Intercountry Adoption: Where Do I Start?
Series: Factsheets for Families|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2009|
Deciding If Intercountry Adoption Is Right for Your Family
What You Should Know
Intercountry adoption is just one way to build a family through adoption. Other options include adoption from domestic foster care and domestic infant adoption. Many families consider the following issues when deciding whether intercountry adoption is right for them:
- Adoptive parent requirements. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which must approve all intercountry adoptions, has two basic eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents: Petitioners must be U.S. citizens and, if unmarried, must be at least 25 years old when they file the petition to adopt. For married couples, USCIS has no age requirement and only one spouse must be a U.S. citizen.
- Timeframe. Like any adoption, intercountry adoption involves some uncertainty. The length and predictability of the process vary depending on the country, agency, lawyer, and individual child involved, but it generally takes from 1 to 4 years to complete an intercountry adoption.
- Child circumstances. Children in other countries need adoptive families for many of the same reasons children in the United States need foster care and adoptive families. These reasons may include abandonment, poverty, illness or death of the parents, or family issues such as substance abuse, child abuse, or neglect. Children may have health or emotional problems related to these reasons. There also may be cultural factors that contribute to the child's need for a permanent family, including the government's policies on population control, the country's economy, or others. It is helpful to understand what these factors are in the specific countries you are considering.
- Child's age. The Office of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, reports that in 2006 approximately 42 percent of children adopted internationally were younger than 12 months old, and another 42 percent were between 1 and 4 years old. According to U.S. immigration law, children must be younger than 16 years old on the filing date of the immigration petition in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States for purposes of adoption. (There are some exceptions to this. See page 2 of I am a U.S. Citizen: How Do I Immigrate an Adopted or Prospective Adopted Child or Help My Adopted Child Become a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident? at www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/A3en.pdf.)
- Eligibility for adoption and immigration to the United States. U.S. Immigration laws (the Immigration and Naturalization Act and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000) require children entering the United States for purposes of adoption to be classified as "orphans" (if they are from non-Convention countries) or as "Convention adopted people" (if they are from Convention countries), as defined by these laws. Convention adopted people must have parents who are "incapable of providing proper care." (See I am a U.S. Citizen: How Do I Immigrate an Adopted or Prospective Adopted Child or Help My Adopted Child Become a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident? at www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/A3en.pdf.)
Adoption of Relatives
Prospective adoptive children who are related to the petitioners/prospective adoptive parent(s) must qualify for adoption and immigration to the United States under all the same criteria as unrelated children. Relatives may be able to adopt if the children qualify as orphans or Convention adopted people. The requirements depend on the country in which the relative lives. (Information regarding specific requirements can be found on page 3 of I am a U.S. Citizen: How Do I Immigrate an Adopted or Prospective Adopted Child or Help My Adopted Child Become a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident? at www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/A3en.pdf.)
Some Places to Go
Compare the different ways to adopt. Read the Child Welfare Information Gateway (Information Gateway) publication Adoption Options: A Factsheet for Families (www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_adoptoption.cfm). These and other Information Gateway publications can be located through the Publications Catalog on the Information Gateway website: www.childwelfare.gov/catalog/
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