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All About Adopting from Thailand!

All About Adopting from Thailand!

MAA recently opened our newest adoption program in Thailand. While it is new to us, it is not new to Program Director Lindsey Gilbert, who previously ran a Thailand Adoption Program for almost five years. Here she shares more about the process and the children in need of adoption!

Thailand is a beautiful country, called the “Land of Smiles,” and when you visit it’s easy to see why! The people of Thailand are so friendly and welcoming, with warm hospitality and generosity. Like all countries, it has its challenges, and this includes vulnerable and orphaned children who are in need of adoption. MAA is partnering with the Thai Red Cross (TRC), a small children’s home in Bangkok that is part of a large hospital complex. The TRC provides comprehensive child welfare services, assisting families who are struggling to provide care for their children by connecting them with support. When the challenges a child’s parent is facing can’t be overcome, the TRC will see if any extended family can care for the child. If that isn’t possible, then at that point they will turn to adoption. While there is some domestic adoption in Thailand, there are still many children who do not find a family within their country and are in need of international adoption to provide permanency.

Families who meet the eligibility guidelines can submit their dossier to the TRC requesting the referral of a young child or toddler. The youngest children are around 12 months at time of referral, though most are 18-48 months. Families typically receive a referral within 1-2 years. From match to travel is about 7-12 months, and that long wait is probably the most challenging part of the program! Occasionally families slightly outside the eligibility guidelines may receive an exception from the adoption board, so inquire even if you are not sure you are eligible.

Children referred to waiting families are considered healthy by the TRC’s adoption board, however, most will have some background risk factors or minor concerns, as children coming from difficult history and living in an institution. The most common include:
– Prematurity
– Prenatal exposure (most commonly drugs, amphetamines or opiates, though this can also include tobacco or alcohol exposure)
– Birth parents with mental illness or cognitive disability
– Birth mother testing positive for HIV, syphilis, or Hepatitis
– Respiratory issues/recurrent respiratory infections
– Recurring ear infections
– Medical needs that have been treated or resolved (hernia, undescended testicle, tongue-tie, heart murmur)
– Mild developmental delays (speech, motor, cognitive)

There are also a small number of waiting children at the TRC, who have more complex medical or developmental needs, or may be medically healthy but older (age 7 and up). We see a range of special needs, but some of the common ones include heart defects, respiratory issues, cerebral palsy, ADHD, developmental delays and other neurological diagnoses. The children are not yet listed on our website, but contact us to learn more about the children we are advocating for! The adoption board considers families case by case for waiting children, and are open to matching waiting children with families who don’t meet all the eligibility guidelines.

Travel to Thailand is one trip, typically about 10-16 days, and both parents must travel. Adoptions are not finalized in Thailand, families must complete post-placements reports until 6 months after placement, and then can finalize the adoption in US courts.

While it is a small adoption program, it is a wonderful option for some families! Contact us to learn more about Thailand and whether it could be the path for your family. Email Lindsey or complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn more!

Cancelled… Again

Cancelled… Again

Top row: Lily, 17 and Luna, 15; Jordyn, 13; Nolan, 10, Nick, 8, and Noah, 5; Javier, 13.
Middle: Layla, 10; Roman, 15 and Reid, 12; Luisa, 12; Jago, 9.
Bottom: Antonio, 16, and Arlo, 9; Slade, 4; Maddox, 10, Miles, 9 and Mason, 5; Marko, 7

It was nine months ago that we cancelled hosting for summer 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak, heartbroken for the children but knowing the safety of all involved had to be at the forefront. We reassured ourselves “This time next year, this will all be a memory.”

Now here we are, almost a year later, cancelling summer hosting… again. Even after months of cancelling trips, weddings, school, and more, this stings afresh. We look at the faces of children from Colombia who we were preparing to host, and worry “will they still find an adoptive family?” Hosting has always been about finding families for the children who wait the longest for adoption: older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs. As a result of our last hosting session in 2019, every single child found an adoptive family! Hosting gave families a chance to get to know the child and prepare for when they come home forever, making sure they had the resources in place to parent well. Without that reassurance, will they still come forward, taking the leap?

