“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” ―
You're thinking about adopting a child! How exciting! How wonderful! How daunting! Adopting internationally is a long and arduous process with more paperwork than you've ever seen in your life. For good reason... your decision will impact your child's life forever. As hard as it sounds, try not to rush through it. Take your time, weigh your choices carefully, keep your eyes wide open every step of the way. And if at all possible, try to enjoy the process!
- Start by learning all you can about the country (or countries) you are considering adopting from. Go beyond just finding it on a map. Read news articles relating to the country - on all topics, not just adoption. Do your child the honor of learning all you can about his/her birth country. And protect your child from an adoption tainted by corruption by being alert and aware of any potential issues in that country. (Corruption tends to be endemic - if it's rampant in other areas, it's more likely to be found in the adoption process).
- Join yahoo lists and other groups from the adoption community. Ask a lot of questions. Ask about the country. Ask about the process. Ask about agencies. Read the archives.
- When you've narrowed your choices down to a few agencies, research them too. Not just the agency, but the people behind the agency - the owner, president, country representative, as well as any staff they have in-country. Oftentimes when an agency is shut down for bad business practices or corruption, they just move to another state and re-open under a new name. (See In The Headlines for an example of one agency caught doing this). If a country requires agencies to be licensed by them to facilitate adoptions, make certain they have already received that license - do not commit your heart and your money to an agency based on promises of a license to come. That said, a license is not proof of ethical behavior. It's just a start. Ask questions, of your agency and any clients you "meet" on the lists. Look for red flags. Be willing to walk away if your gut tells you something's wrong. Remember, the agency is not hiring you, you are hiring them. The only loyalty you owe is to your family and your future child. (That said, always be respectful. Most people who work in adoption do so because they truly have a heart for adoption and want to help. It's rare for an adoption to go perfectly smoothly. Try not to let your anxiousness turn you into a difficult client!)
- Get educated. Many agencies offer classes, either in person or online, to help prepare prospective adoptive parents. These are valuable! Take advantage of all the resources they offer. There are many good books on adoption... Read, read, read! The wait will go much faster if you fill it preparing yourself to be the best parent you can be.
- Remember that even though it seems like they are making you jump through a ridiculous number of hoops and pay an enormous number of fees, the US Government works for you too... and they are there to help you. Check out this helpful guide they've made for prospective adoptive parents. Go to the State Department website and read the Country Information, and check the Alerts and Notices, and download all the forms you'll need. Go to the USCIS website and click around there too.