What should families know about the international adoption process?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,491
    Marilyn Regier from the Barker Foundation discusses what families should know about international adoption.

    Host: What should families know about the international adoption process?

    Marilyn Regier: The first question people often ask or their friends ask them is why would you adopt overseas when there are so many children here in the United States that need a home? We need to remember that this is not a competition; there are so many children, all over the world who need homes. So, why would people turn to international adoption? Well, first of all, many of them see a compelling need, they may see war, famine, hunger, abandonment of children, tsunamis, there are many reasons that we find people calling us and inquiring about international adoption.

    These needs compel their heart. They may also have an affinity for a particular country or culture. Maybe they served in the Peace Core or the military and volunteered in an orphanage during that time. Maybe they see it as a way to connect with their own heritage. Maybe they speak the language; that is a wonderful gift you can give a child to adopt when you share the heritage. Often, people turn to international adoption because in some instances there are more liberal age requirements and people are adopting at later and later ages in this country. Moreover, often in international adoption, there is more predictability of the timetable. Families select a country and then plus or minus several months, the agency can help them understand approximately when they would receive a referral and travel.

    The number one reason I find that people turn to international adoption is that they are just so positively inclined to become part of the global family. Our world is shrinking, technology has changed our world, we are one family. So, more and more people see themselves as part of one world and they are excited about becoming part of the global family. But how do you choose a country when there are so many options? Well, it is always helpful to go on the State Department website and look at which countries are sending the most children to the United States. Right now, there are five that have been the leading countries for quite some time. The top four for the last ten years have been China, Guatemala, Russia and Korea.

    Those could change at any time and that is why you always need to do your research and check the state department website. Rapidly moving into the fifth position is Ethiopia, where the need is so compelling. But generally, people when they are choosing a country do look to see which countries are sending the most children? Which countries make the adoption process the easiest to facilitate? Now, many people look at orphanage versus foster care. We do not eliminate countries that use the orphanage system, but some people do want to prioritize foster care and there are some countries internationally where all children are immediately placed into private foster care as opposed to institutionalized in orphanages.

    Then some people prioritize the health of children, there are some countries that have more state of the art medicine. You must know what you prioritize in your family, but the health of the children varies greatly from country to country and then there is the issue of availability of background information. Some countries like Korea provide an incredible amount of background information on the birth family, on the medical history, on the reasons for relinquishment of the child. In many other cases, there is abandonment of the child and so there is absolutely no history until the child comes into the care of the orphanage or social service agency.

    When you think about adopting internationally, there is one very big piece we have not talked about and that is the joys and challenges of becoming a transracial and transcultural family. When you adopt in this way, you become a minority family and so I often ask families, if you would not marry across racial and cultural lines, then perhaps you should not adopt across them either. This is somewhat simplistic, I admit. But it is enough to give us pause and to at least be an important issue to think about because you do become a minority family and what you do affects your extended family for a lifetime. If you have been a member of a majority culture, how will you help your child recognize, reject and deal with racism? That is one question to ask and research is very, very encouraging. The research that has been done shows that when we keep same race role model in our child s life and when we expose them to their heritage perhaps, through culture camps or through many other opportunities, that they do become fully flourishing, happy, successful, well adjusted adults. But this is a big issue for you to think about, that you would become a minority family, adopting across racial and cultural lines. So, all of these issues are important when you are considering international adoption, but I encourage you to continue to process these issues. So, today we have looked at the entire adoption process from the beginning, the research, the motivation, where to begin, to an examination of domestic versus international, to a look at infinite option versus older child adoption and to some of the processes like the home study process, that are part and parcel of the adoption process.

    Adoption is a wonderful way to build your family and I thank you for joining us.