When my husband and I set out on our international adoption journey, we had no idea where to begin. We knew international adoption was a good fit for our family and we loved the idea of welcoming another culture into our family’s traditions. At first, we considered Uganda. I had spent time in East Africa, and my sister still worked there with the U.N. Enthusiastically, we approached our agency with the idea, but Uganda was in the middle of renegotiating their international adoption laws. Pre-adoption residency and fostering requirements changed every day. We could pursue an adoption in Uganda, but there was no guarantee. We wanted a country with ethical adoption practices and a consistent history of international adoption. We wondered which country we should choose
Unfortunately, the answer changes from year to year. Some countries close to international adoption, such as Ethiopia, while others become more consistent with their international adoption practices, such as India. The landscape of international adoption was very different when we began our journey in 2013, different still when we pursued our second adoption in 2017 and is different today. Here are the top five countries to adopt from in 2019.
The longest tradition of international adoption comes from South Korea. In 1955, Holt International began the process of intercountry adoption, and since that time, adoptions from South Korea have consistently continued. In 2017, the last year statistics were available, 276 adoptions were completed from South Korea to the United States. Children available for adoption are between the ages of 10 months and 3 years, with 2 years old the average age at placement. Sibling groups are not possible. South Korea has age, health, and income requirements, and prospective adoptive parents must be married. The average timeline to adopt from South Korea is 12–19 months from application to placement. South Korea does have a heritage track for those of Korean descent, and timelines may be shorter. Two trips to South Korea are required to complete the adoption, and each trip is between six and eight days. Costs range from $30,000–$50,000. South Korea is not a Hague Convention country, but prospective adoptive parents must still adhere to U.S. guidelines.
Another one of the most consistent countries to adopt from is China. The China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) oversees international adoptions, and since intercountry adoptions began in 1992, 80,162 children have been adopted from China to the United States. In 2017, 1,905 adoptions were completed from China to the United States. Children available for adoption have mild to complex special needs and are between 7 months and 13 years of age. Sibling groups are rare. China has age, health, and income requirements, and single women are welcome to adopt. The average timeline to adopt from China is 24 months from application to placement. Costs range from $35,000–$40,000, and one two-week trip to China is required. China is a Hague Convention country.
A newer country to the international adoption scene is India. Though adoption by OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India) and NRIs (Non-Residents of India) was previously possible, beginning in 2006, non-NRI and non-OCI families became eligible to adopt. Both singles and married couples are welcome to adopt from India, though age, health, and income requirements exist. Children available for adoption have mild to complex special needs and are between the ages of 6 months and 14 years, with the average age at placement being 24–36 months. Costs range from $25,000–$35,000, and typically one ten-day trip to India is required. Some states, such as Hyderabad, require prospective adoptive parents to be present for the adoption court hearing, so be sure to check with your agency to see if a second trip is required. India is a Hague Convention country.
Adoptions from Central America are possible, and U.S. families welcomed 181 children into their forever families from Colombia in 2017. Children available for adoption range from 1–15 years of age, and sibling groups are common. There is a large need for families open to school-age children (7–10 years old) and sibling adoption. Singles, married couples, and same-sex couples are eligible to adopt, though Colombia has age, income, and health requirements. The process to adopt can take anywhere from one to two years depending on how open families are to a referral. Colombia has a heritage track, provided at least one prospective adoptive parent has a Colombian birth certificate. One trip of three to eight weeks is required to complete the adoption. Costs range from $30,000–$45,000. Colombia is a Hague Convention country.
Last but not least, families should consider adopting from Haiti. Poverty is the leading cause of many orphans, and children available for adoption are typically healthy and between 2–9 years old at referral. Married couples and single women are welcome to adopt, and like other countries, Haiti has age, health, and income requirements for prospective adoptive parents. Two trips are required to complete the adoption process. The first trip will be roughly two weeks, during which time families will bond with their prospective adoptive child. The second trip, roughly one week, will be to complete the adoption and bring the child home. From application to receiving a referral from Haiti is an average of one to two years after dossier submission. Families can expect to travel six months after accepting a referral. Costs range from $35,000–$50,000. Haiti is a Hague Convention country.
Interested in a country not on this list? Have a look on the U.S. Department of State website to see if adoptions from your country of interest are possible. The website contains information on every country and provides prospective adoptive parents’ adoption requirements and country guidelines.
Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller, and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. Her amazing transracial transcultural family was created through adoption from China and India. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and “is this really us?!” whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.