Choosing to pursue international adoption is an exciting endeavor. With so many options, it would seem the world is literally your oyster. But figuring out from which countries you may be accepted as a prospective adoptive parent, and from which countries you might be excluded, is a daunting process. Every country has the right to make their own rules regarding intercountry adoption. What is permitted in one country might not be permitted in another. Before you begin your search it’s important to consider the following:
1. How Old Are You?
Every country has age minimums and maximums for intercountry adoption. In some counties, such as South Korea, you must be between the ages of 25-44. In others, such as China, the minimum age for prospective adoptive parents is 30, but the maximum age depends upon your openness to older child adoption and/or special needs adoption. For these families, a maximum age difference of 45 years is applied between parent and adoptive child. So, for example, if you were 55, you could adopt a 10-year-old child. For couples, sometimes a combined age may be applied. In India, the combined age of married applicants can be up to 90 to adopt a child age 0-4, up to 100 to adopt a child 4-8 years old, and up to 110 to adopt a child 8 years or older.
2. Your Marital Status
For those prospective adoptive parents who are married, many countries require a minimum length of marriage of at least 2 years. A divorce history is considered by some countries, but may mean a longer requisite on the length of the 2nd marriage before pursuing intercountry adoption. For same-sex marriages, there are a limited number of countries available to choose from, though notably Colombia has a policy of welcoming any parents regardless of sexual orientation.
For singles, there are a number of countries available. The same factors of age, health status, and financial requirements apply. A list of the top five single-parent friendly countries can be found here.
3. Family Size
There is a growing trend in intercountry adoption to limit the size of families wishing to adopt. Where some countries, such as Ecuador, have no restrictions, others, such as India, limit family size to no more than three children (minors) residing in the home.
4. Health Requirements
Prospective adoptive parents will need to exhibit a stable health condition – both physically and, in some countries, mentally. If a chronic health problems are an issue, you will need a letter from your physician stating your ability to parent a child as well as your life expectancy. Some countries, such as China and South Korea, have additional weight restrictions and consider prospective adoptive parent’s BMI in their evaluation.
Note: a basic physical is a requirement of the home study for both domestic and international adoptions.
5. Financial Requirements
It is no secret that raising a child can be expensive, so many countries have financial requirements that must be met. For example, China requires a minimum income of $30,000 annually plus an additional $10,000 per child for any children living at home. Couples must have a net worth of $80,000 and singles a net worth of $100,000. South Korea has similar income requirements, but no requirements for net worth. Other countries, such as India, Bulgaria, and Ecuador have no income requirements, but you will need to meet income requirements set by USCIS, which essentially amount to 125% over HHS Poverty Guidelines.
6. Other Requirements
Your agency is a good jumping off point to discuss any other requirements your country of interest might have. Some countries, such as South Korea and China, have educational requirements of a high school diploma or higher. Other countries, such as Colombia, require basic Spanish language skills at time of travel.
7. Trip Length
This is less a country restriction than a prospective adoptive parent decision. Many countries require at least one trip (of 2 – 3 weeks in length) to bring your adoptive child home. Both Ecuador and South Korea require two trips. India may require two trips, depending on your child’s birth state within the country. And Uganda requires prospective adoptive parents to live in country for at least 3 continuous months prior to bringing their newly adopted child home.
If you have a specific country in mind, the best place to start is by visiting the U.S. Department of State’s website. There you will find a Country Information page with listings of who can adopt, who can be adopted and how to adopt. Or talk with your agency, or prospective agency, about what programs might be open to you and your family. Remember, policies change frequently so ongoing dialogue with your agency is key.
Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller, and arts educator. In a small government office in China, Jennifer became an adoptive mother. 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.