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The great adoption debate: Should you adopt locally or overseas (and if you’re not sure about adoption in general, find out if adoption is wrong here)? The judgment of others is readily available when you decide to move forward with adoption, as everyone comes forward with opinions about where you should adopt from. It is ironic, however, that 99% of the time these opinions are coming from those who have not adopted, nor plan to adopt. Therefore it is safe to just shove these naysayer opinions under a cup…kind of like I do with spiders when I don’t want to kill them. You know they are there, you can see them (and sometimes hear their legs tapping…shudder), but you can just leave them for your husband to deal with when he gets home (At least that is what I do with something I want nothing to do with!).
Some of the more common opinions/questions I have heard from the naysayers are:
“Why would you adopt overseas when there are so many children waiting here?”
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“You just want a black baby because it is the trendy thing to do.”
“I wouldn’t adopt from foster care, they burn down your house and ruin your lives.”
“Infant adoption is child kidnapping.”
“International adoption is child trafficking.”
“You should be more concerned about children in your own country.”
“Children here at least have a home and a foster family. Children in 3rd world countries have nothing.”
“I wouldn’t adopt from foster care. Those kids have problems.”
The opinions can be never ending and can come at you from every direction, including strangers and family members. If we take a giant step back, however, and examine the very essence of adoption, the answer is crystal clear.
Every child deserves a family.
Every child needs a family.
Children have no comprehension of international borders, local state lines, or political requirements and red tape. If we view this from a biblical perspective, we can easily see they are all God’s children. But for those outside the Christian faith, how about making it as simple as they are all part of the human race? They are all children who need a permanent, safe, nurturing and loving home. The truth is, many countries are not able to properly care for their vulnerable children. This is not due entirely to poverty, but also government structure and programming. While some might view the crisis as one which should be dealt with internally, once you recognize that is not always possible, you come to realize that those countries who are able to support vulnerable children, must step up and support those that cannot. And to be clear, I am referring to children waiting in orphanages that have not been adopted by local citizens of their own country.
A child born in India, Canada, The United States or Bulgaria; They may differ in their birth place, citizenship, culture and language, but they all yearn to be loved and cared for; to be raised by a mom and/or dad.
So which route is right? International or Domestic?
There is in fact an answer, but it is based upon entirely different aspects than the need or some form of nationalism. Instead, figuring out which route to adopt from comes down to the following main considerations:
- Level of Special Needs
- Time Frame
It is important to realize that none of these routes is better than the other, but are essential to consider when examining what your family can manage, what you are experienced or skilled at, what your personal circumstances are, and what the make-up of your current family looks like. Adopting a child with high special needs can be one of the most amazing journey’s of your life, but so can the journey of adopting a newborn. They are all beautiful paths but are very different.
What age child you are open to can play a significant role on where you adopt from. Many people desire to adopt a newborn. This is only possible through a couple of routes. The first is domestic infant adoption, also referred to as private adoption. This is where a birth mother becomes pregnant and chooses an adoptive family to adopt her child once it is born. The only other way to adopt an infant is to adopt from Japan (if you’re a Canadian) where you are matched with children who are 1 month old, or if you are Canadian and adopt from the United States and are chosen by a birth mother (similar to a private adoption yet still labelled an international adoption). Some countries have been known to open up and have younger children available but this is rare. (Embryo adoption is also possible but I will not be delving into that in this post)
Most other international adoptions are of children 1 years old or older, with a few exceptions. Many countries children are 3 years old or older, and many countries only place children with special needs up for adoption during the younger years. This means if you are attempting to follow birth order (which you do not have to), and you have young children, your international options can be limited.
Most children in foster care who are available for adoption are 2 years old or older. These are children whose parental rights have already been terminated. There are always exceptions, and younger children are sometimes available for adoption, but the general rule is 2 and above.
LEVEL OF SPECIAL NEEDS
Another crucial consideration when choosing your adoption route, is what level of special needs you are open to. The truth is, however, that any child, regardless of which route you choose, has the potential to have some form of special needs, and many will face additional challenges related to trauma. There are, however, more commonalities within each route.
