Adoption Q & A, Part 1

This post is a part of our Orphan Awareness Month series in November 2014 to advocate, educate, and spark discussion about topics relating to adoption and orphan care.  To check out the other posts in the OAM series, click here.


On Monday, I shared that because November is Orphan Awareness Month, we will be using this month to talk about all sorts of things related to adoption and orphan care.  On Wednesdays, we’ll be focusing specifically on the topic of adoption.  We thought we would begin the first two Wednesdays with some common questions we have received from people in our community who are considering adoption about how to begin, what the process is like, and specifics about some decisions that have to be made early in the game.  Just so you know, unless specifically stated otherwise, this information reflects the international adoption process.

Next week, we’ll talk more about some of the “next step” type questions that go a little deeper.  Fun stuff!

And as a disclaimer, know that although we have researched these things a great deal, we are by no means experts on adoption or orphan care.  This information is a result of our own research, personal experience, and conversations with other adoptive families and adoption professionals.  We hope that helps bring clarity to decisions that need to be made about adoption, but it shouldn’t substitute for your own research and conversations with adoption professionals.


Adoption Q & A, Part 1

How do you decide between domestic and international adoption?

Although there are similarities between these two routes to adoption, they have largely different processes and outcomes, and the decision is a very personal one.  Domestic adoption typically involves an adoptive person/couple being chosen by a birth mother/couple at some stage of the pregnancy, and that couple adopting the newborn very soon after birth.  International adoption (what we are doing) typically involves an adoptive person/couple being matched with a child waiting in another country and ultimately travelling to that country to complete the adoption and bring them home.

For us, the decision to choose international adoption was based out of which we perceived as being the greater need.  Both international and domestic adoption are beautiful, redemptive processes and legitimate options in their own right, but we believe there is a greater need for international adoptive parents.  In domestic infant adoption, birth parents typically have many adoptive families to choose from, meaning that there are more waiting families than there are available babies.  In international adoption, this ratio is reversed – there are far more waiting children than there are willing families.  Knowing that this means that the majority of internationally waiting children will never be adopted motivated us to choose international adoption.

Note: After posting this, a friend reminded us of the often-overlooked (obviously!) option of DHS (Department of Human Services) adoption.  This is a different type of domestic adoption than infant domestic adoption.  It is the adoption of kids in foster care who’s birthparents have had their parental rights permanently severed.  (FYI – This is not the same as “foster-to-adopt”.  Although we feel becoming foster parents is a HUGE need, we do not advocate for becoming foster parents with the sole goal of adoption.  The purpose of foster care is reunification with birthparents, not adoption.  We advise only becoming foster parents if you truly desire to be foster parents – not as a means for adoption only.  If you are interested in adopting a child out of the foster care system, check out DHS adoption!)  For Iowans interested in learning more about DHS adoption, click here for more info!

How do you choose a country?

If you have no particularly strong feelings about one country or another (which is totally fine!), a good place to start is by checking out the requirements of various countries.  Most countries have requirements for adoptive families regarding age, married/single, length of marriage, family size, health, etc.  This can help to narrow down the options.  It is also important to consider whether a country’s travel requirements are realistic for your family, as well as the hugely important issues of how prepared you, your extended family, and community is for children of different races or ethnicities.  A very handy resource for specific information about country requirements and details about each country’s adoption process is this website from the U.S. Department of State that allows you to search by country.  It is kept very up-to-date.

We did not have a specific country in mind, so we actually chose our agency first (see next question).  From there, our agency helped us determine which of the countries they worked with would be a good match for us.  Yay, Poland!

How do you choose an agency?

You will need up to two different agencies for your adoption.  The agency who completes your homestudy (basically, the first step) must be from the state where you live.  However, this does not have to be the same agency who actually matches you with a child and helps you complete the rest (majority) of your adoption.  Just as every country is different, every agency is different.  Every agency has a specific set of countries they work with, different fees, different policies, and different approaches.  The really is no quick or easy way to go about this … you basically just need to start Googling around and checking up on different agencies.  One tool that really helped us was the Adoption Agency Contact Wizard by a super helpful and information-packed site called  It allows you to select countries you are interested in and write a short message about the type of agency you are looking for or the type of adoption you are interested in (specific special needs, older child, younger child, sibling group, etc.).  It will then send this info to every agency that is a good match.  From there, matching agencies will contact you to share about their agency and answer questions.

