While rewarding for children and families, inter-country adoption also has its challenges. For the adoptive family, each country has its own set of eligibility requirements, timelines, policies and procedures – and all are subject to change……and, change they have! Staying updated on the ever altering landscape of inter-country adoption is not easy, but there are always children in need of caring families. Most children in need of families are toddlers, school age children, and those with medical needs.
You may find the requirements of one country or other to be a better fit for your family’s circumstances. In general, married couples, with a stable income, in good health (as defined by the child’s birth country), with no criminal background, and the ability to travel to the child’s birth country will meet the application requirements for most of the countries. If one or more of these characteristics doesn’t reflect your situation, you may need to look more closely to identify the program that will work for you.
Using the top ten placing countries (per the U.S. State Department) as a guide, the following is an update of the top ten placing countries for 2009:
1. China, from the time the dossier is completed to referral in the traditional China program has continued to increase and is now over four years. We do not expect the timeframe to decrease, but rather could increase to 6 or more years. Most families adopting from China are adopting infants and children with some known medical need or who are school aged. The CCAA has a list of children with special needs which is updated regularly. There are many agencies throughout the United States approved to place children from this list. There are children with mild to severe medical issues, many of which are correctible.
2. Ethiopia has been the fastest growing program for several years, but the number of children placed from this country is expected to not increase this year. The children from this program range from infants to older sibling groups. The children in Ethiopia often come into care malnourished. The most recent change in this program is that the courts in Ethiopia are now requiring families to take two trips to complete an adoption.
3. Russia is continuing to place children, but it has been a bit of a roller coaster. Whenever a tragedy takes place with a child adopted from Russia, there are those who will suggest a moratorium on adoptions. We saw this in April when a 7 year old boy was returned to Russia unaccompanied. According to the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, the United States is working with Russia on a bi-lateral agreement that will most likely include the specific responsibilities of each government, protocols for direct communication between each country’s primary adoption authority, increased post-adoption reports and responsibilities and the utilization of only those U.S. based adoption service providers accredited by the U.S. government (Hague accreditation).
4. Rumors in Korea continue that adoptions will close in 2012. Most adoption agencies agree that we do not expect an abrupt stop to adoptions, but we do continue to see an increase in domestic adoptions within Korea and more waiting children available to U.S. citizens. At this time, infants are being referred to families when they are approximately 6 months old.
5. Guatemala was still completing adoptions in 2009, but it is closed to new applications due to the implementation of The Hague.
6. Ukraine continues to place children, though children are not referred to families until the family travels and meets with the State Department on Adoption and Children’s Rights (Ukraine’s central adoption authority). Most children are school aged and sometimes toddlers are available. The family meets with the child before making the decision to complete the adoption.
7. On September 1, 2008, the bilateral agreement between Vietnam and the United States expired. There is no indication that a new agreement is forthcoming, thus adoptions in Vietnam are closed to U.S. citizens.
8. The process to adopt a child from Haiti has historically been long and difficult, but many have persevered to bring children into their families. The devastating earthquake this year brought additional hardships to the people of Haiti and due to this catastrophy, no adoption applications are being processed at this time.
9. On May 17, 2010 the U.S. State Department confirmed that Kazakhstan’s Embassy in Washington and Consulate General in New York were instructed to not to accept new inter-country adoption dossiers. Kazakhstan is planning on implementing the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption and hopes to have their system in place later in 2010.
10. The Philippines announced a moratorium on acceptance of new applications for children 0-2 years of age back in 2009, however, they continue to accept applications for older children and children with special needs.
To get the most up-to-date information on every country, please refer to the U.S. State Department website http://www.adoption.state.gov.
Susan Orban is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for Children’s Home Society & Family Services based in St. Paul, MN. She has worked in the field of international adoption for 20 years and is the proud parent of four children, two from Korea, one from the Philippines, and one born to her.