Who can adopt?

Updated in 2014

This is where fact and fiction separate. Most people, regardless of divorce, being single, large families, etc. can adopt a child internationally.  Let's cover the basics:

Q : Who is it that decides who can adopt?
A : The Placing-Countries, where each child is born and resides, sets criteria on the type of families that they allow to adopt their vulnerable children.  Our Intercountry Adoption Guidelines outline each country's requirements for adoptive families.  In addition, the United States requires that families wishing to adopt through intercountry adpotion have one member (in a couple) that is at least 25 years of age. 

Q : Who CAN'T adopt? 

A: No one who has been convicted or in some cases even officially accused of child abuse/neglect can adopt. A thorough homestudy is conducted on any person who wishes to adopt internationally. This includes state and federal fingerprinting and a background check that includes former-residency in other countries.  TV and movies that depict adoption as child-trafficking are fictional depictions of this child-centered process.  

Q : Do I/We need to own a home in order to qualify for international adoption?
A : No. If you are renting an apartment, condominium or house, you absolutely qualify. Your homestudy will examine your ability to manage your finances.  Home-ownership is not a requirement.  Only that you are mature to manage your finances and provide for your dependents.

Q : What about our income? Do we have to make a certain amount of money in order to qualify?
A : The  U.S Government requires families to make a minimum of $25,000 per year. How you manage your finances is much more important than how much you make. Do you live above your means? Are you taking in less than is going out on a monthly basis? This would not look good. Some programs do require that a family income is $30,000 per year.  Others do not. 

Q : We don't have all the money that it will take to complete an international adoption. Can we take out a loan?
A : Adoption is a process.  The fees are not due all at once.  Families of all income levels adopt.  Do some research.

Q: Are their Grants to Adopt?
A: There are.  If you are looking to adopt a white newborn baby in the USA, there are no grants to adopt. In fact, RainbowKids is not dedicated to advocating for children who have a long line of families waiting to adopt them.  We are an advocacy organization for children who are over the age of one year (at least), in a sibling group, have a special medical need, or some other situation that makes them more difficult to place. There are grants, but they are often for children who are challenged to find a family.

Q: How much does the international adoption process cost?
A: Less than buying a new car, more than you want to spend.
Yes, it is expensive to pay the government and agency fees and for travel to another country.
Each country has different fees, meaning the process can run anywhere from $20,000 to $35,000.  Overwhelming?  YES, but only at first!   Many, many, people are simple, middle class folks, just like you and me.  Some are single women and men who are teachers, accountants, business owners.  Many have taken out personal loans for part of the fees, and paid the rest as they went along in the process.  ALL of the money is NOT due at one time.  I know of many families who save as much as possible for one year, then begin the process, knowing it will take another year to get together all the paperwork and complete the adoption. You CAN do this!  The end result is a child....a loving, precious human being who is beyond all price....who calls you "mama" or "daddy".

Q : Will we get to choose the gender of our child?
A : Maybe. Some countries have more children available of one gender than another. Sometimes you will "choose" a child from a waiting child list that your agency has, or a child that is listed in the waiting child area of RainbowKids. Some placing-countries all families parenting a child of one gender to request a child of the opposite gender. Knowing this now can help you  choose a country to work with, and give you questions to ask of an agency you are thinking of working with.  

Q : My boyfriend/girlfriend and I have been together for years and now we wish to adopt. Can unmarried couples adopt internationally?
A : In most cases: No. I realize this comes as a shock to many, but the laws and morals of other countries do not match those in the U.S. At the time of this writing, Single women and opposite-gendered-couples may easily adopt from most countries. Single men from a very few. If you are "living with" another person, it will be revealed in your homestudy and there is a very good chance that other countries will not accept you as an applicant. Your adoption agency can best guide you with this.  This is changing in recent years.  If this one paragraph discourages you enough to give up....you aren't ready for this journey.  If you start looking further on this website, you'll find the countries that are open to you.

