International Adoption Pros and Cons: What You Need to Know

International adoption has several pros and cons which you will want to take into consideration. What are the pros and cons of international adoption?

Pros of international adoption are that there are more children to adopt globally than just within the United States, and adoption requirements may be less strict when adopting abroad. A con of international adoption is that children in the United States who need a home are being overlooked.

This article provides you with a full range of information about international adoption to help you decide on your own what the pros and cons of international adoption are.

It is only by doing your research that you will truly know for yourself what those pros and cons are to you rather than someone else deciding that for you.

With so many adoption options out there, it can be a bit overwhelming and even stressful trying to figure out which direction you feel is best for you and your family.

There are several international adoption agencies out there for you to choose from. Just be cautious and do your research. Are they licensed?

If you’re considering international adoption, you will most certainly want to make sure that the agency is Hague-accredited. The Hague Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions.

A couple sitting together making an important decision.

What Is International Adoption?

When entertaining your adoption options, you will likely want to give international adoption some thought. So, what is international adoption?

International adoption refers to adopting a child who is a national from a different country other than the country the adoptive parents reside in. The international option is also commonly known as intercountry or transnational adoption.

In general, prospective adoptive parents must meet the legal adoption requirements of their country of residence and those of the country whose nationality the child holds.

When we think of international adoption, we tend to think of the U.S. adopting children in need from other countries.

We forget that other countries adopt children in the United States and rehome them back to their countries.

Steps to International Adoption

  • Decide if international adoption is right for you and your family.
  • Choose an international adoption agency that is Hague-accredited. Do not skip this crucial step in the process. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to do your homework. It is not enough to just go with your gut feeling.
  • Research which country you will adopt from.
  • Confirm you meet all requirements.
  • Traveling to go see your child and finalizing the adoption can be an exciting yet anxious time.

Once you have chosen the international adoption agency to work with and have passed all requirements, the wait for a child begins.

When an opportunity presents itself, you will be provided with the details of the child and their situation. The amount of information you receive about a child, however, greatly depends.

Why Is International Adoption Declining?

There has been a steady decrease in the number of international adoptions by adoptive parents in the United States adopting transnationally. But why is international adoption declining?

International adoption has declined in recent years, as countries have strengthened their child welfare programs. Many countries also have growing concerns about what they perceive as overly relaxed adoption practices by the United States. Further is the growing concern over child trafficking.

Countries such as Nepal, Cambodia, Guatemala, and Ethiopia have closed their intercountry adoption programs due to overwhelming concerns over child trafficking and other concerning practices.

China, for example, is adopting more of its children than ever before, and that in and of itself should be recognized as good for the children of China.

International Adoption Requirements

International adoption has its requirements one must meet to adopt abroad. International adoption requirements include:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen to bring the child to the U.S.
  • Pass a home study program.
  • A thorough background check is required.
  • Fingerprints and other documentation.
  • Must be physically capable of raising a child.
  • Meet all requirements in your state.
  • Must meet all country-specific requirements.

Pros of International Adoption

There are many reasons why hopeful parents may wish to pursue adopting a child from a different country. What are some pros of international adoption?

  • More easily avoid contact with birth parents.
  • Exposure to a different culture.
  • Same average costs as domestic adoption.
  • No birth-mother expenses.
  • Provide a child in need with a loving home.

Cons of International Adoption

As with any well-intentioned endeavor, there may be some cons involved. So what are some cons of international adoption?

  • The child will deal with trauma, grief, and loss.
  • Unknown medical background of the child.
  • Likely will not adopt a newborn baby.
  • Unknown traumas, grief, and loss.
  • LGBT couples may not be accepted.
  • Travel and accommodation expenses.
  • Will require the cost of a visa.

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What Countries Can You Adopt From?

The countries that adoptive parents may adopt from change from time to time. For example, there was a time when citizens of the United States were routinely adopting children from Russia.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin put an end to that on December 28, 2012, which took effect on 1 January 2013.

Ethiopia was also a popular country to adopt children until 2013 when the Ethiopian government put a stop to all adoptions by foreigners.

There are, however, many countries that one may consider adopting from. Below we will cover eleven of the top places you may want to think about adopting from.

Adoption in Bulgaria

Where is Bulgaria located?

Bulgaria is located in southeastern Europe and is bordered by the Black Sea to the east, Serbia and the Republic of North Macedonia to the west, Greece, and Turkey to the south, and Romania to the north.

