Deciding If International Adoption Is Right for Your Family

International adoption is just one way to grow a family. Other options include domestic foster care and infant adoption.
Many families consider the following issues when deciding whether international adoption is right for them:
Adoptive Parent Requirements: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which must approve all international adoptions, has two basic eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents: Petitioners must be U.S. citizens and, if unmarried, must be at least 25 years old when they file the petition to adopt. For married couples, USCIS has no age requirement and only one spouse must be a U.S. citizen.

Timeframe: Like any adoption, international adoption involves some uncertainty. The length and predictability of the process vary depending on the country, agency, lawyer, and individual child involved, but it generally takes from one to four years to complete an international adoption.

Child Circumstances: Children in other countries need adoptive families for many of the same reasons children in the United States need foster care and adoptive families. These reasons may include abandonment, poverty, illness or death of the parents, or family issues such as substance abuse, child abuse, or neglect.

Children may have health or emotional problems related to these reasons. There also may be cultural factors that contribute to the child’s need for a permanent family, including the government’s policies on population control, the country’s economy, or others.┬áIt is helpful to understand what these factors are in the specific countries you are considering.

Child’s Age: The Office of Immigration Statistics reports that in 2006 approximately 42 percent of children adopted internationally were younger than 12 months old, and another 42 percent were between one and four years old. According to U.S. immigration law, children must be younger than 16 years old on the filing date of the immigration petition in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States for purposes of adoption. (There are some exceptions to this.)

Eligibility for Adoption and Immigration to the United States: U.S. Immigration laws (the Immigration and Naturalization Act and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000) require children entering the United States for purposes of adoption to be classified as “orphans” (if they are from non-Hague Convention countries) or as “Convention adoptees” (if they are from Convention countries), as defined by these laws. Convention adoptees must have parents who are “incapable of providing proper care.”

This article is from the Child Welfare Information Gateway. For more information, see

The Hague Adoption Convention (1993) established safeguards for international adoptions. It has been ratified by 76 countries.