International Adoption Myths

Actually kids are being adopted every day. While countries have opened and closed, giving Americans the opportunity to adopt, there are still many with active programs.

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Children are usually between the ages of a few months to 14 years of age at the time they are referred for adoption.

There are healthy children, as well as those with minor to moderate medical conditions, as well as those with more severe and chronic medical and physical issues. It is important to understand the environmental conditions in which a child has been living, including the actual physical living situations. Was the child provided medical care, proper nutrition and a level of social interaction with peers and adults?

Doctors specializing in international adoptive medicine can help you understand the experiences and care of children living in that particular country before you decide to pursue an adoption. They can also review the information provided on a child and then see the child upon arrival in the United States.

The international adoption process can take between 1 to 6 years from the start of the paperwork to bringing the child home.


Older children adopted internationally will have memories of their early childhood. Younger children will need you to fill in the gaps. They will all have questions about their history and adoption.

For many children their adoption journey started when they were left at the maternity home, abandoned, or brought to an orphanage or children’s home. Some have had their parents’ rights terminated due to abuse or neglect. In many international countries, in order for the child to be eligible for adoption, they have to be designated “orphans”. Unless information was available and gathered at the time the child entered the child welfare system in that country, background information often remains nonexistent. As a result, in most adoptions, there will be little or no information besides what was given to you by the orphanage or children’s home caring for the child.

It is important for you to share what you know with your child, including any photos you have of them when they were young, of their family, their village or from your time in their country when you were pursuing the adoption. We all like to know where we came from. For a child adopted internationally the lack of connection to family raises questions. Let your child ask, consider your answers and be upset if no information is available. Not having information does not mean you won’t talk about their history and the adoption. It is important to have this conversation, to find out any additional information you can and to fill in hypothetical information over their lifetime.


Years ago, people chose to adopt from overseas believing there would be no contact with birth parents and therefore no need to worry about them coming to look for their child. However with the advances of the Internet, DNA registries and international search groups, children, parents and siblings are finding one another no matter where they come from.

This does not mean a birth parent is flying to the United States and appearing on your doorstep. In fact, most do not have the financial means to do so. However, they or your child may wish to share information or reconnect, and such contact may be beneficial. Birth parents may want to reaffirm that their child is safe and loved. There may be additional medical information to share and they can fill in the gaps in your child’s history, narrative and reason for the adoption. Your child may have questions that only a birth parent can answer.

While contact with birth parents in an international adoption is rare, some families actually seek programs where contact will be possible. As stated above, realizing it’s actually harder to deal with information you don’t have, than with information you do, some adoptive parents want initial contact with the birth family in order to be able to share their impressions with their child as they grow. They also want to have a way to reach out to birth parents should questions arise of a medical or developmental nature, or if the child raises some questions. This does not necessarily mean that there will be ongoing contact, just a way to get in touch should the need arise. Often the point of contact is the adoption agency that they worked with for the adoption.


There are many things to consider when adopting internationally. What children are available, talking about adoption with your child, and contact with birth parents are just a few of the things to explore before you start your adoption process. Consulting with adoption professionals can be very helpful in designing an adoption plan that works for you and your family. Talking to others who have already adopted is a wonderful way to learn of their experiences, how they handled the issues mentioned in this article, and gaining other pointers for you to keep in mind as you take steps in starting or enlarging your family.

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