A few facts about Bulgaria:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 84% Bulgarian
  • 8.8% Turkish
  • 4.9%Gypsy
  • 1.5% Other

Language:

The Bulgarian language is part of the South Slavic group and is written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 76% Bulgarian Orthodox
  • 10% Sunni Muslim
  • 1.0% Evangelical Protestant
  • 1.2% Catholic
  • 12% Other

How many orphans are in Bulgaria?

Although there are no solid numbers, it is estimated that there are between 7,000 to 15,000 children living in orphanages and foster homes in Bulgaria.

Approximately 20% of those children have had birth parents who have died, and the other 80% are orphaned due to social circumstances.


“In ‘worst cases’ these children are ‘rented’ or even ‘bought’ from their families because they are perceived to be of more value to their families by earning money pretending to be a poor orphan than studying and eventually graduating from school,” writes PEPY Tours’ Ana Baranova. “Parents willingly send their kids to these institutions believing it will provide their child with a better life. Unfortunately in very many cases, it will not.”

Courtesy of Tripsavvy.com


I encourage you to have your antennas up and try to educate yourself about orphanages in Cambodia.

This story broke my heart, as well as this one. It’s being said that some orphanages in Cambodia are taking advantage of tourists’ sympathies and their charity dollars at the children’s expense.

Adoption in China

Where is China located?

China is located in East Asia bordering fourteen other countries, including Mongolia to the north; Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to the west; India, Nepal, and Bhutan to the southwest; Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam to the south; North Korea to the southeast; and Russia to the northeast and northwest.

A few facts about China:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 91.59% Han (Chinese)
  • 7.14% Other
  • 1.27% Zhuang

Language:

The Khmer language is one of the most popular languages and is spoken by almost everyone in Cambodia, including the Cham-Malay.

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • Daoism
  • Buddhism
  • Confucianism

Interested in learning more about adopting from China? Read our article, The Costs to Adopt from China: Complete Guide.


How many orphans are in China?

There are currently over 400,000 orphans living in China. The vast majority of children in China orphanages suffer from some kind of health or special needs problem.

Due to the stigma of having a child with special needs that exist in China and the lack of family support, most babies born with problems are dropped off at baby hatches to later be taken to an orphanage.

There are currently over 32 hatches across China, and each hatch only accepts children from the same city.

Adoption in Colombia

Where is Colombia located?

Colombia is located in the north of South America, with territories in North America. Colombia is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, the northwest by Panama, the south by Ecuador and Peru, the east by Venezuela, the southeast by Brazil, and the west by the Pacific Ocean.

A few facts about Colombia:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 58% Mestizo
  • 20% White
  • 14% Mulatto
  • 4% Black
  • 3% Black-Amerindian
  • 1% Amerindian

Language:

Spanish is spoken, as well as over a hundred indigenous languages and dialects.

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 79.0% Roman Catholic
  • 6.0% Pentecostal
  • 2.0% Mainline Protestant
  • 8.0% Other
  • 5.0% Unspecified

Interested in learning more about adopting from Colombia? Read our article, The Costs to Adopt from Colombia: Complete Guide.


How many orphans are in Colombia?

Approximately 820,000 orphans under the age of 17 are currently living in Colombia. Colombia is one of the quickest countries to adopt a child from, with wait times ranging between 3-5 weeks and requiring only one trip.

Adoption in Haiti

Where is Haiti located?

Haiti is located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea, to the east of Cuba and Jamaica and south of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. 

A few facts about Haiti:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 94.2% Black
  • 5.4% Mulatto
  • .4% Other

Language:

Haitian Creole and French are the official languages in Haiti, with French being mostly used in more formal situations. 

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 54.7% Roman Catholic
  • 15.4% Baptist
  • 7.9% Pentecostal
  • 2.1% Vodou
  • 9.7% Other

Interested in learning more about adopting from Haiti? Read our article, The Costs to Adopt from Haiti: Complete Guide.


How many orphans are in Haiti?

Over 30,000 orphans are living in Haiti. Out of the over 760 institutions orphanage facilities in Haiti, only 15% of them are officially certified by the Haitian government. Most of the orphanages are funded by foreign donors.

Over 80% of the orphans in these institutions have at least one living parent and were placed in these facilities due to the lack of basic health care, access to education as well as social services.

Adoption in India

Where is India located?

India is located in southern Asia. It is bordered by the Arabian Sea, Laccadive Sea, and the Bay of Bengal to the south; Bhutan, Nepal, China, and Pakistan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) to the east.

A few facts about India:

Ethnic Groups:

  • India is a diverse multiethnic country that is home to thousands of small ethnic and tribal groups.

