The one constant in International Adoptions has been that countries around the world are opening, closing or modifying their adoption programs. Over the past few years, the number of children coming into the United States for adoption has declined. Those declining placements means that those families seeking to adopt internationally are in greater need of professional assistance in determining what country and programs will meet their individual needs.
As an attorney in Tysons Corner, VA, I do not arrange and match international placement. Those arrangements are best handled by a licensed adoption agency that has spent the time and money establishing a program in the country you chose. As an adoptive parent, you want to follow the well-worn path. You do not want to be the test case. You want a baby.
I have assisted families with adoptions from at least 65 countries. The role I can play as an attorney is two-fold. First, I can help you decide if international adoption is the best choice for you, discuss the pros and cons of different countries and recommend reputable agencies with strong programs in your country of interest. Second, after you return with the child, I can handle the legal work involved through the courts in an international adoption or re-adoption and to obtain a U.S. issued birth certificate.
Some families contact us after identifying a child in a foreign country or while a foreign born child is visiting them in the United States. In those types of cases, I can help you ascertain, often with the assistance of an immigration lawyer, whether the child can legally immigrate to the United States. If so, I can handle the legal work necessary for an adoption.
While there are more international adoption opportunities today than a generation ago, choices are realistically limited to a handful of countries. The top 5 countries for international placements in 2013 accounted for 63% of all adoption visas granted by the U.S. The top 15 represent 87%. In order for an American to adopt a child from abroad, the foreign country must have a legal or administrative process allowing the adoption and the child must meet certain criteria to obtain a Visa to enter the U.S.
From Where Do The Children Come?
2013 Adoption Visas By Country
1. China – 2306
2. Ethiopia – 993
3. Ukraine – 438
4. Haiti – 388
5. Congo, Dem. Rep. – 313
6. Uganda – 275
7. Russia – 250
8. Nigeria – 183
9. Philippines – 178
10. Ghana – 170
11. Bulgaria – 159
12. Columbia – 159
13. Korea – 138
14. India – 119
15. Taiwan – 94
Total Adoption Visas Issued in FY 2013: 7,094
(fiscal year of October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013)
How To Choose An Agency
Almost every adoptive family will benefit by using the services of an agency which is local to them and licensed in their own state. The local agency provides accessibility and convenience as well as being able to assist with pre- and post-adoptive services. Choose an agency that has a strong, established program in the country of your adoption. Agencies spend a lot of time and money establishing programs. You do not want to be an experiment; you want your process to go smoothly. Talk to other families about their experiences with agencies. Also discuss your choice of an agency with an adoption professional who knows many families experienced with that agency.
The Role of The Attorney
A consultation with an Adoption Attorney can help you select which country’s international program will best meet your personal needs and goals. The attorney can then recommend which local agencies have a strong program in that country. The agency then holds your hand through the program until the child is placed.
Some countries like Korea and India grant guardianship and you must adopt in the U.S. to finalize and obtain citizenship. Once the child is placed, your agency conducts 3 post-placement visits. You should engage your attorney 4 to 5 months after placement.
Other countries like China and Ethiopia finalize the adoption in that country. It is important to re-adopt in Virginia to receive full recognition of the adoption throughout the U.S., change the child’s name, obtain citizenship or obtain a Virginia Certificate of Foreign Birth. Most adopters have 3 post-placement visits and file at six months after placement or wait one year and then only one visit is required.
Stanton Phillips is an attorney licensed in Virginia and DC who limits his practice to adoption and family building. Stan has successfully completed over 3,000 adoptions. He helped the Virginia legislature draft the last two major updates of the state adoption laws in 1995 and 2006. Stan has assisted families with adoption of children from more than 65 countries.