International adoption

International adoption

International adoption, or intercountry adoption, is a type of adoption in which an individual or couple becomes the legal and permanent parents of a child born in another country. In general, prospective adoptive parents must meet the legal adoption requirements of their country of residence and those of the country in which the child was born.

The laws of different countries vary in their willingness to allow international adoptions. Some countries, such as China and Korea, have relatively well-established rules and procedures for international adoptions, while other countries expressly forbid it. Some countries, notably many African nations, have extended residency requirements for adoptive parents that in effect rule out most international adoptions.

Process overview

The requirements necessary to begin the process of international adoption can vary depending on the country of the adoptive parent(s). For example, while most countries require prospective adoptive parents to first get approval to adopt, in some the approval can only be received from a state agency, while in others, it can be obtained from a private adoption agency.

In the United States, as a general example, typically the first stage of the process is selecting an agency or facilitator to work with. Each agency or facilitator works with a different set of countries, although some only focus on a single country. While some countries do allow independent adoption (i.e., an international adoption not done in coordination with an agency), and in fact this process may often be the least expensive option for prospective adopters, it is rare for them to go this route, especially with their first adoption.

A dossier is prepared that contains a large amount of information about the prospective adoptive parents. Typically this includes financial information, a background check, fingerprints, a home study review by a social worker and other supporting information. Again, requirements will vary widely from country to country, and even region to region in large countries such as Russia. Once complete, the dossier is submitted for review to the appropriate authorities in the child's country.

After the dossier is reviewed and the prospective parents are approved to adopt, they are matched to an eligible child. The parent is usually sent information about the child, such as age, gender, health history, etc. This is generally called a referral. A travel date is typically included, informing the parents when they may travel to meet the child and sign any additional paperwork required to accept the referral. Some countries, such as Kazakhstan, do not allow referrals until the prospective parent travels to the country on their first trip. This is called a "blind" referral.

Depending on the country, the parents may have to make more than one trip overseas to complete the legal process. Some countries allow a child to be escorted to the adoptive parents' home country and the adoptive parents are not required to travel to the country of their adopted child.

There are usually several requirements after this point, such as paperwork to make the child a legal United States citizen or re-adopt them under United States law. In addition, one or more follow up (or "post placement") visits from a social worker may be required -- either by the placing agency used by the adoptive parents or by the laws of the country from which the child was adopted. In the United States, citizenship is automatically granted to all foreign-born children when at least one adoptive parent is a U.S. citizen, in accordance with the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

Policies and requirements

Adoption policies for each country vary widely. Items such as the age of the adoptive parents, financial status, marital status and history, number of dependent children in the house, sexual orientation, weight, psychological health, and ancestry are used by different countries to determine what parents are eligible to adopt from that country.

Items such as the age of the child, fees and expenses, and the amount of travel time required in the child's birth country, can also vary widely from one country to another.

Each country sets its own rules, timelines and requirements surrounding adoption, and there are also rules that vary within the United States for each state. Each country, and often each part of the country, also sets its own rules about what type of information will be shared and how it will be shared (e.g. a picture of the child, child's health). Reliability and verifiability of the information is also variable.

Most countries require that a parent travel to bring the child home; however, some countries allow the child to be escorted to his or he new homeland.

ources of children and adoptive parents

The most common countries for international adoption by parents in the United States for 2007 are China (5453), Guatemala (4728), Russia (2310), South Korea (939), Ethiopia (1255), Vietnam (828) Ukraine (606), Kazakhstan (540), India (416) Liberia (353), Colombia (310), and Philippines (265). [ (U.S. State Department)] Other less common countries include Bulgaria, Colombia, Haiti, and Poland. These statistics can vary from year to year as each country alters its rules; Romania, Belarus and Cambodia were also important until government crackdowns on adoptions to weed out abuse in the system cut off the flow. Vietnam recently signed a treaty openings its doors for adoption.Fact|date=August 2008

China is the one major country where girls adopted far outnumber boys; due to the Chinese culture's son preference in combination with the official planned birth policy implemented in 1981, about 95% of Chinese children adopted are girlsFact|anecdotal evidence suggests this figure is lower, and that some countries such as spain get more boys from china than other countries, such as the usa. Also, is this 95% figure the number of girls being adopted out of china by ALL countries, or just by the USA?|date=August 2008. Although India also has a noticeable excess of girls being adopted (68% girls)Fact|date=August 2008, most other countries are about even. South Korea is the one country that has a relatively large excess of boys being adopted; about 60% are boysFact|date=August 2008. This is a switch from the 1980s, when most Korean adoptees (about two-thirds) were girlsFact|date=August 2008.