    That complexity developed from a lengthy and involved process of migration and intermarriage.
  • Among the documented invasions that added significantly to the Indian ethnic mix are those of Persians, Scythians, Arabs, Mongols, Turks, and Afghans. (Courtesy of Britannica)

Language:

There are probably hundreds of major and minor languages and many hundreds of recognized dialects in India, whose languages belong to four different language families: Indo-Iranian (a subfamily of the Indo-European language family), Dravidian, Austroasiatic, and Tibeto-Burman (a subfamily of Sino-Tibetan).

There are also several isolated languages, such as Nahali, which is spoken in a small area of Madhya Pradesh state.

The overwhelming majority of Indians speak Indo-Iranian or Dravidian languages. (Courtesy of Britannica)

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 79.8% Hindu
  • 14.2% Muslim
  • 2.3% Christian
  • 1.7% Sikh
  • 2.0 Other

How many orphans are in India?

The orphanage situation in India, like all other countries, is very sad and with its own set of circumstances.

In 2018 there were 29.6 million orphaned children in India. Yet even though these numbers are high, the amount of children available to adopt is very low.

More children are abandoned on the street than are put into institutional care. Orphaned children are the most common sight to see on the streets of India.

More needs to be done to get these children off of the streets and into institutions so they may be adopted and provided the love and care they so desperately deserve.

Adoption in Mongolia

Where is Mongolia located?

Mongolia is located between Russia to the north and China to the south, where it neighbors the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, although only 23 miles separate them.

A few facts about Mongolia:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 82.4% Khalkha Mongol
  • 3.9% Kazakh
  • 2.8% Dorbed Mongol
  • 2.2% Bayad
  • 1.7% Buryat Mongol
  • 1.2% Zakhchin
  • 1.0% Dariganga Mongol
  • 1.0% Tuvan (Uriankhai)
  • 3.8% Other

Language:

Mongolian

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 53.0% Buddhist
  • 3.0% Muslim
  • 2.9% Shamanist
  • 2.2% Christian
  • 38.9% None

How many orphans are in Mongolia?

Mongolia has the lowest population density of any country, with most of its land undeveloped and insufficiently mapped.

This country has 400,00 children living on the streets in attempts to flee abusive and poverty-stricken homes.

They lack necessities like health care, education, and hygiene.

Adoption in the Philippines

Where is the Philippines located?

The Philippines is located in the western Pacific Ocean. The South China Sea is to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea is to the southwest.

The Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Palau to the east, Indonesia to the south, Malaysia and Brunei to the southwest, Vietnam to the west, and China to the northwest.

A few facts about the Philippines:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 24.4% Tagalog
  • 11.4% Bisaya
  • 9.9% Cebuano
  • 8.8% Ilocano
  • 8.5% Hiligaynon
  • 6.8% Bicol
  • 4.0% Waray-Waray
  • 26.2% Other

Language:

Over 100 languages and dialects are spoken in the Philippines, and most all are closely related and belong to the Austronesian family.

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 79.5% Roman Catholic
  • 6.0% Muslim
  • 2.6% Iglesia ni Cristo
  • 2.4% Evangelical
  • 9.5% Other

Interested in learning more about adopting from the Philippines? Read our article, The Costs to Adopt from the Philippines: Complete Guide.


How many orphans are in the Philippines?

With nearly 1.8 million orphaned children in the Philippines, these children need your help.

More than 1 in 10 children between the ages of 5-14 are engaged in child labor. One-third of the Filipino children who start primary school do not complete the 5th grade.

Adoption in South Korea

Where is South Korea located?

South Korea is located in East Asia on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula located out from the far east of the Asian landmass.

The only country with a land border with South Korea is North Korea, lying to the north with 148 miles of the border running along the Korean Demilitarized Zone. 

A few facts about South Korea:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 97.7% Korean
  • 2.0% Japanese
  • .1% U.S. White
  • .1% Han Chinese
  • .1% Other

Language:

Korean

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 19.7% Protestant
  • 15.5% Buddhist
  • 7.9% Roman Catholic
  • 56.9% None

Interested in learning more about adopting from Korea? Read our article, The Costs to Adopt from Korea: Complete Guide.


How many orphans are in South Korea?

There are more than 17,000 orphans in need of adoption in South Korea.

Sadly, the majority of the people who live in the economically stable country of South Korea have no interest in adopting these orphans.

From birth, Koreans are taught the importance of keeping the family bloodline pure and the family lineage untarnished. This is taken to extremes to where even adoption is considered a no-no.

Adoption in Thailand

Where is Thailand located?

