International Adoption Tips: What to Expect as You Begin the Home Study
Updated: Mar 10
If you are researching adoption and wondering how the process works or if you are at the very beginning of the process, these tips are for you. I am a prospective adoptive parent who has recently completed the home study process. I am sending off our dossier and looking forward to the next steps.
The dream of adoption is wonderful, and I think those of us drawn toward this choice are truly blessed in our hearts. And yet the compilation of required documents coupled with the home-study process can be frustrating and mind-boggling. I have often found myself wondering if the system was designed to encourage adoption or to prevent it altogether. Knowing what to expect can lessen exasperation, and I am hoping these tips will help a few extra families weather the process. The waiting children need us—and they are the ones suffering the most from stiff requirements and international political tensions. After reading these, get more tips here.
1. Why do you want to adopt?
Know in advance that you will answer this question over and over again. You may have searched your heart and soul for this answer, or you might have a practical reason, such as infertility. Regardless, by the fifth or tenth time you are asked, you may be tempted to counter—and why not? Do biological parents always have reasons? Why is a charitable choice so questionable?
Unfortunately, the truth is that you are being judged as a prospective parent, and those who need to exercise judgement start with your motivations. On the plus side, most everyone in the industry is hoping to match needy kids with loving families. And as you proceed with the process, encountering many hurdles, having clarity about your personal motivations will give you strength. Here's our story.
2. Adoptive parents will warn you about the difficult process.
Maybe you are excited to meet someone who has adopted and hoping to find an enthusiastic supporter. Instead, you sense hesitation and, surprisingly, you find that your new friend is quietly studying your family. The subtle question in the air is: Does this family know what they are getting into?
Hang in there! The adoption process is a long ordeal that cannot be understood without firsthand experience. As people encounter difficulties or expenses, they do opt out of the process. Here is a surprising statistic: while one-third of Americans consider adoption, only 2.5% actually adopt.
You can join that 2.5% with commitment and determination. And a good step forward is staying tough and taking a long look at a family that succeeded. While you fill out a new set of documents, the image of your friend’s child and the beautiful success that this kid represents will remind you that there is a child, somewhere, waiting for you.
3. If you are adopting internationally and open to different countries, choosing which one can be complicated.
When I first started to research adoption, it seemed all the agencies were talking about China. Then I happened upon Nightlight, a large organization with many programs. Suddenly, I was asking myself if we should find children who looked like us (we’re of different nationalities, so that too was an interesting question), aim for countries with comparatively simple requirements, and so on. I scheduled phone calls with representatives from 4 countries, and the information they provided was practical—the very first step is to determine eligibility because every country is different. Some countries require that couples be married for a certain number of years or have age limits for adoptive parents; some countries do not allow single individuals to adopt while others do.
Step 1: find out which countries are real options for you. Step 2: learn about the process required by each country to make sure it is feasible for you. Step 3: Ask God for guidance, meditate, give yourself time for careful reflection. Once you get started, you cannot turn back without paying additional fees and redoing paperwork. You are, truly, embarking on a one-way road, at least for a while. Trust your heart! When I put the question to God, I had a beautiful experience.
4. Expect some anxiety and disappointment as your dream turns into paperwork.
There is a huge difference between imagining a beautiful, challenging, dramatic addition to your family and delving into the documentation that will get you there. You will learn about how requirements have stiffened during the last twenty years due to child traffickers and other cruel people who have abused the defenseless and needy. You will quickly find out that the system, these days, is more focused on preventing the next international incident than on finding loving families for orphans. Expect multiple background checks, fingerprinting, your attestation to limited rights on numerous documents, and the unmistakable reality that you are being vetted.
Here is the key thought that strengthened me. I am an English language teacher who has married a man from India. Through both my students and my husband, I know how difficult and long the green card process can be, especially for countries like India. Though the exacting paperwork and the long wait involved in international adoption can seem excessive, it is still far easier than being a professional immigrant on a work visa raising children in American schools and waiting over ten years to move from work-visa status to citizenship. When we adopt internationally, we are giving needy kids a chance to immigrate, and, ultimately, the beautiful gift of multiple cultures—a chance that many of their fellow citizens from much more affluent social backgrounds will never receive. We simply need to dive in and get that paperwork done.
I also advise being kind to yourself as you experience anxiety or frustration. Many scholars have documented the fact that most people have deep-level fears of being scrutinized by their peers because, in the human experience, such rejection can lead to frightening circumstances. Being vetted to become a parent is no joke. It is tough. It feels wrong, given that biological parents are not vetted, and the orphans of this world clearly need parents. And yet it is the reality. And those kids waiting on the other side need us. We simply have to persevere.
Erica Rosi Tham
Check out my English Language website.