Adoption from Ethiopia has become an increasingly popular option for adoptive families in the US. According to the U.S. Department of State, [U.S. Department of State [] ] there were 441 orphans visas issued to Ethiopian children in 2005, and 732 issued in 2006. [U.S. Department of State, orphans visas from Ethiopia [] ]

International Adoption Laws

A country's willingness to allow international adoption will vary to accommodate that countries laws. Some countries, such as China and Vietnam, have relatively well-established rules and procedures for foreign adopters to follow, while others, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for example, expressly forbid it. Some countries, notably many African nations, have extended residency requirements that in effect rule out most international adoptions. And some countries have been closed to adoption altogether.

Hague Conference on Private International Law

Recognizing some of the difficulties and challenges associated with international adoption, and in an effort to protect those involved from the corruption and exploitation which sometimes accompanies it, the Hague Conference on Private International Law developed the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, [Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption [] ] which came into force on 1 May, 1993.

The main objectives of the Convention are::* to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights as recognized in international law;:* to establish a system of co-operation amongst Contracting States to ensure that those safeguards are respected and thereby prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children;:* to secure the recognition in Contracting States of adoptions made in accordance with the Convention.

To date, this Convention has been ratified by 70 countries. [Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption [] ] Several more countries are signatories to the Convention and are at various stages in taking steps to achieve full ratification.

The following is a quotation from the convention:

Intercountry adoptions shall be made in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights. To to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children each State should take, as a matter of priority, appropriate measures to enable the child to remain in the care of his or her family of origin. [Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption [] ]

Consequences and problems

Negative consequences of international adoption

Child trafficking or child laundering

Child trafficking is a broad term that refers to the buying, selling or illegal transportation of children. Child laundering is a more precise term that refers to the stealing of children who are then sold to adoptive parents as legitimate "orphans." Often the pretence is that the child's parents are dead when in fact the child's parents are still alive. In some cases the children are stolen from the home; in other cases the children are left at orphanages for temporary care or schools for education. These then sell the children using false papers. In some cases the parents may even sell the children. [David Smolin, Works at bepress legal repository, at [] ] This trafficking can occur anywhere but is most prominent in poorly regulated countries or where local corruption is a factor. Currently, Guatemala, one of the top sources of adopted children, is being investigated for this sort of corruption. [Washington Post, Guatemala adoption investigation, at [] ]

While most international adoptions are not tainted by child trafficking, some problems do exist. Receiving nations such as the United States have implemented safeguards to ensure that adopted children are in fact legally available for adoption. Occasionally, the United States has suspended adoption from certain countries in order to investigate fraud and, where needed, require change from the sending country. [Smolin, works, [] ]

Richard Cross, the lead federal investigator for the prosecution of Lauryn Galindo for visa fraud and money laundering involved in Cambodian adoptions, estimated that most of the 800 adoptions Galindo facilitated were fraudulent--either based on fraudulent paperwork, coerced/induced/recruited relinquishments, babies bought, identities of the children switched, etc. [Desiree Smolin and David Kruchkow, "Why Bad Stories Must Be Told", The Adoption Agency Checklist, [] ] [Full lecture of special agent Richard Cross [ Richard Cross's full video and audio lecture available here] ]

The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption (short title for Convention #33) is one measure intended to further shield international adoption against child trafficking.

Loss of culture, family or identity

International adoption is a relatively new phenomenon when compared to domestic adoption. One of the debates in international adoption circles has been about the adopted child’s sense of belonging in their new country. Some believe that this is a particular concern for inter-racial adoptions. For example, Asian children who are adopted by Caucasians are of a recognizably different race than their adoptive parents, and might be expected to have a harder time fitting in than, say, a Russian child.

Nowadays, however, the children and adoptive parents are encouraged to explore their origins of birth. From their birth parents, to their birth cultures exploration is almost expected. For example, Korea holds “cultural training camps” where Korean adoptees are able to explore their birth country for the first time. Until recently, Korean adoptees were seen as outcasts, and these training camps are the Korean government’s way of changing the view of these “outcasts” to “overseas Koreans.” It has slowly shown positive results, and a closer kinship of adoptees to their birth country.

