I remember the day my husband and I decided to take the leap to adopt internationally from China. We gleefully sent in our pre-adoption paperwork and waited expectantly for a reply. I remember clicking the email from our agency with all the anticipation of a hopeful senior in high school. “We got in!” I shouted. We sat down to carefully read the email and open the attachments. Requests for references, fingerprints, our financial and health history, a checklist for international adoption education requirements. International adoption education requirements???
I knew from our research that some education requirements would be a prerequisite for adoption in our state of Virginia, but the ones listed from our agency were specifically for their program in China. 18 hours of education prior to the approval of our home study, then 12 hours of education between approval of our home study and the placement of our child. At the time 30 hours of training seemed a bit much, but looking back I am thankful it was required.
If you are adopting internationally, regardless of what country you choose, you will need to meet your state’s requirements for adoption-related education. The difference is whether you choose a Hague or non-Hague accredited nation. For non-Hague countries, typically the state’s required minimum hours of training will suffice. For Hague Convention countries (list found here) a minimum of 10 hours of parent education is required, in addition to the home study. Pre-adoption education is an intrinsic part of the Hague Convention as the educational components are designed to promote successful intercountry adoption. International adoption education includes topics on:
International Adoption Process
International adoption is different than domestic in that different laws and processes apply. Education includes tips for finalizing your adoption and explanations of post-placement reporting requirements.
This was an important one for us because through it we learned about the needs of our waiting son. Some countries may struggle with malnutrition, poor prenatal care, or regional environmental toxins. Learning about the impact of institutional care on children is also crucial. The time children spend in institutional care, and the type of care provided, varies from country to country. It is important to understand how these elements might affect your child developmentally.
Information on attachment disorders is an essential element in international adoption. Children may have been in institutional care and exposed to many caregivers, or in foster care and exposed to only a few. Regardless your child will need some time to adjust to their new family. Learning tips and tactics to employ will help in your child’s transition from the first weeks to the years ahead.
Grief and Loss
Adoption is always a yin and yang of lost and found love. Every child adopted internationally will leave familiar faces, sounds, sights, and smells. Your child’s surroundings will change overnight. Understanding how to support your child through this trauma will prove invaluable.
Finally, when most international adoptive families are formed they become a conspicuous family. You may become a transracial family or at very least a transcultural family. Understanding the long-term implications of your new family make-up, and finding ways to incorporate your child’s culture and heritage will help in the years ahead.
There are many ways to complete your adoption-related education. Your agency may offer classes, there are video and online courses through Adoption Learning Partners and the National Council for Adoption, peer support groups, books, films, and consulting with professionals (such as therapists, physicians, counselors, etc.). It is important to keep a log of your hours as some trainings will provide certificates where others do not. Your agency may have a template or you can use your own like the one here.
When we did finally become a family, I was grateful for the training I had received. I still keep many of my adoption education books on my nightstand and my webinars saved on my desktop. Adoption is a lifelong journey and having a few good resources you can refer back to when the need arises can be just the lifeline you need.
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.