It’s a question we can’t answer; only you can. This requires you to be brave. Adoption is always a step into the unknown whether you host your child or not, any family who has hosted will tell you they learned new things about their child after adoption. So we implore you, to dig deep and find the courage to say yes, even if it’s with a nervous heart and trembling hands. We will come alongside you and walk you all the way to the finish line of adoption and beyond, supporting you after you come home and start the hard work of becoming a family. 

As of this post the Colombia adoption process is open and moving forward. Travel to Colombia for adoptive parents is open at this time; no quarantine period is required, just negative covid testing before and after arrival. Colombian adoption authorities understand the importance of preparing children for adoption, and most families can Skype/Facetime with their child regularly leading up to the adoption. Our Post Adoption Support Specialist Adriana Chaves is from Colombia and fluent in Spanish, and is ready to support you and your child after you come home. View the children waiting for adoption here, and complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist and start the process to bring your child home!

More Than Numbers

More Than Numbers

38- that’s the number of children who came home to their adoptive families through MAA in 2020. Just half the number of children who came home the previous year. If that reduction were due to fewer children needing to be adopted, that would be good news, but unfortunately that is not the case. The reduction is due almost entirely to the coronavirus pandemic, mainly amongst families in the China program, where travel is still not open, though families adopting from every country were delayed, and many families are choosing not to start the adoption process during the pandemic, for understandable reasons.

So why even share the number when it’s so, well, small? Because it’s not just a number; it’s children.

22 siblings who were adopted together, keeping their connection.

14 children age 10 and older, when chances of adoption are so much lower.

12 children who were hosted, reunited with their host families.

38 children who had no permanency and stability for the future, now beloved sons and daughters.

When you see behind the number, the faces of the children whose lives are forever changed, it’s easy to celebrate 38. We would celebrate even one child gaining a family. So congratulations to the children and families who came together in 2020, and we look forward to celebrating all who come home in 2021.

Considering adoption in 2021? Email Lindsey Gilbert or complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with us today!

How You Can Support Post-Adoption Families and Adoptees

How You Can Support Post-Adoption Families and Adoptees

Dear Friend,
What a year it has been! We pray that you and your family have weathered this crazy COVID storm, and that this letter finds you and yours healthy. We surely are living through history, with the pandemic affecting every aspect of life, adoptions included. While many countries are allowing adoptive families to travel, others have not yet reopened, and our hearts break for the families and children waiting to be united. Despite the closures, despite the painful delays, and despite the unknowns, MAA remains dedicated not just to finding families for the children who wait, but supporting those families and children for life, and this is the reason I’m writing to you today.

We know that when an adoptive family finally meets their child, that’s not the end of the journey, it’s just the beginning. Attachment, culture shock, and challenging behaviors of all kinds are the norm for adoptive families, and the uncertainty of the pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges. Prior to the pandemic, we were already busy working behind the scenes to strengthen our post-adoption support for all of our families, and now that work is more needed than ever.

Over the past several years, we have recognized that the face of ‘the adopted child’ is changing. The children in need of adoption are almost all older, medically fragile, and/or sibling groups, all with histories of trauma, and families frequently need support and guidance to successfully emerge as a bonded family. Adriana Chaves initially joined the MAA team as the Hosting Coordinator, but as hosting became impossible this year due to covid, a new purpose emerged. Adriana has her master’s degree in Clinical and Family Psychology, so it was a natural fit for her to step into a new role as MAA’s Post-Adoption Wellness Therapist. She has been running virtual support groups for adoptive parents and adoptees, helping families identify needed resources in their area, and providing one-on-one post-placement support to families going through significant challenges. Additionally, she’s provided cultural education for families in our Colombia program, with 30 families attending her recent webinar on Colombian culture!

The Colombia Kids Group has been a great safe place for our daughter to socialize during these unusual times with kids just like her. She has been able to connect with children that she interacted with at her orphanage and has also been able to talk with other children with similar stories to her. It is a unique, friendly, no pressure group that she looks forward to participating in.

-Michelle, MAA Adoptive Mom

So on this Giving Tuesday, we are reaching out to ask for your help in supporting our mission to bring hope, love, and connection by serving children, individuals, and families in the areas of adoption, foster care, and support services. Thanks to a generous donation this summer, we were able to offer our post-adoption support groups to all families, whether they adopted through MAA or not, but for that work to continue and grow, we need donations to continue too. Visit our new donation page, and when you select “Post-Adoption Services” 100% of your donation will go to our work supporting post-placement families and their children. For those who can, please consider a recurring monthly donation, so we can consistently provide these essential services to any family who needs them!