Another helpful tool is this site called Adoption Agency Ratings.  This was actually how we settled on our agency, because of all the awesome reviews they had received!

For us, choosing an agency felt like choosing a college to attend.  Being small-college people, we decided we wanted to pick a smaller agency that would allow us a more personal connection with the staff.  We also decided we wanted an Iowa-based agency so that we could work with the same agency from start to finish rather than switching after our home study.  Even though it took more time, it was very helpful for us to call (rather than email) the agencies we were interested in.  This helped us get a really good “feel” on the agency and helped us pick one that was a great match.  You will be working VERY closely with these people for a year or more, so choose carefully!  Here is a list of helpful questions to consider asking your potential agency.  Also, consider asking the agency to put you in touch with one of their past families – sometimes hearing from someone who has worked personally with them before can be the most helpful information you get!

What is a “Hague” country?

You won’t get too far in your adoption research before coming across this term.  The Hague Convention is basically an international organization that regulates adoptions.  I think of as the United Nations of adoption.  To be a part of the Hague Convention, countries must maintain ethical adoption practices and adhere to the convention’s standard of excellence, to put it simply.  Although there is less risk adopting from a Hague country as compared to a non-Hague country, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose a non-Hague country – those kiddos need adopted, too!  It is just something to consider.  If you choose a non-Hague country, be sure your agency is quite experienced in working with that specific country.

The link above from the U.S. State Department will also state at the top of each country’s information whether or not that country is a part of the Hague Convention.

Why is adoption so expensive?  

It is true – adoption is pretty pricey.  However, now that we have gone through it, we actually think the cost is pretty reasonable once you see where it all goes.  Adoption involves so many different people, agencies, governments, organizations, various professionals, etc.  All of these peoples and groups do this professionally, and need to be compensated for their part in the process.  On top of that, a huge chunk of the cost is simply the expenses associated with travel and lodging in the foreign country.  I commented to Alex recently that once you break it all down and see where it all goes, I’m surprised adoption doesn’t cost more than it does!

To read how God brought us to a place of peace regarding the financial side of our adoption, see this post.

Does the whole amount have to be paid at once?  Is there some kind of “down payment”?

No, to both.  The cost of adoption can seem very intimidating when you first see it in front of you … $20,000.  $30,000.  $45,000.  However, it is important to remember that this is actually a long series of much smaller amounts that you pay over the entire course of your adoption.  Our first expense was around $3,000, which was for our home study and initial case management/contract fees to our agency.  After that, everything came in much more manageable amounts – a hundred or so here for fingerprints/background checks, a few hundred there for document submission to Immigration … and so on and so on.  The larger amounts did not come until recently, near the end.  These expenses were the Polish program fee, lawyer fees, and preparing for travel.

Because of this, we had a whole year to prepare for the larger cost of our adoption while adoption was taking place.  By the time the larger expenses rolled around, we had done a huge amount of fundraising, saving, and had received a few grants that covered nearly all of them.

How long does the whole thing take?

Like everything else, this varies with the country.  For Poland, the average process is around a year from start to finish.  However, even in a very stable and predictable program like Poland, there were unexpected delays.  The first child we were matched with became unavailable late in the game.  The Poles have a lot of holidays that keep things from happening.  We had to update our home study to match Baby W’s medical needs.  The Polish officials needed to approve our paperwork went on vacation for a month.  Our attorney fell off a ladder and broke her nose.  La dee da.

Similar to the financial aspect, it is easier to understand why adoption takes so long when you understand all the important steps that have to happen.  This doesn’t make it any less frustrating, but at least it makes more sense.  From our research, most adoptions take at least a year, and occasionally up to 2-3 years if there are significant delays.

We’ll get into this more next week with Part 2, but it is also important to understand that the more specific you are about the child you want, the longer your wait will be.  For example, if you specify that you want a one-year-old girl with no special needs, you will be waiting much longer than someone who says they would like a child of either gender between the ages of two and six with correctable special needs.  Most countries take matching children extremely seriously, and if you give a long list of requirements, it will simply take much longer to find that specific child.


Waiting Child of the Week!

Name: Chadwick

Age: 2

Location: Asia

Special Needs: Mild vision/hearing issues

Click here to learn more about Chadwick!


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