International Adoption
December 5, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe

International Adoption - What should we look for in an agency here and abroad?

We are thinking about international adoption and are are aware that a lot of "intelligence gathering" needs to be done to ensure that the process has not violated the rights of anyone.

For example, we hear stories about how certain children have been kidnapped or how the mothers/parents might have been coerced into giving up the child.

What kinds of questions should we ask the adoption agencies here in Quebec, and what should we look for if and when we make it to the final steps of the process - that is, visiting the home country of our child?

Is it possible to guarantee that our child was not removed under suspicious circumstances?

FWIW, it seems that the only countries from which Quebec residents can adopt are: Ukraine, Mali, Niger, Armenia, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, S. Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Russia, Vietnam, Philippines, Honduras.

Or is the international adoption process such a mess that we shouldn't even risk it?

Local adoption here in Quebec seems less of an option for us because of our respective ages - we're both approaching 40 - and the expected waiting time is 4-5 years). We would be in our mid-40s by the time a little one blesses our home - is it fair for a child to have not-so-young parents?
posted by bitteroldman to Human Relations (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have info on international adoption. However, here in Western Canada, I know people who have had happy (and quick) results with open adoptions. I'm not sure how that works in Quebec, but it may be worth considering.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2011

As the older brother to an adopted Russian sister, I'll say that it can work, and with older parents to boot. As a sibling-to-be, I wasn't involved in the preliminary work beyond viewing videos of potential siblings, and to date I haven't asked my parents about how they went about it all, so I'll fill that in later when I know more. But from the "can it work" element to this question, I'll elaborate from what I know and recall.

We live in California, and my parents found an adoption facilitation organization based in Southern California that worked with a single orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Members of the organization had worked with the orphanage for years, and visited a couple times per year, taking things to the kids there. My parents met with the organization folks a number of times, and got videos and profiles of kids from them to take home and review. I think the whole screening and selection process took a year or two, still faster than a US adoption process.

From what I saw, you can find organizations who make the whole complex process relatively easy for you as parents-to-be. Even if it is complex, they should be able to make it make sense for you and your partner.

Along with looking for local adoption facilitation services, you could look for local adoption support groups, for parents who are going through or have completed the adoption process and are now trying to cope with suddenly being parents to a non-infant.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:22 PM on December 5, 2011

For international, it would be best to find an agency that is Hague-certified. International adoption is in a state of flux right now, and a Hague-certified agency will be able to better navigate the waters. Some countries will only allow adoption through a certified agency.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:40 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite] has a lot of resources for international adoptions.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:05 PM on December 5, 2011

Mom of Chinese adoptees here -- it is estimated that a substantial amount of adoptions from China are actual trafficking cases. Something we didn't know until recently. NY Times had a recent blog post about the very topic (sorry no link!).

Word around adoptive families is that Taiwan has a very above-board adoption system. Birth parents are involved in the process whether an open adoption or not, children have registered births (not registered the day you arrive to adopt them, but when they are born).

I would look deeper into domestic adoption. Your age is not outrageous and a reputable agency can give you honest timelines. Also ask for references from other recent adoptive parents.

Good luck!
posted by mamabear at 3:03 PM on December 5, 2011

My fiance did a project on Chinese adoption in college (probably 2004-ish), and actually he had told me that China is one of the best countries to adopt from, because everything is very well-structured and government-run.
posted by radioamy at 3:47 PM on December 5, 2011

My wife and I are in the process of adopting internationally. I spent a lot of time reading through posts on the Adoption Agency Research Yahoo Group. There is a wealth of information there.

When picking an agency, look for someone you feel comfortable working with. Whoever you choose will play a huge role in this major life event. You're placing a huge amount of trust in your agency and they will need to work with through the crazy moments you will surely have along the way. We met with several agencies in person and it was clear which one was the best fit for us.

Definatly look for a Hague accredited agency. Here is a list of questions to consider asking when choosing an agency.

