In my role at MAA, I talk with families who are just starting to look into adoption, and often trying to determine the right path forward. An important first step when considering international adoption is to see which programs you are eligible for. You can view general eligibility guidelines for each country on our Country Comparison Chart, but to confirm which programs you qualify for, please fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form so our program staff can review your information and clarify any potential issues in eligibility.
Sometimes you are only eligible for one program and so the choice is clear, but when there is more than one option, how does one choose? Here are some of the questions I ask families to help them think through which country is the best fit for their family:
1.What age, gender, and special needs are you open to?
While essentially all international programs today are considered “special needs,” each program varies slightly in what the common special needs are. This post goes more in depth about the types of special needs we see in each program. Most programs allow families to choose a gender, but families waiting for referral of a young child in the Philippines must be open to either gender. While we see children of all ages in all countries, in Bulgaria and Ecuador, young children in need of international adoption all have special needs that are usually considered more complex.
2. Do you want to adopt siblings?
We mostly see siblings in five of our seven international programs: Colombia, Bulgaria, the Philippines, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. While we very rarely see twins in China, it is so rare that China is not a good option for a family who has their heart set on adopting siblings. Similarly, other than occasional waiting children, we don’t often see siblings in Thailand.
3. What is your travel availability?
The length of travel requirements ranges from just one week in the Philippines, to 4-6 months in the Dominican Republic, so how long your family is able to travel will impact your program options. Bulgaria requires two trips, while other programs are only one. While MAA always encourages both parents to travel in order to experience their child’s country and culture, for families where that isn’t possible there are countries that allow just one parent to travel, including China, Bulgaria, and the Philippines.
4. What are your cultural resources?
If you live in an area with a large Chinese community, but almost no Spanish speakers, it may make more sense to adopt from China than Colombia. This isn’t to say that you can’t adopt from a country if you don’t have people of that heritage in your area, but if you do so, you need to commit to providing those cultural opportunities for your child. It may mean long drives to other cities where there is more diversity, or paying for a tutor who can teach your child their native language via Skype lessons. You’ll need to consider if you’re prepared to make those greater efforts to keep your child and your family connected to their culture. Remember, their culture is now your culture too!
5. What is most important to you?
Every country program is different, and the reality is there may not be a program that fits exactly what you are dreaming and hoping for, so you’ll have to consider what your priorities are. Is it adopting a child who is as physically healthy as possible? Then you may want to look at Thailand, though the wait for a referral is around one to two years. Or is it more important to you to adopt a child more quickly? Then you may want to research special needs, find some you are open to considering, and adopt from a country like Colombia, where the process is often a year or less. Is it adopting from a country where there is a big need for adoptive families? Then you may want to consider the Dominican Republic, where the long travel requirement scares most potential families away.
These questions are personal, and the answers will be different for every family. It’s important to be honest with yourselves about your hopes and expectations so that you can choose a country where you are prepared for what the process will be like, and ultimately bring your child home.
Ready to get started considering international adoption? Call today or fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist and find the path for your family!
While nearly all international adoption is considered “special needs” these days, what needs we see varies widely country to country, depending on that country’s medical system, social services, and culture. Considering what special needs are common is one way to narrow down which adoption program is the right fit for your family, so read more below about each of MAA’s programs!
We work with the Thai Red Cross Children’s Home in Bangkok, a small children’s home that is part of a large hospital complex. As a result, many of the children come into the TRC’s care because they were born in the hospital, but their biological families are struggling in ways that make it hard to care for their child, including addiction and mental illness. As a result, most of the children placed are toddlers and young children who may be medically healthy, but have background risk factors. The TRC also receives children from government orphanages who need the additional medical monitoring the hospital can provide, so there are also waiting children with a variety of medical needs.
In the China program we see a wide range of medical needs. Typically medical care in China requires full payment up front before care is provided, so sadly many families place their child in institutional care so that they can receive the medical care they desperately need. There also continues to be cultural stigma around disabilities in China, especially visible disabilities, which plays a role in some children being abandoned. Thankfully, as resources grow more biological families are able to keep their children who have correctable conditions, and more and more domestic Chinese families are open to adopting young children with needs like heart defects and club foot, so there are fewer children with those needs in need of international adoption today.
