International Adoption

Updated on February 22, 2008
S.K. asks from Pittsburgh, PA
14 answers

I was wondering if anyone has ever adopted a child internationally? I am seriously considering it and after doing some research it seems the only thing that is holding me back is that the cost is so high. I was looking into Ukraine & Khazakstan specifically, heading more towards Ukraine. I would appreciate any input that anyone has. One other thing - my son has a peanut/treenut allergy (severity unknown) & if anyone has ever been to either of those countries, do you know how prevalent the use of peanuts / nuts are in their local cuisine?

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S.S.

answers from Philadelphia on

We adopted from China in 1999 thru Adoptions from the Heart. I cannot say better things about adoption. It gave us a wonderful daughter, and her wonderful (I like to think!) parents. I highly recommend it. I am not familiar with Ukraine adoptions, but know that China is on the up-and-up. Keep us posted!

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M.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

Children from Ukraine have a high incidence of neglect and also fetal alcohol syndrome. Many times the extent of the damage is not known or shared at the time of adoption. Make sure you do your research!

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C.R.

answers from Allentown on

There are pros and cons for every type of adoption - you really have to follow your heart and do what's right for your family. It's sad that the cost is often the determining factor, but hey, there's a reason for everything, right? Most people will recommend that you decide on a country first, then find an agency that has a great reputation in that particular country.

There are lots of ways to fund your adoption expenses. First, remember that you don't have to pay everything at once - it's usually broken down into chunks. (But do be aware of all the incidental costs that add up - apostilles, travel, Dr. visits.) Some people hold fundraisers - yard sales, spaghetti dinners, basket bingo, etc. Some home party sales companies will also do fundraisers, so it pays to ask around. You can ask your employer if they provide adoption assistance - the worst they can say is no. Some companies have never had to think about this before, so you may be able to submit a proposal to them. (I did this and was able to get paid adoption leave.) Then there's always financing - home equity loan, credit cards, etc. Not the ideal way to go, but it's still worth it.

FWIW, we adopted our first son from Russia when he was 23 months. He did have RAD and various other issues, but we were able to overcome most of them. I don't want to get into details here, but I'd be glad to chat privately. International adoption isn't always the horror story people make it out to be. Good luck with your journey!

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M.M.

answers from Williamsport on

S.,
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law just adopted for the first time. She is 40 and he is 39. They have a 15 year old, 12 year old and 10 year old - in addition to their newly adopted little girl who will turn 1 year old in March. All that to say, they have an EXCELLENT network of friends, family, contacts that could really help you along in the process. They were also very concerned with the cost and were able to do some really neat fundraisers. They ended up paying almost nothing out of pocket.
You can check out Tracie's blog at tracieloux.blogspot.com She has lots of contact info on there.
You can also email me if you would like her information. She would be glad to help you.
M. - [email protected]____.com

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M.P.

answers from Philadelphia on

I haven't adopted internationally but have several close friends who have. One family with a 3 yo son from Korea. They have had very few problems and he seems to have adjusted very well. They brought him home when he was 6 months old. He had been with a foster mother until that time. They had a great experience and would do it again if they were younger but Korea has some age limitations.
Some other friends adopted 2 boys. One from Romania and one from the Ukraine. They had a great experience with their first son who was from Romania. He was adopted at 26 months and had been in an orphanage, but seemed to be very happy their and has been in this country for 7 years and has adjusted very well. They were able to spend alot of time with him in Romania before bringing him back. He stayed with them at the hotel from the first day they arrived, so were able to get to know him before getting back to the US.
Different story with the Ukraine. Their second son was adopted at 16 months. They were not able to spend much time with him until they left to bring him home. They were also kept on a very short leash while in the Ukraine, told not to go anywhere without their guide, even down the street for dinner. They had some concerns about the placement agency in the Ukraine, the health of their son, as well as the orphanage, but felt better about things when they met him. Once back at home, there were several adjustment issues that came up. While he seems to be a happy kid he has problems when upset or frustrated, he doesn't behave appropriately and lashes out. he screams, hits and bites. They are in family therapy and it is helping, but progress is slow. They would never say it was a mistake to have adopted him. They love him and have bonded with him,but they are lucky because they have the financial resources to help him.
While in the Ukraine, they met a several couples who were not happy with agency and the children chosen for them. One couple had requested 2 sisters ( they had 3 boys at home) and was told that's what they were getting before they went to the Ukraine and when they got there they found out a brother and sister had been selected for them. They also had trouble bonding with the children even after arranging to take them on a 2 week 'vacation'. You are also not encouraged to ask for a different child if you are not happy with whomever they have selected for you. An other couple they met their felt that their child had some significant learning/health problems which were being downplayed. Of course these are only a couple of cases but I would be very wary of adopting from the Ukraine.
I also know of 2 people who adopted from Russia. One from Moscow and one from Siberia. They are not close friends so don't know alot of the details but I believe both had good experiences.
Good luck with whatever you decide.

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S.B.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi S.!
I was so glad to read that you are considering international adoption!!

I have a 5.5 year son and a 4.5 year daughter, both adopted from Guatemala. We couldn't be happier with our little family!

