Updated: Apr 11, 2020
First off, this is not a post shitting on international adoption. I think that ethical international adoption can be really cool, and it's something I'd love to do one day if it it works out for our family (*code for "if I can convince the boyfriend to do it")
However, right now adoption from foster care is the only type of adoption that I have personal experience with, so that's the kind I'm going to write about.
LAST disclaimer: I am not talking about "foster to adopt". I don't believe that families who mostly want to adopt should take emergency foster care placements. If you're going to do traditional foster care, the focus WILL be on reunifiying that child with their family for at least the first year of the case, and probably much longer. If you're focused on adoption, you're not going to be able to fully support that, and that my friend, is a problem. What I am talking about below is adopting a waiting child from foster care, meaning a kid whose first parents have already lost their parental rights, whose current foster family is not willing or able to adopt them.
Reason #1: You can get A LOT more information on the child's needs prior to them being in your home.
If you adopt an infant, you'll only have whatever medical history and prenatal information the first parents choose to share with you. If you adopt internationally, information will also be limited to what the child's orphanage or foster family is willing and able to share from across a giant physical and cultural distance. When you inquire about adopting a waiting child through foster care, you can get pictures, videos, and extensive medical and case information, often before you even meet the kiddo you're interested in bringing home. You can get on the phone with their current caregiver and talk about their traits, routine and needs. You can talk to their caseworker on the phone too. With our youngest who was a waiting child, I knew exactly what he would need from me to thrive in my home before committing to fly out and meet him for the first time, so I was able to commit t him without worrying about whether or not I could really meet his needs.
Reason #2: Finances. Can't beat a price tag of $0.
Money and adoption are very interconnected, and yes it's gross. Domestic adoption of an infant can cost over 30 grand, and depending on the agency you work with, where that money goes can be very questionable. International adoption is about the same, with all the travel and legal costs. Some families can make that work financially, but some definitely can't. Adoption of a waiting child from foster care is FREE. My son's county paid for me to fly out and visit him and stay in a hotel while doing so. They paid for the second trip out there, even covering the cost for my mom to come and help, and they paid for all three of us, plus all baby J's stuff, to get home from Washington to Ohio. For Julian's adoption, I had to pay for the lawyer up front ($2,000) but was REIMBURSED immediately afterwards. For Elijah's adoption, his amazing lawyer worked for our family Pro Bono, so even though I would've been reimbursed, I didn't have to pay her a cent. I love that our family has more money for traveling with our kids, saving for their futures, and meeting their needs because their adoptions were so affordable.
Reason #3: Ethics. In most cases, your child's first family will have had multiple chances to keep them.
Like it or not, domestic adoption of a baby can turn very unethical very quickly. If your baby's first mom chose adoption because of finances, how does that work exactly when you just threw down a chunk of money that might have enabled her to parent that baby? What happens if baby's first mom has huge regrets after they're home with you for a month, and wants to parent the baby? What if baby's first dad didn't even know about the baby (it happens) and he lawyers up before your adoption is finalized, wanting custody of the baby that he was never given the chance to parent? Sticky situations are common in international adoption as well. Families have returned home with their "orphaned" children, only to find out months or years later that "their" child has living parents who were lied to, or even that the child was blatantly kidnapped from a loving home!
I don't know about you, but I'm pretty much not into baby stealing :) With adoption from foster care, the child's family has years to work a case plan before they are available to be adopted. Before that child would ever be placed with you for adoption a social worker will have worked with the parents and the entire extended family to ensure that they had every opportunity to care for that child if at all possible. Now I'm not saying that I haven't heard about horrifying cases where the first family's rights were not respected, because I have. However, they are far less common than unethical practices in domestic or international adoption. Also, prior to pursuing a waiting child you are typically allowed to get some information on their foster care case, which lets you decide for yourself whether or not their first family was given a fair shake.
Reason # 4: You get the chance to be part of something great.
This is the most important reason. When you adopt from foster care, you can be the parent who keeps biological siblings together. When you adopt from foster care, you can be the family who allows a child to stay in their home state, close to relatives who they desperately want to keep in touch with. When you adopt from foster care, you can be the family who gets a disabled child out of a hospital or institutional setting and into a HOME. When you adopt from foster care, you can be the mom or dad who shows the preteen or teenager who had given up hope that no one is too old for the love of a family. Adopting from foster care means giving a child whose been growing up in the system a whole different childhood, and destiny, than they would've had otherwise.
I think being a part of that is pretty cool.