Questions still remain. Is it detrimental to a child’s well-being to keep them from getting to know their birth origin? Or are more problems caused by encouraging and allowing foreign adoptees to explore their birth culture? Also, how should the adoptive parents prepare to deal with a bi-racial family in which the adults are of one race while the child is of another? And how do we reconcile differences between adoptive parents' assumptions about adoption with adoptees' experiences of living with a condition that they were too young to decide on for themselves? As of right now, a critical mass of scholars, adoption professionals and community representatives are only beginning to explore these questions with the growing community groups made up of international adoptees (many who have finally now reached maturity). Anthropologists, for example, have very recently started to study the effects of kinship, belonging, culture, nation, and even genes and the roles they play in the upbringing of foreign adoptees. As Pauline Turner Strong said in an article in "Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies:" "Adoption across political and cultural borders may simultaneously be an act of violence and an act of love, an excruciating rupture and a generous incorporation, an appropriation of valued resources and a constitution of personal ties.”

Scholarly accounts in journal articles, higher-degree studies and books by authors such as Toby Volkman, David Eng, Sara Dorow, Indigo Willing and Tobias Hubinette also suggest that adoption is a contested practice, with a variety of competing voices ranging from adoptive parents who not only adopt but also dominate published accounts of the practice, to those who have been internationally adopted and are now beginning to enter research fields focusing on adoption (such as members of the International Adoptee Congress Research Committee).

All these researchers now have the benefit of drawing on populations of the "first waves" of internationally adopted people who have now reached adulthood, as seen in the rise of Korean and Vietnamese adoptee groups alone. At the same time, it is hard to determine any sort of best practice in adoption if only based on conflicting research agendas, paradigms and narratives presented by psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists alike. More serious consultation with a range of internationally adopted people from various professional and community-work based backgrounds needs to be included before the field of adoption study is more truly representative and rigorously informed.

uicide amongst international adoptees

A study done in Sweden revealed that international adoptees are 5 times more likely to commit suicide than non-adoptees. Female international adoptees are actually more likely to commit suicide than their male counterparts. [Borczyskowski, Annika von; Hjern, Anders; Lindblad, Frank; Vinnerljung, Bo. " [ Suicidal behaviour in national and international adult adoptees] ". 2005-12-22. Retrieved on 2005-12-22.]

Positive consequences of international adoption

In most cases, international adoption results in a child whose birthparents were unable to parent him being raised within the environment of a family instead of an institution such as an orphanage. Economically a child may step up into a higher class (Assessment of "higher" is here based solely on the availability of material goods and comforts). The child may also realize new educational opportunities.

After WWII, between 1945 and 1969, due to economic pressures, many German-born children were adopted by US-Military couples. German birth families made great sacrifices in "letting go" of their children, hoping that the adoptive families could provide the child with solid social structures and economic stability. German Birth Register [ German Birth Register [] ] provides German-born adoptees with an efficient method of reuniting with their German birth family.

A recent study by Dutch professor Femmi Juffer challenges that adoption hurts a child’s self-esteem in that adopted kids would unconsciously blame themselves for the loss of their birth families and on some level feel that they hadn't been good enough for their families to keep them. Juffer compiled data from 80 studies and concluded that adopted children are not at risk for low self esteem, even in the case of interracial adoptions and international adoptions. Differences in race between a child and their adoptive parents did not matter and children from interracial/international-adoption families performed the same as children adopted into families of the same race/culture. In the long term cultural differences were not as problematic as expected, and even older adopted children, those thought to be the most difficult and more severely and permanently damaged, adjusted over time as well. Overall, although adoption may have initial adverse effects and negative experiences for childhood, the children are capable of change and development for the better. But Steven Nickman of Harvard Medical School who recently did a review of the adoption literature says that while Juffer's study is careful and methodologically sound there are some limits to her research. Essentially, Nickman says, the study doesn't include any of the most difficult cases and as someone who works with adopted kids, Nickman knows that not all adoptions turn out well. Some are incredibly painful. Still, he finds Juffer's work encouraging. [ NPR "Study: Adoption Not Harmful to Child's Self-Esteem" [] ]

Reform efforts

Due to the appeal and otherwise obvious difficult issues presented by international adoption, the reform movement seeks to influence governments to adopt regulations that serve the best interest of the child and meet the interests of both the adoptive and biological family members. [Adopting [] ] This position is countered by both the economic viability of the child trade and the relative lack of interest shown by governments to address the serious problems with international adoption. While cursory measures have been made by international organizations, these agreements are often mere restatements of the boilerplate so often heard in elementary juvenile law, which includes the frequent use of the phrase "best interest of the child." The ultimate question in international adoption is who should decide what is in the child's best interest, and, not only that, how such a decision is even made.


External links

International Sites

* [ Hague Conference - Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption]


* David M. Smolin - [ Child Laundering: How the Intercountry Adoption System Legitimizes and Incentivizes the Practices of Buying, Trafficking, Kidnapping, and Stealing Children] .

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