September 18, 2019

Introduction to International Adoption

The international adoption process is the process by which Americans can permanently adopt a child from a country other than their own. The process results in the legal transfer of parental rights from the child’s birth parents to the adoptive parents. Each year, Americans adopt nearly 20,000 children from foreign nations.

international adoption

What are some benefits of international adoption?

There are several advantages to international adoption:

  • There are many children available for adoption internationally;
  • While you will not be able to adopt a newborn, many adoptable children from other countries are less than one year old;
  • Most of the time, the international adoption process and the financial cost incurred is far more predictable than domestic adoption;
  • In international adoption, birth parents do not generally interfere with the process;
  • International adoption offers a rich cultural experience for you and your family.

What are some of the negative aspects of international adoption?

  • Infants are not available through this process;
  • Often, the medical and developmental history of the child you adopt will be unknown to you;
  • The birth mother may have received little to no pre-natal care;
  • The financial costs of the process can be substantial;
  • The paperwork and research involved is extensive.

How can you find out if you are eligible to adopt a child from overseas?

Once you have decided that you would like to participate in an international adoption, there are several steps to take in order to ensure that you are eligible to participate in the process.

The first step to determining your eligibility is to decide from which country you would like to adopt. The following link offers extensive information on who can adopt and who can be adopted from various countries:

Note that while U.S. federal law does not prohibit Americans with disabilities from being adoptive parents, some countries do have restrictions that will make those with certain disabilities unable to adopt. Similarly, some countries forbid adoption by single parents. As such, it is important to make sure that you meet the requirements of the country you have chosen.

The second of these steps is to file an application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Before you file this application, it is first necessary to determine if the child’s country of origin is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Simply put, The Hague Convention is an international agreement to safeguard and establish standards for inter-country adoptions.  For a full list of the countries participating in the Hague Adoption Convention, please visit:

For a chart that more thoroughly explains how Hague and non-Hague adoptions compare, please visit:

After you have determined if the country is a Hague Adoption Participant, you must complete one of two forms:

Note that the USCIS application to adopt internationally also includes a home study. This is an analysis of your family, home environment, and financial situation that will determine whether or not your home will be suitable for a child.

Should your application be accepted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you will be notified and then required to submit fingerprints for a criminal background check.

What other documentation might you be asked to provide when seeking to adopt internationally?

The following is a list of documents that you might be asked to provide:

  • Evidence of a physical examination;
  • Information regarding your financial status;
  • Adoption petition;
  • Post placement agreement;
  • Form I-171H (Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advanced Processing of Orphan Petition);
  • Form I-797 (Notice of Action);
  • Marriage or birth certificates;
  • Divorce decree if relevant;
  • Death certificate of a spouse if relevant;
  • Proof that you own your home;
  • Proof of employment;
  • A copy of your home study;
  • Your adoption agency’s licensing information;
  • The results of your criminal background check;
  • Your passport;
  • Reference letters;
  • Tax returns;
  • Power of Attorney;
  • Photographs of your family and the home environment.

Should you work with an adoption agency?

As international adoption can be an extremely complicated process. As this is the case, many prospective parents choose to work with an adoption agency. Prior to choosing an agency, it is advisable that you meet with several agencies, consult with families that have worked with those agencies, and request proof of an agency’s accreditation. Also, it is wise to make sure that you have comprehensive understanding of the agency’s fees prior to making your final selection.

The following link offers a list of accredited adoption providers:

For more information on agencies and their role in international adoption, please visit:

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