From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of adoptive families and children, thank you for your consideration. We are all ‘in this together’, in more respects than one.

Please stay safe and God bless!

Sincerely,
Diana Bramble, MBA, LMSW
Executive Director of Operations

National Adoption Awareness Month: Adoptee Voices to Learn From

National Adoption Awareness Month: Adoptee Voices to Learn From

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and who better to share about adoption than adoptees? We’ve gathered a variety of resources from adoptee voices below, and encourage adoptive families to check some of them out, whether you’re in process for your first adoption or have been home with your children for years! Even when an adoptee is not from the same country as your child or of the same race, they will likely share some of the same experiences and feelings. Some of these voices will challenge you, as adoptees share their sadness and grief around their adoption, but we encourage you to sit with their experience and see what you can learn. These adoptees take the time to share their stories to help the next generation of adoptive families and adoptees.

Blogs/Websites

  • Red Thread Broken: Grace Newton was born in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, and adopted by an American family when she was three years old. Her site has myriad resources, including blog posts, film and book reviews, and more. Be sure to check out her recent post about using the game Jenga as a conversation starter with your child!
  • Lost Daughters– “Lost Daughters is an independent collaborative writing project founded in 2011.  It is edited and authored exclusively by adult women who were adopted as children… Our authors come from a variety of walks of life, world views, religions, political stances, types of adoption, countries of origin, and countries of residence. Our ages span from early 20’s to late 60’s. Although we cannot possibly cover every experience and perspective of adoptees on our blog, we try our best to provide insight on what it is like to live adoption from the adoptee perspective.”
  • Dear Adoption– Founded by Reshma McClintock, a transracial, intercountry adoptee from India, Dear Adoption accepts submissions from adoptees of all views and backgrounds to share their experience.
  • Only Black Girl– Rebekah was adopted domestically; she’s Black, her adoptive family is white. She writes about her experiences being the only Black person in her town, and shares the stories and experiences of transracial adoptees.
  • Therapy Redeemed– Cam Lee Small was trans-racially adopted from Korea. He holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed clinical counselor, focusing specifically on adoptees and adoptive families. He offers many resources online in addition to his counseling services, including workshops, and shares essays on a variety of topics.

Films

  • Closure– Angela Tucker is a Black woman, adopted by a white couple at one year old and raised in a large, multiracial family. Her adoption was closed, and this documentary follows Angela for two years as she searches for her birth family.
  • Side-by-Side– 100 short films, each interviewing one Korean man or woman who was either adopted internationally, or who aged out of orphanage care.
  • Somewhere Between– Filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowles adopted her daughter from China, and made this documentary to learn more about the experience of older adoptees. It follows four teenagers adopted from China to the US as children, as they journey back to China and attempt to understand their own identities and stories.
  • Lion– Based on the book (listed below) by Saroo Brierley, detailing his experience getting accidentally separated from his family in India at five years old, before being trans-racially adopted to Australia. Twenty-five years later he begins to search for his birth family.
  • Calcutta is My Mother– This documentary by Reshma McClintock tells her story of being transracially adopted by a family in the US, and many years later returning to the city of her birth, to try to connect to her roots and culture that she feels so distant from.

Books

Podcast/Youtube

  • Yes I’m Adopted, Don’t Make it Weird– Brett and Daveaux were both adopted from Korea, and have a ton of videos covering a wide range of topics, which they discuss with honesty and plenty of humor!
  • The Adoptee Next Door– Angela Tucker (of the film Closure, listed above) interviews adoptees of all different backgrounds on a variety of topics.
  • Adoptees On– hosted by Haley Radke, she talks with adoptees from different backgrounds as well as adoptees who are therapists to gain their expertise.

Social Media

We hope you enjoy and learn from these varied voices from the adoptee side of the adoption triad! If you have questions or want to discuss what you read reach out to your case worker or email us.