In Colombia, some children are relinquished by their birth family, sometimes because they aren’t able to care for their medical needs. Other children have been removed from their birth families due to neglect or abuse. As a result, we see many older children who may not have any diagnosed needs, but have experienced trauma. Because we often have information about birth families, it’s sometimes known if a child had prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol, or other risk factors in their background. Many young children referred for adoption have these risk factors and developmental delays, and need families who will help them meet their full potential, whatever that may be.
While the Philippines allows families to submit their dossier and request referral of a child considered “healthy,” families still need to be open to some concerns or risk factors in their child’s background, such as prematurity, speech delays, or corrected medical needs. There are also waiting children of all ages with a variety of medical needs, including many children who have developmental delays. We also see many older children, sibling pairs and groups who are medically healthy, but experienced neglect or abuse in their biological families.
Since there is now a robust domestic adoption program in Bulgaria, there are very few young children with needs families consider “minor” in need of international adoption, as those children are usually adopted within Bulgaria. Children under six years old typically have neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and epilepsy, or multiple diagnoses and risk factors in their background. There are also many older children and sibling groups who were removed from their biological families due to abuse or neglect, and who may have developmental delays. Families who are open to Down syndrome or neurological needs can receive a referral very quickly after submitting their dossier.
The Dominican Republic
Since the Dominican Republic is a small country, it’s also a small adoption program, but there are still many children waiting for adoptive families! We see a range of different medical needs, as well as many young children with broad developmental delay diagnoses who need families prepared for whatever their future may be. Many of the children came into orphanage care very young when their biological families were unable to care for them. Since it is a small program, it is best for families who are open to a variety of different needs if they have not identified a specific waiting child.
In Ecuador, there is a thriving domestic adoption program, which allows many young children with minor needs to stay in their country of birth! As a result, most children in need of international adoption are over the age of six, though there are occasionally younger children with more complex needs, or who are part of a sibling group with older children. Many older children have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, so there are many sibling groups over the age of ten in need of adoption.
Though these are the specific medical and developmental needs we see in each country program, it’s always important to keep in mind that every child in need of adoption has experienced loss and trauma, regardless of where they live. The behavioral, emotional and attachment needs that result from those experiences may be not be diagnoses in their file, but will be some of their biggest needs. We encourage all our families to research how to meet all of their child’s needs to be as prepared as possible for when you finally bring them home!
Cancelled. A word
we’ve all become far too familiar with this past month. School – CANCELLED. Non-essential office work – CANCELLED. Wedding – CANCELLED. Sports – CANCELLED. The list goes on and on. But we are adapting. School and work is being done at home. Guests are witnessing nuptials over
zoom. Coaches are holding virtual
practices. We are getting by. We are surviving. We are looking forward to the future
envisioning, “This time next year, this will all be a memory.”
But when I heard this morning that our 2020 Hosting has been
CANCELLED, my heart sank. You see,
hosting isn’t just a moment in time.
Well, it is, but it isn’t. Yes,
it is three weeks. But it is so much
more than those three weeks. Hosting is
an opportunity for waiting children to find permanency. To find the loving family they have been
longing for for years. It is an
experience that will likely pave the way for a brighter future for that
child. So when I got the email with the
subject line HOSTING CANCELLED, it took everything in me not to slam my laptop
shut and pretend it wasn’t there. This
isn’t a vacation that is cancelled. It
isn’t something that can just easily be put off until next year. Because that year is an eternity for a
waiting child. It might as well have
said FUTURE CANCELLED. Or DREAM
CANCELLED. Or FOREVER FAMILY – CANCELLED.
It is devastating, and we are grieving with and for the
kids. The kids like Elise. Elsie is a quiet girl who loves to sing and
play basketball and volleyball. She is
also interested in drawing and writing. Elise
is 15, and this was her last chance to participate in hosting. She will age out when she turns 16. We are also grieving with the host families
who were committed to the children. We
will allow ourselves this sadness on behalf of them all. But only for a moment. Because then we must dry our tears, regroup,
and figure out a way to continue to stand by these children. And we can’t do that without YOU.