Yes, adoption is expensive, but if you can manage the fees up front, you actually get a good portion back in tax credits (not deductions, CREDITS). It was recently increased to $10,960 per child. You cannot use it until adoption is finalized, however.

The paperwork can be overwhelming and the wait can be stressful, but the end result is so worth it! Do an internet search to find a (local if possible) agency that specializes in the countries you are thinking about. Each country has different requirements -- including the amount of time you must stay in the country. Some even require 2 trips, which can really add to the expense. (Besides the beautiful children, that was a benefit of Guatemala to us. They don't require any visits, though we chose to go twice.)

Ask them to be up front with you about any recent or unanticipated changes in the country's adoption laws (such as the Hague Treaty) that may cause unexpected delays.

Good luck!
S.

B.K.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi S.. Although I myself have not adopted any children, I have two friends that have. In fact one of them has been involved with the process of adopting a second child for the past three years. The expense is only part of the story. Since 9/11 the paperwork is astounding to say the least...and the wheels of our gov. and of the other gov. involved grind very very slowly. Both of the two families I know got girls that were severly mal-nurished and portrayed to be younger than they actually were. One family was lucky and there was no lasting damage. The other family, well the child is severly hanicapped, and although they would never give her up they now have huge medical bills and worry about who will care for her when they are gone as she will always need to be surpervised.

There have also been rumors about the children from eastern europe having not only nutrional problems, but HIV & AIDS as well. If you really want to adopt, why not consider a child from here? There are so many kids within the foster system that need and deserve to be adopted...it's a shame that so many people feel the need to go outside of our country when our own children are just as deserving and needy of a real home and parent that love them. Just my opinion...
Best wishes and good luck.

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T.B.

answers from State College on

I really, really would hate to be the person to dissuade you from adding to your family, especially in such a benevolent way... but... I belong to several online support groups for families who have children suffering from Attachment Disorder (often called Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD).

Honestly, even though it's not *guaranteed* that any child you adopt from those countries will have RAD, even if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn't do it just because RAD is so prevalent (along with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). If I were to adopt, I'd follow what one of my good, local friends did - they adopted a little boy from Guatamala. The adoption system there does not generally have babies in orphanages, but rather has them in foster homes. Their culture is one that encourages bonding with babies and especially focuses on women "wearing" babies (if you know anything about slings/wraps/baby-wearing, you know this is EXCELLENT in promoting any infant's sense of trust, closeness, etc.). I have watched her closely with her new baby (he's now 15 months old) and am super, super impressed with how bonded he is to her. This, in my opinion, indicates a highly favorable and positive future.

On the other hand, when I read messages from the other parents who have adopted (it's not just the Russian-area countries, either - Chinese adoptees are strong on the list, too), I wouldn't wish that on any one. (I'm on the list b/c my step-son has AD b/c his bio-mother is a HORRIBLE person).

Just something to think about. Read on it. Know that it can be a lifelong struggle. Know that just loving them is NOT enough to heal them. Know that there are very few attachment therapists and that traditional "talk" therapy will not and cannot help them heal. It is a LONG, HARD road.

Of course, you may be a fortunate person who lucks into a fairly healthy, well nurtured little one who is genuinely able to bond and form a real attachment to you, who brings you absolute joy and love. That is what I wish for you. Just be aware of all the possibilities before committing!

Oh, and definitely consider a US adoption - I know the laws have recently become more lax in this regard, making it much easier to adopt out of the foster system. But, again, beware RAD!!

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M.H.

answers from York on

Although I have not done any adopting, I know of 2 people who have. One from China and one got twins from Romania. I know it was a long process, a lot of work (and research) and a lot of money. I'm not discouraging you, I think it's great! I just want you to be aware of the road ahead of you. Make sure you know the child's physical conditions too. My friend who got the twins from Romania have a lot of problems, but they accept them and love them no matter what. I know you got other advice so hopefully you get your answers. Good luck! :)

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C.A.

answers from Philadelphia on

I have 2 adopted children from Korea, our son is 4 1/2, and our daughter is 17 months old. The process of bringing them home has been a wonderful journey- emotionally and spiritually. South Korea has an extremely established and well managed adoption process. Your first adoption will typically be a boy. One of the best resources in our area is Pearl S. Buck International's Welcome House- they were our agency. Their website is www.psbi.org. They have monthly informational meetings in various locations. I encourage you to attend one of those meetings to get familiar with what is happening in the various countries. They do work all over the world. After having researched a number of countries, we felt that Korea had a system that was very structured in terms of the foster homes that care for the children until they are placed, as well as good medical care. I work full-time, and wanted to bring a child home as young as possible, and with as little risk for social or physical development issues, since I would not be able to stop working. We learned that many of the Eastern Block countries are plagued by corruption and misleading information from the government, however, this should not disuade you from looking at all of the countries, and all of their issues. There are far more success stories than otherwise. Apparently, due to the backlog with Chinese adoptions, Vietnam has risen to the top of the list for successful adoptions- particularly if you want an infant. I believe you can get the youngest children still through Korea, Guatemala and Vietnam. Regardless of your choice, much like biological children, there really are "no guarantees" that your child will be 100% healthy- there are always unknowns. I encourage you to explore the options, determine what criteria is most important or unimportant (race, age, time spent in country, etc.) For Korean adoptions, for example, you do not have to travel, you can pay an escort fee-- this is what we did with our son since we could not afford the trip. For my daughter, I had the pleasure of going to Korea, meeting her foster mother, and seeing where she came from. With Korean adoptions, the child is placed with you while legally being in the custody of Welcome House until 6 months following the babies' placement. This simply protects the child, if for any reason the placement does not work out.

