International Adoption

In international adoption, prospective adoptive parents generally adopt a child living in an orphanage in a foreign country. In most countries, children in orphanages are not eligible for adoption by non-citizens of that child’s home country until they reach a certain age – commonly more than one year of age. There are a number of adoption agencies throughout the United States that help find adoptive homes for children from foreign countries. Each agency and each foreign country has its own requirements for who can adopt and which children are available for adoption.

As with any type of adoption, all prospective adoptive families must have a Homestudy that meets the qualifications of the agency, the U.S. immigration laws and the foreign country. Prospective adoptive parents then wait for a referral to a child eligible for adoption, and once they are matched, they are provided with information that can include pictures or a videotape of the child and medical background information on the child.

Each country and program is different, but commonly, adoptive parents do not receive a great deal of background and medical information about the child and his or her birth parents. Some adoptive parents consider that one of the benefits of an international adoption is that the adoptive family is adopting a child that is living without parents (as he or she is in an institutional or orphanage setting). In addition, there is very little risk of a birth parent appearing during the adoption process and deciding to parent the child. In making a decision regarding what type of adoption to pursue, some adoptive parents choose international adoption as they may find it a benefit not to have any contact with the birth parents of the child and feel that this outweighs the fact that they cannot obtain as much medical history regarding the child or the birth parents.

In most international adoptions, the adoptive family fully adopts the child in the Courts of the home foreign country and gets approval from the immigration service to bring the child back into the United States. Upon their return home, most families choose to “re-adopt” the child to obtain a birth certificate from their state’s vital records office and to have the United States courts recognize and give validity to the foreign adoption decree. In some foreign countries, the child is placed in the adoptive family’s custody and care but the adoption must be finalized once they return home to the United States.

The rules and process of international adoption have changed a great deal in the last few years with the passage and implementation of The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (commonly called the Hague Adoption Convention or the Hague Adoption Treaty). This is an international agreement implemented to add additional safeguards to international adoptions. The United States signed the treaty in 1994, and the Convention became law in the United States in April of 2008. Agencies now assisting with international adoption must be accredited and must follow new guidelines.

If you would like more information regarding international adoption and would like to speak with an attorney about the legal process for adopting a child born in a foreign country, please contact us.


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