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When researching international adoption and deciding on a specific agency or country program, one of the initial factors you will want to consider are eligibility requirements. Eligibility requirements will determine who can adopt from a specific program and/or agency. Eligibility requirements are a combination of requirements from state and federal laws and policies, foreign laws and policies, and agency-specific requirements. There are two main categories of eligibility requirements: legal requirements and policy requirements. Legal eligibility requirements are those that are written in the laws of the U.S. and the foreign country. These will be the minimum standards. However, the that are also requirements that are created by an agency based on experience, cultural knowledge or preference.
By way of example, the eligibility requirements shared by an agency for a specific foreign country may be based on both laws and practice. It is often the case that foreign countries will outline the eligibility requirements for adopters in their laws. The eligibility requirements may be the same for all adopters, or they may distinguish between foreign and domestic adopters, or between relative and unrelated adoptions. The general legal eligibility requirements may also have caveats or exceptions built into them. For instance, a country’s laws may say that the prospective adoptive parents must be 50 years or age or younger when they adopt the child. However, if parents are open to adopting a significantly older child, that requirement may be waived.
Some foreign eligibility requirements may also be based on experience or unwritten policies or practices. For instance, the foreign law may be silent as to whether or not a single man is eligible to adopt an unrelated child from a specific country, but in practice it may not be culturally acceptable. Because of this, agencies may have policies against taking on single male clients for specific countries, because of the risk that a single male would go through the adoption process from that country, pay the associated cost, and be unsuccessful in matching with a child. While legal, it simply may not happen in practice.
Typical eligibility requirements can be broken down into several categories:
Eligibility requirements can vary greatly from country to country and agency to agency.
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