Friday, April 16, 2021

A Guide for Prospective Adoptive Parents 

The amount of information you can find about International Adoption is limitless and can be overwhelming to families when they first start the process.  Many families struggle to figure out amid all the information which country program and agency is the right fit for them. If the above statements resonate with you, we understand and would like to provide helpful tips as you navigate your adoption options. 

Below is some helpful guidance as you begin your research to help you zoom in on the important information and feel empowered to push aside information that isn't important right now or may not be necessary at all! 

Get the Lay of the Land 

  • Start by attending a free virtual information meeting held by an agency that does international adoption. Barker runs free information meetings every month (sometimes more!), and many other agencies do, too. These options are often free of cost and run by experts in the adoption field. 
  • Even if the programs that the agency runs are not of particular interest to you, these presentations will give you a sense of the things you’ll need to consider before you choose a program (see below for more important considerations) and questions to ask of other agencies so you’ll have a basis for comparison. You’ll also have an opportunity to hear the questions other families are asking. 
  • You may have the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of a family who has adopted recently, which is especially helpful if you do not know any adoptive families personally.  A Barker family always presents at Barker information meetings! 
  • You may find that one particular agency is a really great fit for you, leading you to want to choose from among their programs exclusively. Alternatively, you may look for an agency with a program you desire but a similar feel to the one that had a great fit but perhaps did not have programs you were eligible for. 
  • Take some time to look at international adoption from a larger framework, now that you have a little bit of context from the information meetings that you’re attending. Start by looking at the Department of State’s adoption statistics if that interests you, or begin exploring countries to which you have a connection (heritage, study abroad, language, etc).   
  • Begin to understand what the Hague Convention was, and how it impacts intercountry adoption! 
  • Listen to adoptee voices to understand more about the adoptee's experience and learn about transcultural adoption, grief and loss, and birth family connections. Barker's Blog Corner is a great place to find some of these stories, as are the Adoptees On podcast, the Side by Side Project, and many others. 

How Do I Know Which Country Program is Right for Me/Us? Picking Your Program 

It's equally common to begin exploring intercountry adoption with an idea of the country program you’d like to pursue in mind, as it is to begin your research with no idea of what country program you’d be best suited for.  It's important to ask yourself a few questions before you pursue any one program actively: 

  • "What age group of children do I feel best equipped to parent?" If you are unsure of the answer, this is a great topic to discuss with an adoption professional. Many agencies, including Barker, offer Pre-Adoption Consultations which are a valuable option for families who are unsure how to assess their capacity when it relates to age, gender, or special needs as it relates to international adoption. 
  • "How many children am I hoping to adopt?" "Am I able to provide a home and family to a single child, or do I feel able to parent a sibling group?" "If so, how many siblings?" 
  • "Am I open to a child with identified special medical needs?" "If so, am I open to minor/correctable, moderate, or significant special needs?" This is another great topic to bring up in conversation with an adoption specialist if you are unsure. 
  • "Am I open to providing a permanent home to either a male or female child, or do I have a strong preference?" This is important to determine as some country programs will allow stated preferences, while others will not. 

After you’ve had these important conversations with your partner or support system, you can begin to narrow down the country program that you are interested in pursuing.  The major determining factors for most families can be boiled down to two things: their eligibility, and the needs of children in each program. 

Parent Eligibility: 

In intercountry adoption, this is determined by the state in which you live as well as the country from which you are hoping to adopt. Agencies may also have specific eligibility requirements for parents. Countries often have eligibility requirements defined regarding the following criteria: 

  • Age of the prospective adoptive parent(s) 
  • Marital status and length of marriage if applicable, and/or relationship status 
  • Income 
  • Number of children in the home 
  • Health status of the parents 
  • Citizenship (one parent must be a U.S. Citizen to pursue intercountry adoption in most cases, but many country programs also offer priority to families who have heritage or citizenship in that country.  Colombia and India are two examples of this type of program, where all families have a path to adopt but families of Indian and Colombian heritage have priority in their respective programs). 
  •  Criminal/arrest history 
  • Religious requirements (less common) 

Needs of Children in Each Program: 

In intercountry adoption, children come to need a home through a variety of circumstances. In some cases, it's very common for a birth parent to make an adoption plan for their child during pregnancy or right after birth (example: South Koreawhereas in others it's most common for children to be discovered lost or abandoned (example: India). Below are some good questions to ask about children in the programs you are considering. It is essential to ensure that above all, you feel equipped to meet the needs of children commonly seen in a program. Adoption serves to ensure that children find safe, forever families, so ensuring you are comfortable with medical and emotional needs in each program is essential as you determine whether you are able to provide a forever family: 

  • What is the age range of children available for adoption? 
  • What are the medical and emotional needs most common in the program? Will those needs vary depending upon the age of the child? Some programs are specifically geared toward finding homes for children who most need them due to identified medical needs (Example: China Waiting Childwhile others are not. 
  • If applicable for you, are both male and female children in need of homes through this program? 
  • Are children cared for in foster homes, small group homes, or large orphanages? 
  • How do children come to be available for adoption through this program?  The answer to this question also often informs what type or amount of information will be available at referral, as it determines how much historical information is typically available about children in need of forever families. 

How Do I Select the Right Agency for Me/Us? 

Agency selection is entirely a personal choice and will be based on which agency is the best fit for your family.  Once you have narrowed down the list of countries you are hoping to pursue, you can navigate to the IAAME (the accrediting body for international adoption in the U.S.) website to check which accredited agencies run a program in your country of choice. It’s important to review and compare agency policies, fee agreements, and contracts, all of which should be published on agency websites. It is essential to work with a Hague accredited agency when pursuing intercountry adoption. 

Many agencies also offer individual consultations for prospective parents in addition to free information meetings. If you’re unsure where to begin, feel free to reach out to The Barker Adoption Foundation office to speak to an adoption specialist at 301-664-9664 or via info [at] (email)We are happy to help you navigate these exciting first steps in your adoption process! 


Emily Marshall, Director of International Adoption Programs