Q : Can the birthmother come back and "claim" the child after we have adopted?
A: No.  Every child who is in an international adoption program has been through a legal "termination of rights".  All countries, when a child enters their program, attempt to find the birthparents, or else the birthparents formally terminate their rights.  In the end, the child is legally free for adoption and the adoption is final.  

However:  Understand technology today.  The idea that a child cannot find their original/birth family some day is obsolete. Any human on earth today can find a birth-relative through genetic testing, which at the time of this writing (2014) is about $100.  Any human, anywhere, can find at least a 6th-degree cousin...and then trace back even closer.  

NO ADOPTION IS "CLOSED".  Any person adopted today or even 20 years ago, can now trace their family easily and quickly.  Come to terms with that. As an adoptee myself and mother of 5 children through adoption, I want families to understand this fact.  We love our families (YOU, our parents, our siblings).  In general, however, adult adoptees are curious about their genetic backgrounds.  It's a new world, and your idea of 'family' needs to expand with adoption.

Q : How long does it take to adopt a child from another country?
A : The short answer is this: Anywhere from 12 months to 2 years, on the average. It depends on which country you choose to work with, which agency you choose, how fast you personally gather your documents together. How dedicated you are to getting this adoption done in a timely matter. Yes, many things will be beyond your control. A good tip is: Choose a Primary Provider first. If you are taking advice from a family who adopted before July 2014, then you are outside of the new US Federal requirements of the UAA.  You must choose your main Primary Provider first.

Q: Can single Women Adopt?
A: YES!  And China yes. Many families who adopted years ago still believe that China is closed to singles. It is not. China and other countries are open to Single Women.

Q: Can Single Men Adopt?
A: Sometimes. The scrutiny is going to be very harsh.  You don't want to hear that, but it is true. Single men do adopt internationally.  But if you are part of a gay partnership, the more direct and transparent path is domestic infant or foster-adoption in the USA. Same scrutiny, more understanding.

Q: Can Gay/Lesbian Couples Adopt?
A: Yes.  BUT.  Remember that it is the placing-countries, not a US Adoption Agency, that determines the criteria of adoptive families that they wish to adopt their children.  Most countries do not allow same-sex couples to adopt.  However, Brazil and South Africa are exceptions. They do allow same-sex couples to adopt. The US Foster System allows same-sex couples to adopt, and there are a number of  adoption agencies within the USA who work with same-gender couples to place infants.

Q : I/We have been through infertility treatments. I/We don't want to disappointed again. Can this really happen for us/me?
A : Yes! If you have reached the point that you have decided that you can love and parent an adopted child as your very own, then Intercountry Adoption is the answer to your dreams. Can things go wrong? Yes. However, if you choose a dependable agency, and a program that has a low risk factor, you will significantly lower the risk. Many agencies have never had a referral fall through, because they do their homework, and they deal with reliable countries.  Use your head, go with a good adoption agency, 
a country that has been placing children for a number of years, and you should have very little turbulence.

Q: Is there financial assistance for people wishing to adopt internationally?
A:   I saved the best for last, because this really is the #1 question I get emailed on a regular basis.  Before I answer, please visit our finances area, to learn how to make adoption an affordable adoption. Often, I am told things like, "those poor orphans should just be free" or, "we used up all our money on infertility treatments".  

My comment for the first question is this: kids don't have a price tag.  You are not buying a child. The process costs money in fees to our government and fees to the government of the country you are adopting from, and the agency helping you.  

I really do not have an answer for #2. If you have are beginning adoption without any financial resources for the process, then please consider focusing on financial heath for awhile before bringing a child into your family. Many families who adopt internationally either take out a loan or save money, or fundraise, get an extra job, etc.  However, some agencies do have grants that they give to families who wish to adopt a sibling group or special needs child.  

My sincere best wishes to all of you as you begin this journey.