With private domestic adoption, the likelihood of special needs is usually lower, or at the very least, is less unknown. A child placed at infancy will also have less challenges relating to trauma and attachment, but are not immune to those challenges either. Typically, however, a birth mother provides a detailed history and parents are aware of what may or may not be a consideration.
International adoptions differ depending on the area you are adopting from. For example, Eastern Europe is very high in undiagnosed FASD and severe institutionalization, while Asian countries have higher levels of cleft palette and club foot. Many African countries have large HIV programs, and Haiti has sibling groups. Regardless of which country you chose, most children through International adoption come from orphanages and institutional living (with the exception of those children raised in foster care overseas). This history can bring unique challenges including RAD, PTSD and trauma and attachment challenges. Many other children have autism, down syndrome or cerebral palsy.
Children available for adoption through foster care typically have such diagnoses as FASD, ADHD, RAD, or trauma/attachment related difficulties. They often have experienced neglect or abuse and it is common for them to struggle with additional challenges from the break in attachment to their foster parents.
Cost can be another huge factor when choosing what route is right for you. I am going to say right now, that if you can’t afford some of the high prices of adoption, is does not mean you should not adopt. That is a common statement made in many adoption groups these days and has led to many potential adoptive parents second guessing themselves. The truth is, while it certainly costs a lot of money to raise a child, it is spread out over the course of their life. To suddenly require $80,000 to give birth to a child is unheard of, so please don’t judge those who may be considering adoption and are finding the upfront costs high. Money should never prevent a child from having a permanent family.
Private domestic adoption can vary with cost. In some areas you can do it with a lawyer and spend as little as $5,000. In other areas, such as many provinces in Canada, you are required to use an adoption agency and it can cost $15,000-$30,000. In areas of the United States, depending on birth mother expenses, $30,000 is not unheard of.
International adoption is a wild card. Depending on which country you adopt from can alter the price by the thousands. Some countries cost as little as $20,000 while others can exceed $80,000. Finding out specifics requires research as you look into the various countries you are allowed to adopt from (these can differ depending on where you live and what agency you work with).
Adopting our of foster care is typically free. In Canada, there is usually no cost, and often the government provides a post-adoption maintenance payment per month until the child is 18 years old. In the United States, adopting out of foster care is also free.
For some prospective parents, time frame is a huge consideration. Some applicants are anxious to become parents, while others are in less of a rush. Depending on your situation, some routes may work better than others. Assuming home studies are completed in all cases, adopting domestically has one of the biggest time gaps. Some parents can be chosen immediately and wait for virtually no time, while others can wait years and years, and some may never get matched. There is no way to know how long this route will take and weighs entirely on a birth mother choosing you.
International adoption wait times differ country to country. Japan and Vietnam have some of the shortest wait times, while Haiti and some African countries have some of the longest. Openness to special needs can reduce the wait time for some countries, such as eastern Europe and many others. On average, however, international wait times can range anywhere from 1-5 years, with some shorter or longer.
Foster care adoption wait times rely heavily on your openness and the local agency you are working with. Those open to older children, sibling groups, and special needs, usually wait less time. Some agencies, however, are short on staff and are backlogged with their cases, adding lengthy delays to their processing time. Typically, however, this route can last anywhere from a month to a couple of years once a family is ready to be matched. Those families that wait longer often do so because they are waiting to be matched with healthy or infant children, or their local agency is not equipped to process files any faster.
Each route has different requirements that can knock some applicants out of the pool. For example, Haiti requires a certain length of marriage and for applicants to be 30 years or older. Some countries require a certain amount of money in the bank account, a certain number of square feet in your house and others will not allow applicants who have had cancer or who have a high BMI. The requirements differ drastically from country to country so it will take time to research which one will match your family. Foster care adoptions typically require a bedroom with a window and applicants to be of legal age.
For those sharing the Christian faith, prayer is also an important aspect to making any decision, but be sure to consider the above factors in order to ensure the best possible outcome for all involved.
There is a lot to consider when choosing which route to adopt, but hopefully this post has helped provide a bit more information. If you want to break through some adoption myths, be sure to check them out here.
What route are you considering or have already adopted from?
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