We will absolutely reschedule our hosting sessions
the moment we can! We will hit the
ground running the instant we get the go-ahead.
But in the meantime, we urge you to act NOW. Reach out to us. Ask us all of your questions related to
hosting and adoption. Get the process
started! That way, the moment those
doors open, we can all run through together!
In honor of the host children who have lost this opportunity, we are humbled to offer MAA’s Holding Hope Grant of $1,500 for ALL qualified Prospective Adoptive Parents who apply and contract with MAA by May 31, 2020 for any of our international adoption programs. Complete your Prospective Adoptive Parent form today to connect with an Adoption Specialist.
Not in a position to adopt right now? Donations like yours help allow us to continue to provide grants to families! Please consider donating today, so the waiting children can have a chance at a tomorrow.
Guest post by Rich and Ginger Kruiswyk, MAA Colombia adoptive family
Buckle up … this is a long post, full of twists and turns. When we last updated you, we were facing a four-day mandatory lock-down, which we are now on the second day of. We are confined to our hotel room during this time. No one is allowed to be out in the city, with very few exceptions. Our hotel does not have cleaning staff or restaurant service. There are a few food services that are allowed to deliver food (restaurants and grocery stores). But, all in all, the city street we can see from our hotel room, that is usually crammed with people and vehicles (and lots and lots of motorcycles), is eerily quiet.
Thursday morning we
had another little adventure as Naomi was complaining of pretty intense tooth
pain. Naomi has some minor disabilities, including speech delays, and is not
always easy to understand. Plus, she has some processing delays that make it
harder for her to understand what we are asking. We understood the pain to be
pretty bad (she had mentioned it to Rich the previous day when Ginger was not
around), and, knowing the lock down went into affect the following day, we
messaged our agency. These people are truly amazing!! One of our local contacts
reached out to her dentist, who was only a 5 minute walk from here. Ginger
zipped over there with Naomi (made sure they had their masks on) and we were in
and out in about 20 minutes. Praise God it was nothing serious and she is doing
just fine now.
But, while Ginger was
there, she received truly devastating news … the Colombian president decided
it was in the best interests of his people to close his borders to all incoming
traffic beginning Monday, March 23rd … FOR 30 DAYS!!! This means no planes
flying in for 30 days. So while there is no ban on leaving the country, there
will not be any planes here to take people home.
We were put in a
terrible position … do we stay with the girls, knowing we have no way home to
our other children for 30 days at minimum, or do we return the girls to FANA
(transition home) and fly home to our other children?
When we were together
again, we had the one of the most difficult discussions (if not THE MOST
difficult) we have ever had. At the end, after looking at how rapidly things
have changed over the last week, we made the decision that it was best to
return to the United States at this time. This was primarily influenced by
several big factors: the thought that 30 days might turn into 60 or 90 days, or
more (this seems a very real possibility when schools and universities are
canceling activities 2 months out) and the fact that we know the girls will be
very well cared for at FANA. They are truly the most amazing and loving people,
and we know the girls are loved by the staff. They will get to be with friends,
continue with some education, and will receive love and counseling. We will get
to Skype with them weekly as well. Yes, we considered having one of us stay
here while the other returned home, but rejected that option because 1) we
didn’t feel living in an apartment for 30 or more days (with no opportunity for
social interaction with peers or semi-formal education) would be a good outcome
for the girls, and 2) we had not yet completed integration, which means the
remaining parent would be able to do very little to advance the adoption
process until we were both together again.
Next we had to tell
the girls. We cannot tell you how absolutely horrible it was to have to tell
them .. no words can adequately describe that conversation. So so so many tears
cried by all four of us as we talked. We are all truly devastated at this turn
of events. We tried to emphasize to the girls that we will be back AS SOON AS
WE CAN, as soon as the borders are open, we will be back. Again, we are blessed
because the girls have the BEST counselor at FANA who will help them understand,
especially where our Spanish cannot get across to them all we really want to
Just when we were
settling into the reality of leaving, we were given the news that we might not
be allowed to leave. We are not going to go into the details of the reason
behind that so that we can protect the privacy of our girls, but after
preparing the girls to get picked up Thursday afternoon and making flight
arrangements for Saturday, we were told to change our flights to Sunday, and
then, that we might not be able to leave AT ALL….that we might have to remain
in country indefinitely, until the travel ban is lifted. This was too much for
Ginger, who basically had a meltdown (behind closed doors, so the girls did not
see or know).
