02 June 2009

International vs. domestic

International adoptions - we discovered quickly - are immediately final. There is almost no chance that a birth mother will arrive on the scene when the child is three claiming to have changed her mind and want the child back. So I'm not surprised that quite a few people opt for this type of adoption and the accompanying security of knowing that the child they have spent so much time and money to adopt is theirs. Period. No questions asked. Done deal.

When Chris and I first started this journey a while back, we were leaning heavily toward an international adoption for this very reason and because quite a few people we know have successfully gone this route. What we've discovered along the way is that international adoptions certainly have their share of difficulties including, but not limited to: travel expenses on top of adoption fees, travel visas, "gifts" for the in-country contacts and officials, out and out bribes in some countries, your trip being extended from 7 days to 17 days because of problems with the government or your paperwork or that the child you thought you were getting is not the child with which you've been presented, the government collapses when you arrive, a sudden change in adoption law while you are in-country, etc.

One of the social workers with whom we met described how a couple went all the way to Kazakhstan only to encounter what turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle, "When they arrived, they had to go further in-country to the village where the orphanage was located," she tells us, "and to do that they had to fly on a World War II era plane that had no seat belts and no pressurization. The father couldn't do it. He refused to get on the plane and they came back home with no baby."

(This is the same social worker who described Kazakhstan as "The Wild West" of adoptions.)

If the social workers wanted to scare us out of considering international adoption, they did a pretty good job.

The other issue that we discovered in our inquiries regarding international adoption is that there are still very lingering affects of the Bush administration in the world of adoptions. Ecuador, Guatemala and Viet Nam are just a few of the countries that have closed their doors to American adoptive couples as a result of 8 years of paranoia and rudeness from the Bush administration.

"Yeah," says one social worker, "there are a lot of people around the world who still don't like us very much."

This same social worker is hoping that Guatemala will re-open its borders to American adoptive parents and soon because she described their adoption process as easy/smooth and the people in-country as being very nice to work with.

The other consequence of the Bush era and adoptions according to some of the books we have and the social workers with whom we've talked is that the processes in most countries are now much more difficult and lengthier for American prospective parents. If you would like to adopt a baby from China - the wait is currently 2-5 years. A couple that wanted to adopt from Russia 7 years ago used to have to make one trip to secure their child. Now that same couple has to make three visits.

Thank you Dubyuh for making everything more difficult for the rest of us.

I was feeling pretty low once we learned of the numerous challenges facing us if we chose to pursue an international adoption. So we started to make some inquiries about the challenges and benefits of domestic adoption. When we had dinner with our friends K and D who adopted two little girls via domestic adoption and our outlook changed considerably toward that process.

K & D spoke of the benefits of knowing your child's health history and family background - something not often available in the realm of international adoption. They also mentioned that often the birth mothers get better health/pre-natal care in the U.S. and that domestic adoptions can be much faster than international. Since I'm 41 and Chris is 40, expediency is definitely appealing as we move along. K & D also confirmed what we had heard from the social workers and in some of the literature that we've bee reading - that the incidence of birth parents trying to reclaim their children after an adoption has been finalized (usually 9-12 months after the birth parents have relinquished their parental rights) is very low.

K described being in the delivery room to watch her eldest daughter being born - at once an incredibly awkward and moving experience. K and D's younger daughter came to them when she was just four weeks old after another adoptive couple decided that they didn't want her because she cried too much (she was born with thrush...) K & D told us of the adventures they had putting together their profile - a huge scrapbook of their lives really - and being chosen by their eldest daughter's birth-mom. They also described how for the first few years they were in touch with the birth parents via conference calls, letters and photos, but the interest on both sides eventually waned as the birth parents moved on with their lives (one of the social workers indicated that this is fairly common.)

This isn't to say that domestic adoption isn't without its challenges. K spoke with some sadness of the time that they arrived at the hospital to pick up the child that was to have been their second adopted child only to discover that the birth mother had changed her mind. They were devastated, but luckily the call for the child that would become their youngest daughter came just a few days after that sad time in the hospital.

It's a strange thing knowing that our family and future happiness is predicated on someone else's loss. While it might be nice to have the security an ocean between my adopted daughter and her birth-parents, for me I feel instead that I'd like to (if at all possible) meet the birth-mom and birth-dad.

I like the idea that the birth parents might choose Chris and me above all of the prospective parents they'll see via the adoption profiles... that they'll see our photos and read our life stories and decide that we are the very people to whom they will entrust their baby...what an honor and a privilege. And meeting them - letting them see us and know who we are while having the opportunity to assure them that we will cherish and care for the child that for whatever reasons they can't or have chosen not to keep...well, that feels right, too. I only hope that our Little One's birth-parents will know how much we want her and will love her and strive to make the best possible home and family for her.


  1. Never an easy decision for sure. As you mentioned there are pros and cons to both domestic and international adoption. I just wanted to chime in on Kazakhstan. We braved the wild west and completed the adoption of our two beautiful children in the summer of 2005. We had a very positive and enriching experience. So much so that we're in the process of adopting another child from Kaz despite the challenges of internation adoption.

    Best wishes with either path you choose.


  2. Another parent of Kazakh kids chiming in: The whole experience isn't nearly as sketchy as the description above...IF you choose your agency with care! There are several agencies that have a terrible track record in KZ, but some, like World Partners, are very successful in completing adoptions and take good care of their prospective parents in the process!