Feel free to MeMail me with questions.
posted by bajema at 3:57 PM on December 5, 2011

I have adopted from China. My mother was a regional director for Holt International Adoption Agency for more than a decade. I have four adopted siblings. I know a lot about this.

You are right to be worried. Trafficking is a terrible thing, and I respect you for wanting to avoid it. Those aren't empty words, I sincerely want the best for you and your potential child, and the best is to avoid participating in slavery and sales of children.

First off, I can't think of a more reputable agency than Holt. They are not the cheapest, nor (I believe) the most expensive. From what I know from my mother, actually they "lose" money on each child placed for adoption, by a few thousand dollars. They make that up by soliciting you for money, forever. A small cost, IMHO, for proven, reliable ethics. Did you know it was Mrs. Holt who pushed through the first international adoption law in the U.S.? Awesome lady, a bit too Christian for my taste, but a wonderful woman who had ethics, drive, and a passion for helping kids.

Questions to ask. If they can't answer, then they probably don't approach the level of ethics that you can and should demand:

- Do they support orphanages in the host country? Can they prove it? What percent of their money goes to this effort?
- Do they support keeping families together? Holt is great at this, they actively work to have less "stock" of kids available because 95% of the time it is better for kids to stay in their birth culture. How do they support this? What percent of their money goes to efforts along this line?
- What are their criteria for de-listing a country? For example, Holt will not work with Thailand because of trafficking.
- When you go to get your child, do you pay money to the agency, which they ensure goes to the proper agencies, or do you simply hand over money to the orphanage? Bad idea, that second option.
- Do they work with "lawyers" in countries? Usually a bad sign. Holt does this, but is much slower and more careful whenever it crops up. That's because the "lawyer assisted adoptions" are often a cover for trafficking. Yes, certain countries, such as Brazil, have that as the only option, but it is a bad path to follow. Did you know that if the birth mother *ever* alleges that she sold the child to the lawyer, the U.S. *will* send your adopted child back to her, with little to no appeal possible? This is used to blackmail adopted parents a decade after the adoption is final. No adoption in the U.S. is ever final if the mother alleges trafficking. AVOID THIS.

Can you imagine the dual pain from an extortion letter? First, that you might lose your beloved child, and second, that you will be out potentially tens of thousands of dollars, directly going to the frankly evil continuation of child-selling, along with the impregnation and exploitation of poor women? I can't imagine how I could handle the pain, personally. "I can't lose my kid, but I can't feed these sharks." Ouch. Better to avoid.

Please, use a reputable agency. Please. Thank you for your question. This should be asked more often, by every potential international adoption parent.
posted by Invoke at 5:19 PM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Here is the NY Times piece about adoptions in China. It might well be worthwhile searching the blue (that is, metafilter proper) for links about adoption; there has been some very in depth discussion there, and there's one mefite (who's name escapes me now), who is particularly knowledgable about this - as an adopter.

Good on you for your concern about this; people don't like to hear it, but the reality is that it's very challenging as a prospective parent here in the west to objectively know the background of a developed/developing world adoption; you are often left with little choice but to take the word of agency/orphanage/local govt at some point of tracing the chain back. Human trafficking is a big issue and it's shaped and continuing to shape many countries' adoption policies - generally for the better, thankfully, there is progress happening.
posted by smoke at 5:34 PM on December 5, 2011

Invoke, I beg to differ on the supposed risk you mention in international adoption:

Did you know that if the birth mother *ever* alleges that she sold the child to the lawyer, the U.S. *will* send your adopted child back to her, with little to no appeal possible? This is used to blackmail adopted parents a decade after the adoption is final. No adoption in the U.S. is ever final if the mother alleges trafficking. AVOID THIS.

I've never heard of this. There is a case here in the US where a Missouri couple who adopted from Guatemala in 2008 was ordered by a Guatemalan judge in August of 2011 to return their child to the birth mother (who says that the child was kidnapped). However, since the adopted child is now a US citizen, it's unclear what (if anything) the US government will do. A slightly later report indicates that nothing seems to be happening; to quote the article, the government "would be reluctant to force a US citizen [the child] to leave." Since then (August 30th, 2011), I can't find any news reports on this case.