Thailand is located at the center of the Indochinese Peninsula, it has 76 provinces. Thailand is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Myanmar.

Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea to the southwest. 

A few facts about Thailand:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 97.5% Thai
  • 1.3% Burmese
  • 1.2% Other

Language:

Most everyone in Thailand speaks one of four major language families:  Tai, Mon-Khmer, Austronesian, and Sino-Tibetan. English is also widely used for business purposes and is a requirement in schools.

It is said that unless the student attends a better academic program, most will not know enough English to be able to communicate well.

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 94.9% Buddhist
  • 4.3% Muslim
  • 1.1% Christian/Other

How many orphans are in Thailand?

Children living in poverty is a serious issue in Thailand.

Although the economy has improved over the years, the families living in rural areas must travel to the urban areas for work.

This leaves children without their parents, and many suffer from malnutrition. There are approximately 1 million orphans in Thailand.

Child labor is very prevalent in Thailand, with 8% of poverty-stricken children being thrust into the workforce between the ages of 5-14.

It is very common to see these children working in factories, construction, agriculture, and even the commercial trafficking industry.

What a terrific feeling it would be to get one of these children off the streets and into a loving home.

Adoption in Uganda 

Where is Uganda located?

Uganda is located in eastern Africa, west of Kenya, south of South Sudan, east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and north of Rwanda and Tanzania.

It is in the Great Lakes region and is surrounded by Lake Edward, Lake Albert, and Lake Victoria.

A few facts about Uganda:

Ethnic Groups: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 16.5% Ganda
  • 9.6% Nkole
  • 8.8% Soga
  • 7.1% Kiga
  • 7.0% Teso
  • 6.3% Lango
  • 4.9% Gisu
  • 4.4% Acholi
  • 35.4% Other

Language:

In Uganda, English and Swahili (both official languages in Uganda), as well as Ganda are the most spoken languages.

There are over 23 different languages used in Uganda.

Religion: (Courtesy of Britannica)

  • 39.3% Roman Catholic
  • 32.0% Anglican
  • 13.7% Muslim
  • 11.1% Pentecostal
  • 1.7% Seven Day Adventist
  • .5%Babtist/None
  • 1.7% Other

How many orphans are in Uganda?

Orphans in Uganda are about 1 million, roughly speaking. This number is huge and is due to aids, other diseases, wars, and refugee displacement.

Only 1 in 4 children in Uganda make it to secondary school. Less than 40% are literate, leaving others vulnerable to trafficking, child labor, and crime to survive.

International Adoption Agencies to Adopt a Child

The following are a few of the international adoption agencies that are accredited under the Hague Convention.

Please note that I have not done further research on this below list other than verifying they are Hague-accredited. You will want to do further research to vet them further. Being accredited is a wonderful start, but you are not done.

It pays to reiterate this, so I’m reposting the below:

Follow these steps to protect yourself:

  • Contact the State Licensing Specialist in the state where the adoption agency is located. Is the agency in good standing? Do they have any complaints against them? How long have they held their adoption agency license?
  • Contact the State’s Attorney General’s Office located in the state capitol. Ask if any legal action has ever been taken against the agency, if there is any pending litigation against the agency, or if they have an established complaint file.
  • Request three references with the names and phone numbers of clients who have adopted a child through the agency within the last three years.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau closest to the adoption agency. Ask them if they take complaints against adoption agencies.

    If they do not, contact the State, City, or County Protection Office where the adoption agency is located for complaint inquiries.

Information provided courtesy of Child Welfare Information Gateway

​When Is an International Adoption Finalized

And international adoption is finalized either overseas or domestically, depending on the rules of the child’s home country. The adopting person or couple must follow the laws of the foreign sending nation, US immigration law, and the rules of the adopted parents’ home state.

Completing an adoption outside of the United States does not automatically grant the adopted child entry or citizenship in the United States.

Before completing an adoption abroad, prospective adoptive parents should consult the websites of the United States Department of State and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for more information on the intercountry adoption immigration process, as well as age, eligibility, and citizenship requirements.

U.S. citizen adoptive parents must work with a U.S. accredited or approved primary adoption service provider if they wish to immigrate a child through the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Hague) process or the non-Convention (or orphan) process unless an exception applies.

​How Does International Adoption Work

International adoption, also known as intercountry adoption, is the process of legally adopting a child from a country other than your own and bringing the child to your country of residency to live permanently with you.

These children are frequently taken from orphanages, and they are eligible for adoption since their biological parents were unable to care for them due to financial, legal, or emotional concerns.

