I have created my family through adoption. Over the years I have worked with a number of adoption agencies and placement agencies as we were matched with my children. Many people have asked about our experience adopting domestically, internationally, and privately. Please note we are sharing OUR adoption experiences with the specific agencies and program we have worked with throughout the past 15 years. Obviously everyone who adopts has his or her own experience and recommendations.
Domestic adoptions means that the child is adopted in the United States. Domestic adoptions can be private or through an agency. Children adopted domestically are usually born in the United States although on some occasions, most particularly international adoptions which have disrupted, the children were born outside of the country but are American citizen
For our domestic adoptions I have primarily been matched with children in the California Foster Care System both locally and in other counties. Until the adoption is finalized my children had to be placed with me under my foster care license or as a "nonrelated extended family member.". Every child matched with my family has had to live with us for at least six months before adoption finalization, however usually the time period before getting our court date was between 10-15 months, and on one occasion it took three years.
A domestic adoption through my local Department of Social Services generally doesn't cost much, if anything. My initial evaluations, visits with social workers, and homestudy preparation was usually free. Additionally I was able to participate in free adoption preparation presentations and parenting classes offered to both pre and post adoptive parents. There were some fees associated with the cost of Fingerprint and Child Abuse Clearance, a physical and health screening, and CPR and First Aid Training.
When I used a private adoption agency to prepare my homestudy there were some fees attached. Although my agency did waive most of the fees since I was interested in adopting a special needs child. All of the adoption requirements are the same when using either a private adoption agency or your local County Department of Social Services to complete your homestudy.
International adoption is the adoption of a child or children, under the age of 16 years old, who are not living in the United States or are not United States citizens prior to their adoption. Each country which allows international adoptions has their own rules and regulations on the type of children who are available and the type of families with whom they will work. International adoptions require an international homestudy, from a licensed agency, which is similar to a domestic homestudy but usually written with more specific wording. Again, each country has different requirements on how to write the homestudy so a homestudy written for a Russian adoption might not have the correct information or wording for an adoption from China. Additionally many other official documents, such as birth certificates and marriage license or divorce decree, are required to complete an international dossier in order to adopt. All most all documents must be notarized and appostilled before submission to the authorities in the country from which you wish to adopt.
Adopting post-institutionalized children from other countries has been a challenging endeavor for our family. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for the faint at heart! First getting through the paper chase to adopt my children was a huge task in organization and tenacity. Then the wait and wait and wait for the call letting us know the court date. Then, usually within ten days, the next thing we knew we were traveling to a Russia (my children from Romania and Estonia were escorted home) where the language and the culture is so much different than I was used to in America. Finally after the stress of being in court for an adoption where I was completely relying on others to translate every word all the while wondering if I was answering the questions correctly, I get to start parenting! The problem is I am parenting children who are complete strangers, these are not the perfect children I was dreaming about after seeing a picture or two from the internet. These children, my children now, are independent and often stubborn little people with whom I did not share a common language or agenda. Often my new children don’t even understand what it means to have a parent or a family. In my experience, there are almost always many behavioral issues related to that lack of understanding. As predicted there are always bumps in the road when I first get started bringing the new children into the family. Frustration over communication breakdowns and lack of understanding often cause my children to have serious meltdowns during the first few weeks after joining my family. Frequently I feel like tantruming too! In most cases though, once a routine has been established my new children start adjusting to this huge life change. My experience is that after two long, and often grueling, months our lives together are starting to mesh. After four months our communication issues are improving and life is starting to feel like a family again.
While considering adopting internationally I recommend talking to people who have already completed international adoptions. If you are considering adopting an older child, age 5 and older, consider hosting an orphan over summer vacation. Many international adoption agencies have summer hosting program. Remember if you decide to adopt the child you host, you may only need to travel to the child’s county once. Also join internet discussion groups so you can to learn the good, the bad and the ugly of the international adoption process. Finally, read, read, and read everything you can get your hands on about international adoption. This way you can enter this process with your eyes wide open. I absolutely adore all of my children and these recommendations are not meant to discourage anyone but to enlighten newbies to not only the challenge but the hope and promise of raising an internationally adopted child.