Like domestic adoption, international adoption is the permanent legal placement of a child into an adoptive family. Both types of adoptions involve the legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from the child’s birth parent(s) or other guardian to the adoptive parent(s).
Unlike domestic adoptions, international adoptions are governed by The Hague Adoption Convention, an international agreement designed to safeguard international adoptions. Under the protections of the Convention, adoption agencies and service providers who facilitate adoptions must be qualified and accredited by a U.S. State Department-approved accrediting entity in order to conduct intercountry adoptions.
American parents who wish to adopt and bring their adopted child into the U.S. must meet certain basic requirements set forth by both the child’s birth country and the U.S. government, including American citizenship. There are age and marriage requirements for prospective adoptive parents, who must also undergo criminal background checks, fingerprinting and a home study by a qualified adoption service provider.
One of the most important parts of the adoption process is choosing a qualified adoption service provider. This person or agency, usually licensed by the state in which they operate, will coordinate home study visits and paperwork, child placement and other requirements to help the prospective adoptive parents prepare for the adoption process.
Lisa Keane, clinical director for Pathways Professional Counseling, a ministry of the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, advises prospective adoptive families to do their research before choosing an agency and to meet with several agencies before making a final decision. References from families who have used the agency are important too.
“If others have had a positive experience with an agency, that can be a good indicator of what you can expect,” Keane said.
If requested, an agency also should provide a sample written adoption services contract and a proposal of all expected total fees and estimated expenses, according to the U.S. State Department website. Other valuable information to verify before signing a contract includes proof the agency’s state license is current, a copy of the agency’s refund policy and copies of all contracts that will be signed between your family and the agency.
Training and post-adoptive support is important as well, Keane said.
“Throughout the entire adoption journey, you will need support, and your adoption agency should be able to provide you with a great deal of that support or at least point you to the professionals who can help you,” Keane said.