When Henry and Bertha Holt, an evangelical couple from rural Oregon, obtained a special act of Congress in 1955 allowing them to adopt Korean “war orphans,” overseas adoption became widespread.

Because of their evident ethnic distinctions and the presumption of adultery or illegitimacy, these children of Korean women and American GIs had been ostracized or abandoned.

The Holts converted their personal experience into a purpose and founded Holt International Children’s Services, the first organization committed to large-scale international adoption, which still operates today.

How Does International Adoption Affect a Child?

There are several ways in which international adoption can affect a child as well as adoption in general.

All adopted children will experience some level of trauma, loss, or grief.

Adopted Children Can Experience Loss and Grief

Issues of loss, as well as feelings of rejection and abandonment by birth parents, recur often and are frequently expressed by people who were adopted.

Children and adults who have been adopted may question why they were placed for adoption or what was “wrong” with them that prompted their biological parents to give them up.

Grief is a normal reaction to the death of one’s biological parents, and it can begin as soon as the child is old enough to comprehend what adoption entails.

Young children who can realize that they have acquired adoptive parents can also comprehend that they have lost biological parents, and this understanding may generate sadness.

Grief for birth parents is not a common emotion in society, therefore the adopted child or adult may have a difficult time finding an outlet for it.

The adopted child or adult may even feel guilty for mourning if the adoptive family is typically joyful.

Adopted Children May Suffer With Their Identity

Adopted people’s identity concerns frequently arise throughout puberty. Because of the added adoption concerns, the work of identity formation during adolescence is sometimes more challenging for adopted teenagers.

Questions about the biological family, why he or she was placed for adoption, what happened to the birth parents, whether the adolescent resembles the birth parents in looks or other characteristics, and where the adolescent “belongs” in terms of education, social class, culture, peer group, and more are all part of the adopted adolescent’s identity development.

The debate over the influence of nature (inherited qualities) vs nurture (learned traits) on the adopted adolescent’s identity may become very vivid for him or her.

It’s possible that identity troubles will persist until adulthood. Because the new parent may be experiencing a biological connection to a family member for the first time, the arrival of an adopted kid may bring up some of these concerns.

There is now someone who “looks like me” for this individual. This new relationship may prompt the adopted adult to re-examine previous identity concerns.

The new parent may also be inspired to consider what his or her birth mother went through while giving birth, as well as what the birth mother and father went through while deciding to place the child for adoption.

Adopted individuals who become parents may sympathize with their birth parents’ struggles or question how their birth parents could have placed them for adoption in the first place.

These challenges of identification are accompanied by concerns of self-esteem, or how the adopted individual feels about himself or herself.

While adopted people are comparable to non-adopted people in most aspects, they frequently score lower on measures of self-esteem and self-confidence, according to a number of studies.

This finding might be due to the fact that some adopted people see themselves as odd, out of place, undesirable, or rejected.

Some of these feelings may stem from the initial loss of birth parents and growing up away from birth parents, siblings, and extended family members; others may stem from a persistent sense of being different from non-adopted people who are aware of their genetic background and birth family and, as a result, are more confident in their own identity.

Adopted Children Lack Genetic Information

Adopted people sometimes lack genetic and medical information, as well as other familial details.

Adopted people may become vividly aware of how they vary from others who were not adopted during a normal visit to the doctor’s office, where they are requested to provide medical history information.

Those who discover they were adopted as newborns later in life are frequently put in danger by their long-held idea of a family medical history, which they subsequently discover is utterly false.

When an adopted individual wants to marry or start a family, genetic information becomes even more significant.

Adopted people have a variety of concerns about the kid they will have, including what the child will look like and if the child will inherit any genetic diseases that the adoptee is unaware of.

Non-identifying information, including medical history, may be included in the adoption file by the birth parents or the adoption agency in many circumstances.

Adoption agencies or attorneys may grant access to this non-identifying information to adopted people.

Adopted people in some states can ask a judge to release their adoption records, and some judges will agree to do so if the information is urgently needed for medical reasons.

Obtaining access to information supplied by the birth parents at the time of adoption, on the other hand, may not be enough to offer a complete medical history.

It will be more valuable if the birth parents have updated the adoption agency or attorney’s file over time.

An adopted individual may be able to learn if a birth parent or grandparent subsequently had a hereditary sickness or condition in this way.

Children Adopted Internationally Suffer the Loss of Their Culture

For children adopted internationally, there is a loss of their surroundings and familiarity. The language is different, the culture is different, and even the people look different.

It is important for adoptive parents to not allow the child to completely lose their culture and to celebrate the adopted child’s culture in a variety of ways.

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Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.