What to Know About International Adoption

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on May 04, 2022
5 min read

International adoption, or intercountry adoption, has its own set of requirements and rules that can differ from domestic adoption. Couples willing to expand their families with international adoption have to understand the process for everyone involved.

Every country has different health problems to deal with. Children born in different areas of the world can bring a range of diseases to the U.S. These health conditions could be tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, or hepatitis. 

Families need to research if the adopted child could spread any disease in their country. The Hague Adoption Convention ensures the protection of the children, birth parents, and adoptive parents throughout the international adoption process.

International adoption is a process that allows couples to adopt a child from a different country through permanent legal ways and then bring the child to their country to live with them permanently. 

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) refers to an international treaty that ensures the protection of all the parties involved in the adoption process. This includes the adopted child, their birth parents, and the adoptive parents. 

On April 1, 2008, the U.S. partnered with other countries to implement the Hague process. According to the procedure, the participating countries decided on an official Central Authority. The U.S. has the Department of State for this purpose.

The Hague Convention makes international adoption safe and ethical. But some problems, like flight suspensions, adoption bans, or country shutdowns, can happen anytime. American citizens can check out all the latest information on the U.S. Department of State official website.

Parents wondering how to adopt internationally should also take informed steps to ensure the safety of the process. For example, they should make sure they have complete information, including accurate social or personal history, any necessary paperwork, and the health history of the child. 

It's also essential to find an ethical and trustworthy adoption agency in your country and the one you're adopting from. Unfortunately, many fraudulent agencies take advantage of parents' vulnerability and involve them in child trafficking. 

It's completely safe and ethical to adopt from a Hague Convention country. Such countries safeguard the best interests of the child, families, and everyone involved in international adoption

The U.S. has specific qualification requirements that prospective parents must fulfill to adopt internationally. 

The international adoption requirements include the following:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen
  • Unmarried couples or individuals should be at least 25 years old
  • Married couples must adopt the child unanimously
  • You must fulfill any other requirements, such as fingerprinting, home study, and criminal history checks

You'll also have to understand and follow your home state's requirements and those of the country you're adopting from.

The medical examination process is essential to diagnose any health disorders in an overseas adopted child. The panel physician, a government-designated medical doctor, examines overseas immigrants, refugees, and adopted children arriving in the U.S. 

The primary purpose of the medical exam in the adoption process is to identify Class A conditions in the adopted children. These include:

  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Mental disorders (with associated harmful behavior)
  • Hansen's disease (leprosy)
  • Substance (or drug) abuse

If a child gets diagnosed, they receive hands-on treatment or a waiver before getting a visa to the U.S. The visa medical exam consists of:

  • A physical exam
  • Vaccinations
  • TB screening
  • A syphilis blood test, particularly for children aged 15 or older

After the medical examination, the panel physician gives the adoptive parents a sealed envelope containing all the medical exam forms. You'll have to hand over this package to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer upon arriving in the U.S. 

The officer then processes your paperwork. The adoptive parents should get an extra copy of the medical exam forms for their child's healthcare provider in the U.S. The adopted children should also be examined after entering the U.S. boundaries.

Once you succeed in your international adoption process, you'll need to take care of the post-adoption requirements. These include:

Acquiring U.S. Citizenship 

It's important to acquire U.S. citizenship for your child as soon as possible. If you delay the procedure, your child may face difficulty obtaining academic scholarships, legal working rights, voting rights, and fundamental citizen rights. In the worst-case scenario, your child may get deported.

Post-Adoption Reporting

Several countries ask adoptive parents or their agencies to submit post-adoption reports (PARs) on the adopted child's progress and welfare. This goes on for many years after the adoption. 

These reports describe the child's adjustment progress in the new family and country. PARs also give the adoption officials of the child's country confidence that the international adoption was for the betterment of the child.

Post-Placement Reporting

Many countries provide only provisional approval of adoption pending a child's residence with the new family in their country for a few months. Those countries require the adoptive parents to periodically submit post-placement reports (PPAs).

The reports help the child's origin country determine whether the child is bonding well with their new family and how they're adjusting to their new life. The submission of PPAs should be timely to finalize the adoption process as quickly as possible.

Compliance With Reporting Requirements

You should understand the reporting requirements of the country you're adopting from before applying for adoption. Every country requires a different number and frequency of reports. 

While some countries require parents to submit the report, others ask the adoption service providers to do the work.

The U.S. Department of State asks all the adoptive parents to comply with all the reporting requirements, including PARs and PPRs. If any prospective family fails to comply with these requirements, they may risk their chances of future adoption.

Post-Adoption Services

You can easily find several public and private nonprofit organizations offering post-adoption services and resources. Common post-adoption services include education, social events, support groups, medical facilities, therapists, cultural activities, access to files, and camps. 

The U.S. also hosts several support groups and adoptee organizations that enable adoptive families to connect with other adoptive families. 

Staying compliant with all the international adoption requirements will help show U.S. adoptive parents in a positive light to other countries. You can get all the information you need about international adoption from the U.S. Department of State website.