Statistics: Special Needs of Special Focus Children in China Age 0-5

Statistics: Special Needs of Special Focus Children in China Age 0-5

International adoption is an ever-changing world; some changes happen quickly, even overnight, and others are slow, gradual shifts over years as culture and societal systems change in sending countries. In China, we have seen a steady progression in the past several years, where fewer young children with needs adoptive families typically consider “minor” are listed for international adoption, especially girls. This shift is happening for wonderful reasons, because children are more often able to stay with their biological families, and more families in China adopting domestically are open to considering special needs. Additionally, in December 2019 the Chinese adoption authority, the CCCWA, made a change to the method for matching children designated “dossier only” or “LID.” These are the children who are typically younger and have needs many families consider minor. Under the new system families may wait years to be matched with a child designated “LID,” so we are encouraging all families considering the China program to be open to the type of needs seen in “Special Focus” children. “Special Focus” children are the children the CCCWA considers harder to place for adoption, due to their age, special needs, or both.

We wanted to get an accurate picture of the children who are in need of international adoption in China currently, so we looked at the last twelve groups of newly prepared Special Focus children’s files, from February 2019 to July 2020. For this first set of statistics, we focused on younger children (listed for adoption before their sixth birthday), since these children are typically matched directly with waiting families, so it’s harder to get a sense of the what the most common special needs are by looking only at waiting children. Most children over six wait for a family, and if you are interested in adopting an older child we are happy to talk with you about the many waiting children!

Notes:
We counted each child by their primary diagnosis, and did not list other special needs that are typically a direct result of that primary diagnosis (ie. a child listed with a brain abnormality diagnosis who also has an epilepsy diagnosis was only counted in the total for brain differences, since epilepsy is often a secondary diagnosis caused by their brain abnormality, a child diagnosed with spina bifida and hydrocephalus was only listed under spina bifida, etc). We did not note secondary diagnoses that are typically considered very minor, including hernia, undescended testicle, heart murmur, strabismus, etc. If a child had two apparently unrelated significant diagnoses, we counted both, but only counted the child once in the total number for their age/gender group. Since many of these children were matched directly to a family, we are not able to view the details of their files, and can only categorize as best we can given the basic information on the list of files from the CCCWA. Some additional notes about some of these special needs categories are below.

Down syndrome: Many of the children with Down syndrome had additional diagnoses, including heart defects, gastrointestinal issues, etc. We did not count any of these diagnoses in the other totals.

Heart defects: The majority of these children were only listed with the generic description “congenital heart defect,” so specific diagnoses were mostly unknown. That said, special focus children typically have more complex heart defects, including tetralogy of fallot, pulmonary atresia, complex dextrocardia, double outlet right ventricle, transposition of the great arteries, and single ventricle.

Gastrointestinal: This includes anal atresia/imperforate anus, jejunal atresia, intestinal atresia, necrotizing enteritis, pyloric stenosis, etc.

Developmental delay: We only counted children who did not have another significant diagnosis besides some type of developmental delay (motor, speech, cognitive, psychomotor, etc). Many children with other diagnoses also had secondary diagnoses of developmental delay of some type, these children were not counted in this category.

Brain Differences: This included a wide variety of diagnoses, including agenesis of corpus callosum, arachnoid cysts, widened septum pellucidum, cerebral dysplasia, enlarged ventricles, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, etc.

Urogenital: This includes hypospadias, ambiguous genitalia, micropenis, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, bladder extrophy, etc.

Cleft lip/palate plus 2nd need: While most children who are only diagnosed with cleft lip and palate are designated LID/”dossier only,” there were many Special Focus children who had cleft lip and/or palate along with one or more other diagnoses, so it’s still a need parents should research and consider. Many of the children had needs commonly associated with cleft lip/palate, such as hearing loss or speech delays, others had different birth defects, such as a heart defect or microtia, that could indicate an underlying genetic cause.

Limb Differences: Many children were only listed as “limb differences” so the specific diagnosis is unknown, others included one leg being shorter, missing fingers and toes, and hand deformity.

Partial Vision Impairment: includes glaucoma, cataracts, ptosis, and loss of vision in one eye. Some of these children may be fully blind, it’s unknown without seeing their full files.

Other: Each of these children was the only child with their diagnosis, includes diabetes, widened button hole/low nose root, teratoma, neurocutaneous syndrome, leukemia, spinal muscular atrophy, myocardial enzyme, skull malformation, and Rett syndrome.

Liver: Most of these children had biliary atresia or similar diagnoses, one child diagnosed with hepatocele

Skin: Includes nevus, epidermis bullosa, eczema, ichthyosis, and scars.

