International adoption is getting a lot of attention these days.
The tabloids have come out with dozens of articles focusing on recent international celebrity adoptions. The story goes something like this. A celeb travels to a foreign country and boom, adopts a child. Several weeks later you hear the stories of the birth parents complaining that their baby was in a sense kidnapped. It’s hard to know whether these celebs are victims of bad publicity or if there was indeed some foul play. Granted I want to believe these “role models” have respected the international laws and that the adoption was legal.
The other controversy surrounding international adoption centered on the story of an American woman who “returned” the little boy she adopted from Russia. For those who are not clear, adopted children are not puppies you can return. Once the adoption is final – that’s it. They are your children with all the rights of a natural born child — for better or for worse.
The truth is, for every tabloid story that comes out, there are hundreds if not thousands of successful international adoptions in the US.
According to the book The Complete Adoption, there are lots of aspects of international adoption that you should know. For example, usually there is no birth parent intermediary (as many of these children are orphans). That is sometimes hard for the children as they grow up – not knowing who their birth parents are. In addition, you may never know whether or not there is a history if illness or disease in your child’s birth family.
The Complete Adoption says the time limit for international adoption is usually fixed — up to nine months – though for some friends of mine it took only four months – while for another took over two years. Like domestic adoption, it can vary depending on the situation.
In international adoption, you must use an agency so you do have someone to guide you through the process. The fact is you will have to travel to the country two or three times before taking custody of the child. If you have a busy career – you’ll need to factor that in that time.
The most pressing point about international adoption is this: If a child lives in an orphanage or with foster parents with a questionable standard of living, chances are that child may have some emotional scars.
The fact is many countries won’t allow you to adopt babies – but rather toddler-age children who can go through years of hardship. A friend of mine, who adopted a three year old girl from Russia, found the rambunctious child had severe Attention Deficit Disorder that was complicated by emotional bouts of temper tantrums and the extreme need for attention. Before sending the girl to a doctor to have her checked out, the child terrorized the family with fierce tantrums that would last long into the night. Today, after much work with a specialist, the girl and the family are doing much better.
Other friends of mine who have adopted toddlers internationally have seen instances of fetal alcohol syndrome and abuse complicate their children’s school work later in life.
Never-the-less, not all children have these difficulties – I mention them because if you are pursuing this route, you should at the very least be prepared and have a specialist on hand to help you assimilate the child into the family.
I realize I have outlined some of the challenges of international adoption because the truth is there ARE challenges and countries like Russia and China are bearing down on their adoption laws after years of abuse and neglect.
In part two, I will profile a woman who adopted three children from Korea. And they are one happy family!