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Family going through international adoption

Is International Adoption For You?

expert and family perspective to help you decide

Isn’t it amazing that your child, the perfect complement to your family, might be born on the other side of the world? DFWChild is exploring different pathways to adoption (including domestic adoption and foster adoption). Here we’re talking to an expert and a local mom who has gone through international adoption to bring her little ones home.

Beginning the International Adoption Process

For a DFW mom named Julia, the inspiration for pursuing international adoption came from a British missionary who traveled to Asia in the 1930s. “Gladys Aylward defied culture and her times by adopting multiple orphans,” says Julia. “Her story really opened my eyes to the need.”

Julia’s husband Lloyd also felt a strong calling to adopt from abroad after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. “Seeing the coverage of the devastation and the hundreds of thousands of children who in the blink of an eye had no home and no parents broke our hearts,” said Julia. “They didn’t choose to be orphaned—no one does—and I knew I couldn’t choose to leave them that way.”

To move forward, Julia and Lloyd connected with Gladney Center for Adoption, a Fort Worth–based organization that has been facilitating foster, domestic and international adoptions for 130 years.

The international adoption process begins with a pre-application screening, which allows Gladney staff to confirm the prospective parents meet the requirements for adopting a child from the country that interests them.

For example, there is an overall preference from other countries to place children with married couples, but some countries allow single parents to adopt. Gladney also hosts orientation sessions (now virtual) that give families a better sense of the road ahead.

Once the formal application is complete, parents undergo home visits and interviews by social workers, file paperwork with the federal government and take adoption education courses. “Gladney offers a variety of training,” says Mary Chapman, the lead caseworker for Gladney’s Asia program. “We are most proud of our program that incorporates the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis, who founded TCU’s Institute of Child Development.”

Then the wait for a match begins. That process happens in different ways. Parents adopting from China or Taiwan, for example, may ask to adopt a specific child; sometimes Taiwan suggests a child for particular parents. If birth parents are in the picture, they could also contribute to the selection.

Chapman says for most families, it takes between one and four years to complete an international adoption—but the timeline depends on a variety of factors, including the family’s openness to ages, genders and medical needs as well as the processes of the country the parents select. “Based on our experience, most families adopting from China are able to complete their adoptions within one to two years, while most families adopting from Taiwan are able to complete their adoptions in two to three years.”

And Chapman advises families to not let COVID-19 stop them from beginning the adoption journey. “During this pandemic, families have really been able to move forward with the process relatively easily. You’re able to continue working on your paperwork; you’re able to continue looking at profiles of children you might want to match to and receiving referrals from our partner agencies abroad.”

Bringing Home Your Child

Taiwan was the country Julia and Lloyd chose for their adoption. Two years ago, they were able to bring home twins they named Rosie and Penelope (who goes by Pippin). The girls were 6 years old at the time. As is the case with most international adoptions, Julia and Lloyd traveled to their children’s home country to pick them up. Countries may also require parents to visit for court hearings and other matters.

Of course, travel is one aspect of international adoption that could be slowed by the pandemic. In the case of Taiwan, however, travel for adoptive parents is currently allowed (with pandemic-related restrictions put in place by the Taiwanese government). Regardless of the travel situation, though, Chapman says if you have been matched with a child, you won’t get “unmatched.” “The dates you’ll travel will just be pushed back,” she says.

When your travel is set, your visit may last from a week up to several weeks, depending on the country. For families adopting from China, the parents make a trip of two weeks to finish the process and pick up their little one. For Taiwan, it may be more than one trip, each about a week in length.

Then there is the matter of the adoption becoming final. Chapman notes that the time it takes for an adoption to become legally binding depends on the adoption laws in the child’s birth country. “In some instances, most notably the Philippines, parents take guardianship of the child, and after a successful post-placement period will adopt the child in local court.”

The Financial—and Emotional—Investment

It’s an extensive process, to be sure—and admittedly an expensive one.

The cost of an international adoption can range from about $30,000 to $50,000, says Chapman, depending on the country. “This includes U.S. agency fees, sending country fees, U.S. immigration processing fees, social services pre- and post-adoption, parent training, document preparation and authentication and other related costs,” she explains. Chapman also notes that a number of groups and organizations provide grants to adoptive families, particularly those who bring home older children or those with a medical or special need. “There is also a U.S. tax credit for adoptive families who qualify,” says Chapman.

Julia and Lloyd raised money every way they could think of to finance their adoption. “We held garage sales that our friends donated items to. We made cakes and pies and sold them to friends for birthdays and holidays. We cut any expense we could. [We] sold T-shirts. I crocheted winter beanies. Everything extra went to the adoption. We received grants, and friends donated,” recalls Julia. “Honestly, we prayed a ton, and God provided every step of the way.”

Of course, the investment isn’t just financial. There’s a strong emotional investment prospective parents make in the process.

“No matter what, you are going to get attached,” shares Julia. “You are investing your time, your money, your thoughts, all of it—just like you do when you are trying to have a biological baby.”

But it’s worth it, she continues. “Nothing in life is guaranteed, but we do know what happens to the kids who don’t get a family. We know how much harder things are for them. Life is always worth the sacrifice. Yes, it’s a long process, but time is passing anyway. It’s worth it, because the children are worth it. Every kid deserves to know they are loved and wanted.”

Even with their new parents’ devotion, the transition isn’t always easy. Julia points to her daughters’ loss of their birth family and birth country. “The grief for them is big, and to an extent it always will be,” Julia admits. “But again, we know what happens if we do nothing.”

And Chapman adds that the need is great. “There are so many children needing homes and loving parents,” she says. “Many parents are not first-time parents, and sometimes their children are in their teenage years. The family realizes all the resources, opportunity and love they have to give, and it changes everything for that child.”

For More Info

Julia says these books have been valuable for her family:

  • The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family, by Karyn Purvis, David R. Cross and Wendy Lyons Sunshine
  • The Whole-Brain Child, by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

To get more information on adoption and the Gladney Center, visit adoptionsbygladney.com.

Image courtesy of iStock.