Marital Status – Many countries require married couples to be married for a certain amount of time, and they may not allow same-sex or single-parent adoptions.
  • Income – Sometimes, a country’s laws may require a specific minimum income, but more often an adoptive family must simply show proof of a stable income.
  • Health – Not all countries have specific health requirements, but the ones that do may look at factors such as medical records, mental health history, and more.

3. Most available children are not infants.

Although a child might be a newborn at the time you receive a referral, it can be another year or more before you officially adopt the child. Many kinds of children are available for adoption abroad, and some of the variable factors include:

  • Age – Depending on the country where you adopt, you may receive a referral to a toddler or a child approaching adolescence.
  • Gender – While many countries have an equal amount of boys and girls, there are some exceptions. For example, China used to have significantly more girls than boys available for adoption.
  • Medical history – Your child could be healthy or have a variety of needs, ranging from minor and correctable to severe.
  • Siblings – In almost all cases, countries will do what they can to keep sibling groups together.

If you adopt internationally, your child will most likely be at least two years old. Beyond that, he or she could be healthy or have special medical needs. The types of available children will depend largely on where you choose to adopt.

4. Some countries are party to the Hague Adoption Convention.

The Hague Adoption Convention is an international treaty created to protect children being adopted internationally. Countries that have signed the treaty must follow specific guidelines and regulations, which ensure that the process is carried out correctly and ethically. Here, can find some of the most common Hague and non-Hague countries from which families adopt:


  • China
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Bulgaria


  • Ethiopia
  • South Korea
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Nigeria

Whether or not you choose to adopt from a Hague Convention country is completely up to you. There are children from many countries, both Hague and non-Hague, who are in need of loving families like you.

5. The costs can be very different from a domestic adoption.

The costs of domestic and international adoptions can both vary greatly, and each type of adoption has unique expenses. For example, an international adoption requires much more time and money for travel than a domestic adoption. On the other hand, couples adopting internationally do not have to pay birth parent expenses.
Some of the expenses that are unique to international adoption include:

  • Government adoption application forms
  • Passport and visa applications
  • Translation/authentication of dossier documents
  • Orphanage donations
  • Re-adoption

Ultimately, the cost of your international adoption will depend on the adoption professional you choose and the country where you want to adopt. More information about these expenses can be found on our international adoption costs page.

6. Keeping paperwork organized is crucial.

Over the course of your adoption, you will be constantly working on compiling your dossier, a collection of documents that you will present to various adoption authorities. Your dossier will play a huge role in determining your adoption eligibility, and if your documents are not complete or properly authenticated, it can drastically delay your adoption time frame.
For more information on the dossier and what goes into it, view our Dossier Checklist.

7. You may not accept the first referral you get.

In some cases, adoptive parents may receive a referral for a child with very specific needs, and the parents know that they will not be able to provide for that child. In those cases, parents must make the difficult decision to refuse the referral.
If you receive a referral that you think you are unable to accept, speak to your adoption professional about what to do and how it will affect the time frame of your adoption. Your professional can also provide you with any counseling and support you need if you refuse a referral.

8. You may not receive much medical information about the child.

Some countries have better access to the medical information of available children than others. For some families, this information can play a role in where they choose to adopt.
In a domestic adoption, you will receive a full and extensive medical history of your child, as well as the kind of prenatal care the birth mother received. In many international adoptions, there is not enough available information on the child’s biological family to provide a comprehensive health background. When you are deciding to adopt from a particular country, you may want to research the medical information they have on available children.

9. You will be helping your child adjust in many ways.

Regardless of your child’s age, he or she will undoubtedly need time to get used to the new home environment. This could involve developing an attachment to you, overcoming a language barrier, or coping with trauma. At the same time, you will be adjusting to life as a new parent.
The first months after bringing your child home are often challenging, and new parents might find themselves facing self-doubt. It is important to remember that during these early months, it is not uncommon for a child to have issues with bonding (such as Reactive Attachment Disorder) or other negative behaviors. As the parents of a child who is adjusting to a completely new home environment, you can benefit greatly from seeking out a professional or a support group.

10. Your child’s culture will become part of your family.

As your child grows older, you can begin having conversations about the culture in which he or she was born. If you adopt an older child, it is especially important that you embrace that culture as one of the many things that makes your child unique. By talking openly about their birth countries, internationally adopted children can develop a sense of pride in where the come from and, more importantly, who they are.
The decision to pursue international adoption takes a lot of research and careful deliberation. With these fundamental facts, you can hopefully come closer to knowing if international adoption is the right choice for you and your family.