There are a variety of reasons that people will consider adoption when planning their families. And more and more, international adoptions are becoming a viable option.
"There is a great need for families," says Judy Elkins, international program director for PLAN (Plan Loving Adoptions Now Inc.), an Oregon-based adoption agency that works in a variety of countries. When asked the most common concern for families, Elkins says the cost can seem prohibitive. "Most families can't just write a check," she admits, but adds "families get creative when the adoption is a priority." There are grants for certain situations and the federal adoption tax credit can reduce the overall costs as well.
When looking into adoption, there is no shortage of information available on the Internet and through various agencies. In fact, the biggest challenge can be sorting through it all. If you want to begin with some research, here are some places to start based on the experiences of local families:
Most sites will provide information either on-line or through request forms. They may also offer local adoption conferences or activities like the one the Spireses attended that provide options, resources and shared experiences.
When choosing a specific agency, you may want to consider the countries they have programs in, the pre- and post-adoption support they provide, and the networking they make available to their adoptive families. Remember too, points out Judy Elkins of PLAN, "Any good agency has to be honest about the doubts." Like any adoption, international adoption has its share of unknowns and the ultimate goal of any agency is to prepare and help build loving families through the adoption process.
For Medford mom, Sherry Tarr, and her husband, Holt International was involved in both the domestic adoption and the Korean adoption of their two children. Sherry says, "While you have to wait longer to go through the whole process with international [adoption], the stress was way less and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering adoption." She also acknowledges the support she received from others. "This process takes time and sometimes you need some encouragement. If you are waiting to be a first-time parent, at times you feel like it's never going to happen. It does happen."
For Greg and Airen Spires of Eagle Point, it happened rather quickly. "We were given an estimate of four to eight months to receive a referral (once the dossier was in Ethiopia)," recalls Airen. "We actually received our referral in about 3 1/2 months, and after we accepted the referral we traveled three months after that. "The total wait time was less than a pregnancy!" They are applying for a second adoption from Ethiopia but have been told it may take longer because the application rate has risen following some highly publicized celebrity adoptions from Ethiopia.
While both the Spireses and Tarrs estimate the cost of their adoptions at around $20-25,000, there are a variety of factors that will affect the time frame and cost of an international adoption, says Elkins. There can definitely be unknowns in international adoption, she acknowledges, and both the fees and the requirements can vary greatly from country to country.
"Understand that you're working with another culture and with another country's government. The pace and requirements of international adoption may be different than what you expect," advises Greg.
In effect, an adoptive family has two sets of laws to satisfy. For example, China has age, income and family size requirements for adoptive families, and may soon have an "obesity" restriction as well — an upper limit on the combined body mass of the adoptive families.
"We have to conform within the rules of the [program] country," says Elkins, as well as meeting U.S. adoption and immigration regulations including home studies, references and background information.
As with any adoption, flexibility and organization are qualities that both families agree are important. "Flexibility is huge in the process," says Airen. "You may be asked to quickly correct a document or you may be given short notice to travel."
Sherry agrees. "There are a lot of documents that have to be notarized and copies of things to be made. You need to be very organized. Make a copy of EVERYTHING — you never know what you might need later." And if there is a delay? "The best thing to do during the "waiting" time is to learn everything you are able to about your child's culture or country and about adoption," advises Airen. "It is important to appreciate how difficult this is initially for your child, too."
Ultimately, both families wholeheartedly recommend adopting an international child. "Persevere through the transition time, and it will be an amazingly rewarding experience. It's the joy of parenting!" says Airen. Along with the role of parenting, both families have also found new community. "We have enjoyed meeting with other families who have adopted from Africa and sharing our experiences," adds Greg. From annual potlucks to on-line chat groups, both families have connected with others that have been through a similar journey.
And both families receive similar responses to their children. "The comment I get the most is, 'He is absolutely adorable!'" says Sherry. "I tend to agree."