International adoptions occur when someone adopts a child from another country and brings them home to live in the adoptive parent or parents’ country. These are also called “transnational” adoptions. The US is home to more internationally adopted children than any other country. International adoptions became popular after World War II. Typically, children are adopted from developing countries and brought to wealthier and more developed countries like the US, though this is not always the case.
International adoptions can be very complicated because so many different laws may apply. Potential adoptive parents need to follow the laws of the country from which the child is being adopted, the laws of the state in which the adoptive parents live, and US immigration law. Adoptions also need to comply with international law, including the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Hague Convention aims to protect children from being sold, kidnapped, or trafficked. This is an especially important concern with international adoption, since many countries may not have the same safeguards against baby selling that the US has in place. Since parents from the US seeking to adopt internationally tend to have much greater financial resources than the birth parents, the line between voluntary termination of parental rights and economic coercion can become murky. However, laws have been drafted to specifically protect against this and similar situations.
Complications Surrounding International Adoption
For birth parents, international adoption can potentially provide an opportunity for their children to be brought up in a more economically secure setting than the birth parents can provide. It also can help children escape potentially dangerous situations in their country of birth. However, due to the norms surrounding international adoption and its costs, an open adoption can be more difficult in this context.
Upon reaching adulthood, transnational adoptees sometimes express feelings of not belonging in either their country of birth or the country where they grew up. These feelings can be exacerbated when the adoption is transracial as well. It is important for adoptive parents support connections between the adopted child and the culture of their birth parent(s), although this can sometimes be more difficult in practice than it is in theory.
International adoptions are also usually very expensive, and travel costs can add significantly to the costs associated with the adoption itself. Potential adoptive parents also need to thoroughly vet the international adoption agency that they are using to make sure it is a legitimate organization. Other countries may not provide the same degree of regulation and oversight of adoption agencies that the US does.
Finally, people looking to adopt internationally may also be subject to changing diplomatic relationships between countries. Sometimes countries will bar outside adoptions or adoptions to specific countries for political reasons. Since the international adoption process can take a long time, adoptive parents may be in the process of adopting when these changes happen and thus may need to start all over again.