Esophageal/Trach: Most of these children had esophageal atresia

Orthopedic: Includes scoliosis, missing ribs, and hip dysplasia

Kidney: Includes hydronephrosis, missing or malformed kidney

Wait For Your Child, So They Don’t Wait For You: Down Syndrome Adoption in Bulgaria

Madison Adoption Associates has always focused on finding families for waiting children, so we were surprised when our NGO partner in Bulgaria encouraged us to have families submit their dossiers requesting referrals of children with Down syndrome, instead of requesting to be matched with a waiting child. But once they explained their reasoning, it made so much sense.

First, it’s important to understand what we mean when we say “waiting child”- a waiting child is simply a child who has been deemed eligible for adoption, but when adoption authorities in the child’s country reviewed families with completed dossiers, none of those families were open to a child of that age and gender, and with their particular medical or developmental diagnoses. So instead of being referred to a family, the child is listed with adoption agencies who will advocate and try to find a family who will start the adoption process in hopes of adopting that child. Nothing is inherently wrong in this process, but as our partner NGO explained, there are a couple reasons the referral process can be better for both families and children.

Waiting children with Down syndrome are periodically listed in Bulgaria, and usually pursued quickly by a family who steps forward and starts the adoption process from scratch, but when a family has already submitted their dossier before being referred a child, it’s a much shorter time until that child comes home. For families, this means less time between seeing your child’s face, and holding them in your arms. More importantly, for children, this means less time spent in an institution, and a quicker path to their family. In Bulgaria, for example, when pursuing a waiting child it takes about one year from the time a family starts their home study until traveling to complete the adoption, but for a family who has already submitted their dossier, after receiving a referral the first trip is done within one month, and the second trip to pick up their child is 3-4 months later.

So instead of families waiting until they see a child with Down syndrome on the waiting child list before they start the adoption process, MAA and our NGO partner hope to find families to submit their dossier to Bulgaria. Then we can see more children matched before getting to the waiting child list, and home with their families sooner. For young children with Down syndrome, those months saved mean they are in their families receiving medical care, physical and speech therapy, and devoted attention that much sooner, at a time that is so crucial for their health and development.

In some ways, this route is harder on families; you are taking a leap of faith without seeing a specific child, and waiting for the day you get the phone call that there is a child who needs you. But think of it this way- you are giving your child a gift. You are doing the waiting for them, so they don’t have to wait on you. If you are open to adopting a child with Down syndrome, consider whether this could be the path for your family to bring a child home, and take that first step forward knowing your child is out there, and you’ll be waiting for them when they need you.

For families who submit their dossier open to Down syndrome, our NGO will charge the waiting child fee (6600 Euros) instead of the typical fee for the traditional program (8000 Euro), and at time of dossier submission only 600 Euros are due. Families can expect to receive a referral approximately one month after dossier submittal. Couples, single women and men age 25 and older are eligible to adopt from Bulgaria. There are no specific criteria for marriage length, family size, finances or health. Email LindseyG@madisonadoption.org or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist!

There Are Hundreds of Mayas

Two weeks ago a Colombian children’s home contacted MAA, along with the other agencies they work with, with a desperate plea: to help find a family for a sweet fifteen-year-old girl who was running out of time. Maya was hosted in the US last year and had an adoptive family in process, but for reasons that had nothing to do with her, the family had dropped out. She needed a new family who could complete the homestudy, dossier, and file I-800 by November, or she would age-out of adoption eligibility. The iapa staff raved about what an amazing kid she was, saying she’s “100 out of 100,” one of the best kids they ever had!

We put out the plea, as did other agencies, and within 24 hours had multiple families inquiring! Thankfully a family at another agency stepped forward almost immediately and submitted Letter of Intent, and Maya should have a family in time. We were so relieved. When we told the families who had been interested in her they were all happy for her, but when we said we’d love to share about the other children in danger of aging out who still wait for families… no one was interested.

I understand how a particular child can grab your heart, and children are people, not replaceable or interchangeable, but Maya is just one of thousands of children waiting for a family, one of hundreds who will age-out of adoption eligibility in the coming months. If Maya’s story touched you, surely it’s possible that another child could too? Another face could call out to you saying “Are you my family?”