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A.D.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi - I actually don't know about international adoption, but I am here to give a shout out for domestic adoption. We adopted through a local agency, Adoptions from the Heart and ended up with a baby from NJ. They have two programs a white program and a what I call "everything else" program for biracial and African American children. We signed up for both programs and ended up getting a beautiful girl. They emailed recently all their families and said they are in desparate need for families for the African American program and are offering a placement discount. I don't know what your timeframe is, but if you are looking for a "quick delivery" and the ability to help mother's in need this is a good direction to research. I believe that the price of "white" adoption and international is comprable but the AA program is significantly less. Sorry to be a bit off topic, but it is near and dear to my heart! Good luck!

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D.H.

answers from Philadelphia on

We adopted internationally, but not from Ukraine, etc. The cost can be terrible for some countries. I'm wondering why you are looking to Ukraine, etc.? (not that there's anything wrong with those places). It can be a hard decision to make. Find out all you can about the countries and talk things over, in detail, with your hubby. An adoption agency can tell you even more. We even asked the agency for names and phone numbers of people to adopted through them (people who were willing to talk) and got opinions that way. That can be really helpful, or it can make the decision harder, but that's more to talk over with hubby and the agency. The country may make a difference in the health of the children, too, or their background. You have to think about travel costs, timing-like how much time you can devote to trips with work, etc., too. And how much patience you might have with the process. Political things can cause delays. I hope this helps. But we have been through it.

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M.M.

answers from Philadelphia on

S.,

I have two internationally adopted children. My 10 year old daughter was adopetd from Moscow at age 12 months and my son, now 12, was adopted also from Moscow at age 14 months. Yes it is expensive, but it is the best money ever spent.

Dietary issues in former Eastern block countries is a huge issue, but I honestly believe you can keep your son safe if you stay in an American hotel, such as the Radisson or the Marriott.

If you engage a reputable agency in the process, they can help you with securing safe lodging.

You can contact me off-line if you which to chat about this further.

Congrats on your decision.

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G.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

We adopted an 8-month-old girl from Guatemala in June 2007. She has been quite healthy (the only issue so far is that she needs ear tubes due to fluid in her middle ear), and has not had major adjustment difficulties from moving to a new family and a new country. Guatemala has used a foster care system that in most cases provided excellent care during the wait for the adoption to be finalized. Unfortunately, since January 1 of this year, Guatemala is closed to new international adoptions, as they are in the process of implementing a new law to centralize their adoption system to comply with the Hague treaty. It is not known when they will reopen, or exactly what their new adoption process will be.

Adopting from countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan (or Russia), does bring a higher risk of health problems and emotional adjustment difficulties. This is due to the children living in orphanages rather than foster homes, the fact that they cannot be adopted until they are somewhat older (I believe at least 1 to 1.5 years, maybe older in some countries), and higher prevalence of alcohol use, including by women who are not always very aware of the dangers of drinking while pregnant. I think the majority of these adoptions still turn out well in the end, but you do have to be prepared for a higher risk of problems.

China is also a popular option for adoptive parents (I think the most popular, in fact), because while the children live in orphanages, alcohol use is lower and children can be adopted at a somewhat younger age than in Russia, Ukraine, etc. Also, China's adoption system seems to be more stable and less prone to sudden changes for political reasons (as opposed to Russia or Guatemala, for example). While China did recently tighten their rules for who can qualify as an adoptive parent, these changes were announced well in advance and implemented pretty smoothly.

Regarding costs, definitely that is a major issue, although the tax credit (which I am filing for this year) has now been raised to over $11,000, which certainly helps, at least if you can afford to wait a year or so to get it. Be sure to research your adoption agency carefully before committing to them, check with the Better Business Bureau, etc. We used Commonwealth Adoptions International, which has an office in Cranberry Township, and had a good experience.

Finally, as to your question about nuts - I have traveled to Russia and some other East European countries, although not Ukraine or Kazakhstan specifically. Peanuts do not seem very prevalent in the cuisine of this region. Other nuts are somewhat more so, particularly hazelnuts, it seems. The problem for an allergy situation is that if you are ordering food in a restaurant or buying it in a store, you may not be able to find out exactly what the ingredients are. (Though you may have somewhat better luck buying packaged foods, as the packages are often multilingual and may have an ingredient list in English.) I am not sure about the cuisine in Kazakhstan, because it is in Central Asia rather than Europe, and I expect that the cuisine would show more of an Asian influence.

Sorry this was so long, but I hope it was helpful. Best of luck with your international adoption adventure - it is always an adventure, in one way or another!!

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