Have you ever thought about adoption but weren’t sure how to get started? Or wondered if it was even possible being in a military family? I’m here to let you know that it is possible– even from overseas. Being overseas can make the process slightly more complicated, but in all honesty, there’s very little that you have to do differently than you would if you were stationed in the United States. I hope this article will give prospective adoptive families somewhere to start and maybe save you some time with the aimless internet searching we did at that beginning of the process.
For my husband and I, adoption was always a part of the plan. I vividly remember our first “do you want kids” conversation. It was one of the “day-dreamy, in love, can’t wait for forever,” topics that you talk about for hours at the beginning of the relationship. For us, the answer was, “Yes, definitely” quickly followed by a “but not for another 5 to 10 years!” We always talked about it as something we’d do “when were stable.” We were 18 and 19 years old when we met (20 when we married), so we didn’t know at that time that “stability” is mostly just a state of being that you thought your 40 year old parents had figured out.
Six years after those conversations we had our first child. That little beauty changed our lives. A few years later, we had our fabulous son who rocked our we’ve-got-this-parenting-thing-figured-out world! A couple years after that we decided we were having such fun that we should have more. Sparing some of the sadder details, we tried to add to our little slice of heaven. We tried. And tried. And tried again. But there were no new members added to our family aside from the ones we now hold in our hearts.
Nonetheless, we were happy. Incredibly, fairy tale happy. But incomplete. We both came to a decision, almost at the exact moment in conversation, as if lightening had just struck. “What are we doing? Our child is already out there. Let’s go find him or her!”
So, the search began. I had no idea what to do or where to start. Google and I became very good friends. Little by little we learned as we began the sometimes overwhelming process that was ahead of us. Again, sparing the details (maybe for a future post if it would be helpful to anyone out there), we now have a second wonderful daughter who has, yet again, changed our world. It is now one of the truest beliefs in my life that she was meant to be a part of our family. She was always ours… we just had to find her.
1. Research and self-reflection
2. Choose an agency
*Note: Research and choosing an agency go hand in hand, but not necessarily in order. You may find it more helpful to begin communicating with an agency (or a few) so they can help you ask yourself the questions that will lead you to the right program for your family. There are many adoption agencies out there with positive reviews, but there are a few with negative reviews as well. It can give you peace of mind to call the Attorney General’s office to inquire about the agency using their license number. Here is a “Consumer Protection” website for the state of Texas, as an example: Texas Attorney General
1. Research and Reflection
First, get a good idea of what your family’s preferences, capabilities and limitations look like. One of the first things you should do, is begin researching what type of adoption works for your family. There are many considerations that will guide your search. For example: Do want to adopt domestically (United States) or internationally? Do you have preferences for gender? Are there minimum or maximum ages you would consider? Is race, ethnicity or religion a factor? Think about what types of special needs or life circumstances you believe you can provide for. Special needs can range from mild, unnoticeable and correctable to severe cases that will require extensive medical care and follow-up. Your agency will likely give you a list of special needs, and then give you information about the accommodations they require. Most importantly, don’t feel guilty about what you believe you can or cannot accommodate. Your agency will be looking to match you with the child (or children) that is meant to be with you, so honesty is key!
Whether you choose to adopt domestically or from another country, you (and your family members) will have to meet specific requirements. There are usually upper and lower age range requirements for the parents. Some countries have restrictions on the number of children that can already be in the home or medical conditions that will disqualify a family from adopting. Some places require partners to adopt jointly and some accept single parents. Don’t let requirements or restrictions dissuade you if you feel strongly about a certain program. You can always reach out to the agency to find out if certain requirements can be waived or if there is another program more suited for your situation.
RainbowKids is an awesome website and resource that can help you get started with the requirements necessary for each country. This is a great place to start if you have no idea or are very open to any type of adoption. The website has profiles of children who are waiting for their families, but I found it most helpful in educating myself and finding an agency that could work with our situation. You never know, your son or daughter may be waiting for you right now!
2. Choosing an Agency
Over time, I’ve worked with three different U.S. based agencies that have experience with American families adopting from overseas. I’m sure there are many more, so please do not limit your search or take the following agencies as being the only ones. That said, I can personally vouch for these agencies as being particularly accommodating to our unique situation.
Adopt Abroad, Inc. This organization works with both U.S. foster care adoptions and several international programs. Adopt Abroad was created for military families and has a representative in Okinawa to assist in the adoption process.
A Love Beyond Borders also works with both domestic and international adoptions. They have a person who will travel to overseas locations to complete the home study process. We’ve also had very good communication with them just via email and skype.
Children of all Nations. This organization also works with both domestic and international programs (including infant and embryo adoption). The website has so much information and is very easy to navigate even when you are very new to the process.
Don’t be afraid to just contact the agency and ask questions. I have found that everyone I came into contact with was overwhelmingly helpful and patient.