And honestly, the quote that the US "would be reluctant to force a US citizen [the child] to leave" is an understatement. Citizenship carries with it certain protections, and one of them is certainly that a citizen who is not accused of a crime can't be forced to leave the country against his or her will. Even the native-born children of illegal immigrants (whose parents committed a crime in coming to this country) are given these rights concordant with their citizenship, so it's difficult to imagine how the government would force the extradition of a citizen child whose parents did not commit any crime (according to all I've read, the Missouri parents were unaware of any irregularities) and who she herself is completely blameless.

Now, there are certain regulations involving child abductions (notably, the Hague Conventions) but those apply for non-custodial parents taking their child to a foreign country, and they're all quite complex and certainly don't apply in this type of case.

The blackmailing that you're talking about is completely new to me. I'm not saying that the blackmailing didn't happen, but I don't see how the blackmailer's threat (that the US government would take away the adopted child "a decade after the adoption is final") has any validity at all.
posted by math at 7:03 PM on December 5, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everybody - you have all given me a lot to digest. Lots of reading to do over the holidays!

I'm also glad to know that our age isn't that much of a factor either!

I appreciate all of your comments - if you have more to say, I'm all ears!
posted by bitteroldman at 7:27 PM on December 5, 2011

I have four children who were all trafficked, two for adoption (Cambodia). Adoption trafficking exists and is more widespread than anyone profiting from the industry wants to admit - and that includes "charities" and non-profit agencies as their jobs depend on the continuance of the adoption industry.

Trafficking is brutal, and adoption trafficking devastates. Children can and do recover, but the damage hurts everyone except the adoption professionals who get to walk away from the mess.

And yet - when done ethically, adoption can be a gift to the families and children involved. It's just that you cannot and should not rely on the ethics of anyone else involved - you need to be responsible for double-checking everything, because at the end of the day, the agencies and professionals aren't going to live with the consequences.

Remember fast, cheap and ethical - you can have two of those things. I'm not talking about the cost of the agency fees, but the cost of time and effort in researching your adoption.

Pear (parents for ethical adoption) is a good starting point. So is Bastard Nation,, and Pound Puppy Legacy, Hard reading, but so worth it.

Holt, btw, does not have a flawless reputation. South Korea's troubled adoption industry - a developed nation without a social safety network for single parents or local adoption because so many babies are exported - has a lot to blame on Holt.

With effort, you can have an ethical adoption. And then even if the adoption ends up unethical, you and your child will know you did your best. It makes a huge difference.

Mid-40s is not that far out for adoption - especially if you're willing to think of an older child adoption. I have three adopted post-toddlerhood, and it has been amazing. If you're not definitely set on an infant, do research older child adoption.

For the countries you've listed, there's no 'safe' option. Maybe Thailand and Taiwan if you go through the government system. I personally would not adopt from South Korea, Vietnam or China over the fundamental corruption of their systems, but YMMV.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:44 PM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Seconding viggorlijah's recommendations re: PEAR. International adoptions in many countries are being scrutinized very closely right now (thank goodness) because of trafficking concerns. Older child adoption and adoption of kids with special needs is much easier than adopting infants because the need is greater there. There are not millions of healthy infants without parents in the world...that is not the reality on the ground in international adoption.

One way to begin educating yourself as a way to dip your toes in the water: With Eyes Wide Open by Adoption Learning Partners is an excellent and very frank online course for prospective adoptive parents (PAPS). Many of their courses will begin to introduce you to important topics of international adoption.

This still doesn't give you all of the facts, though. As viggorlijah has pointed your research on each country. Don't rely on the agencies for all of your research.
posted by jeanmari at 10:05 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

There were recent AMAs on reddit about international adopting, both from a parent perspective, and from a biological-child-of-internationally-adopting-parent perspective. They are pretty much mandatory reading if you want to do this.

TL;DR: Think twice.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:49 AM on December 6, 2011

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