Our expectation was
that we would find out for sure on Friday. After waiting all day, we received
word that our agency made arrangements to be sure we could get out of the
country on Sunday. We were simultaneously relieved and crushed. So, our flight
leaves tomorrow morning at 7:30. The girls went back to FANA this afternoon. To
say it was a difficult good bye would be an understatement.
The people at our
agency have been absolutely amazing throughout all of this. They sent us
groceries Thursday morning to help us get through the citywide lock down
(before the travel ban was announced), they have kept in constant contact with
us as we have waited for news, they answered all our questions, and have been a
very understanding and sympathetic ear as we have struggled with (and continue
to struggle with) the decisions we have had to make. Several of the local staff
have even taken the time to talk to and reassure our girls. And, mind you, we
are not the only family here! There are several others at various stages of the
process that they are working with and we know are helping in similar and other
ways throughout this nightmare. We are truly blessed by them! And, the
psychologist at FANA has also been in contact and is very supportive.
Finally, a shout out
to our kids at home!! We skyped with them yesterday, at the request of the
girls, and filled them in with what was going on. We did not know the final
outcome at that time, so we had to tell them we might not be home for 30 – or
more – days. They are troopers. While they may also be struggling with the
current situation, they understood and were willing and are very able to hold
down the fort for as long as needed. We know we have several friends who have
checked in on them while we’ve been gone this last week (so much has changed at
home since we left, it is unbelievable), and we are beyond grateful for them,
too. We hope to be pressing everyone back into service in a little over a month
so we can come back down to Colombia and BRING OUR GIRLS HOME!!
In the meantime, we
have a list of prayer requests:
1. Pray for the
girls, for their peace and that they know in their hearts that they are loved,
that we are coming back, that they are Kruiswyks now.
2. For our safe
return home. We are flying through Houston, and we will immensely grateful to
be back on US soil. We will be wearing masks, gloves, basically keeping our
hand in our pockets, and taking every conceivable precaution.
3. That the measures
being taken, by people all around the world, are enough to stop the spread of
COVID-19 so we can get back to Colombia ASAP
4. That the 30-day
ban is enough, so we can be back with our girls sometime in late April or early
5. For peace for us –
this has been incredibly difficult, we have questioned our decision more times
than we can count as we have looked into the eyes of our daughters here in
Colombia and into the future.
6. That we won’t be
judged by others for our decisions. If only people could understand the agony
experienced by us and others in similar (and different) positions, maybe there
would be more empathy and less judgment. In fact, shouldn’t we always strive to
leave judging up to God and instead just love? We’re pretty sure that is what
God calls us to do.
This journey has not
gone how we expected it to go in any way .. ANY WAY!! However, we know that God
knew about this all along. While Ginger definitely struggled, she also stated
that if we have to remain here, then God must know we need to be here in
Colombia more than we need to be home. She would be lying if she didn’t admit
that she is still very grateful that she gets to return home. Happy … no, not
happy. Happy only if our daughters were coming with us. But grateful to know
the girls are loved and safe here, and we can return home to make sure our
other children stay safe as well.
Finally, one last
little push – if you feel God is leading you to adoption … DO IT!!! These
children are worth every bit of it. These last few weeks have been scary –
including, no toilet paper!! We have eight (soon to be ten) people living in
our house, so we need toilet paper! What we are facing is nothing compared to
what many orphaned children around the world face. We miss and need toilet
paper, they miss and need a home. We are blessed, and we should do something
with all we have been blessed with.
Thank you for your
prayers, and we ask you to pray us home. God willing, we should get home by
8:00 pm Sunday evening … hopefully we’ll be coming back to you in about 30 days
to tell you our next departure date.