Harriet

Maybe it’s Harriet, just a few months younger than Maya. She likes to play soccer, basketball, and swim at the pool, but also enjoys just watching movies- all things she should be doing with her own family! Even though she missed out on two years of school, she is motivated to study and learn. She was supposed to come to the US for hosting this summer, her best chance of finding an adoptive family, but due to the coronavirus hosting was cancelled, and Harriet continues to wait for someone to see her.

Or maybe it’s Edward, whose face we can’t even post here due to his country’s regulations, but who has the brightest smile. His heart is to help and serve, and he often spends hours in the kitchen helping the cooks prepare the food and serve the children their meals. He never complains about dishes or chores assigned to him and genuinely does his very best. A gentle soul, he would never hit another child, and there have even been instances where another child has picked a fight with him and he has stood quietly, without retaliation. He is amazing at Zumba and putting dance steps to any song or beat. He likes to have discussions and talk about life rather than play or fool around like other boys his age. The older he gets, the more anxious he is that he may not get a family, but he still has hope that he could have a mother and father that will love and value him. Though he has until April for a family to file I-800, his country process moves very slowly so a family must be found very soon, or he will run out of time.

Brennan

Or what about Brennan? He helps younger children in the orphanage to get food and wash their bowls. Once he found a hurt sparrow on the way home from school and brought it to the orphanage medical staff to see if they could help. He was due to age-out of adoption eligibility in October, however, due to upcoming changes in China’s adoption laws he has likely gained two more years to find a family. But while we celebrate this news, we also acknowledge that he has already been waiting almost four years for a family. MAA has already advocated for him three times! Will more time make a difference for him? Or will it just be two more years of waiting only to still age out, without the permanency, stability, and support of a family?

Maya is a wonderful girl, but children shouldn’t need to be a perfect “100 out of 100” to get a family. They don’t earn a family by being good, they deserve a family because they are a child. Each of these kids will bring their family joy and challenges, but first they need someone to take the chance to bring them home- before it’s too late. 

Just some of the hundreds of children who will “age out” of adoption in the next two years: Elise, Hudson, Luna and Lily, Davie, Mahlia, Brennan, Timothy, Ruby, Cyrus, Orlando, Harriet, Ryan

Interested in learning more about older children waiting for adoption? Email Lindsey Gilbert, or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form today!

Now We Are Six

Now We Are Six

Last night, my daughter fell asleep on my chest. Maybe not all that notable, except that she’s not a baby, she’s six years old. She still needs my husband or I to stay with her until she falls asleep, but last night she crawled on top of me, stomach to stomach, head on my chest, and fell asleep. It was so very sweet (though difficult to escape from!), but mostly, it reminded me how very little she still is. I get at least one piece of artwork from her every day, usually a picture of our family. She loves to hold hands and snuggle. Her favorite outfits these days are too-big t-shirts from her dad’s childhood, paired with jeans so she can stick her hands in her pockets and proclaim “Look, I’m Daddy!” as she struts around the room. When her dad and I both join in a silly dance game with her, she positively beams up at us, so happy just to be with her family. I’m often struck by how much she’s growing up, but truly, six years old is still so little. Six is running in the sprinklers, building forts, playing with baby dolls and believing in magic.

When I talk with adoptive families, they often want to adopt a younger child, and in many people’s minds “younger” seems to end at five years old. But six-year-olds still very much need their mommies and daddies, and there are so many six-year-olds who don’t have any. All these six-year-olds are still waiting for families. Some have only been listed for adoption recently, but many have been waiting since they were younger and still haven’t been chosen. Now they are six- “older,” in the eyes of many, but with so much childhood still to have. They just need a family to share it with.

Top Row: Atticus, Dominic, Evelyn, Sherman
Middle: Coco, Thatcher, Davis, Eric
Bottom: Peyton, Marc, Rece, Lyric
Top: Zavier, Jackson, Marigold, Birger
Middle: Wallace, Cecelia, Davis, Phoenix
Bottom: Carlin, Sean, Jed, Lucio

Interested in learning more about adoption or one of these waiting children? Complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent Form to connect to an Adoption Specialist, or email LindseyG@madisonadoption.org.

How to Choose a Country for International Adoption: Five Questions to Ask Yourself

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, 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 see siblings in four of our five international programs: Colombia, Bulgaria, the Philippines, 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.

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 the Philippines, though the wait for a referral is around three 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 China or 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!