October 18, 2022

Setting Expectations in International Adoption


Families approach adoption with their own hopes, desires, and expectations, whether they know a little or a lot about the process. It is always good to recognize your initial expectations and consider how realistic those are. Below we have outlined common expectations that families carry into international adoption and provide some perspective that should we


Initial Expectation: There are so many children in orphanages around the world that there is a need for families to adopt children under the age of 3 in international adoptions.

While there are many children in orphanages or children’s homes around the world, not all of these children are eligible for adoption.  Countries must go through a process before children are eligible for adoption.

  • Biological family members are asked if they can raise the child.
  • If biological family members are not an alternative, the country will need to receive permission from the adoption authority in the country and/or the court system in order for the child to be considered an orphan and eligible for adoption.
  • Once a child is eligible for adoption, a family living in the country where the child lives is sought to complete an adoption. Keeping the children in their country of origin is important.
  • If no family in the country is found, then the child is eligible for intercountry adoption.

Reality:  Children available for intercountry adoption in most countries are older or have a special needs and need additional care.  We want families to be open to minor to moderate special needs.  We also want families to be open to children up to the age of 6 years old, and in some countries even older.


Initial Expectation: My adoption should move through the steps quickly.

Your adoption is important and your international program coordinator is working behind the scenes on your adoption daily.  It is important to remember that she is also working on other adoption cases daily.  Each case is in a different stage and different work and steps are required to move each family through the process.  The attorney is working on your behalf but they also has many other cases to manage.  The Central Authority wants the child to be adopted but staff shortages and poverty prevent things from being done in a timely manner.  The court is often overwhelmed – not only with adoption cases but other family court cases or even criminal cases. All of these factors can affect how your case moves through the steps.

Reality:  Your adoption is important and you are not forgotten by our staff. Your case is moving forward, even if you do not “see” those moves and changes on a daily basis.  It is good to reach out occasionally to your adoption coordinator to check in on the status of your case, but giving the coordinator time to work and to encourage country representatives is also necessary.


Initial Expectation: Getting the official referral is near the end of the process.

Getting the official referral of a child is exciting.  All the work you have done in home study and education and paperwork has culminated to this point of having a picture and knowing the name of the child you will adopt.  You are ready to fly to another country and bring home your daughter or son.  But it isn’t that easy.  There are still multiple steps to take such as:

  • Receiving USCIS approval for the adoption
  • Completing the fostering period or bonding period as required by the country.
  • Scheduling a court date in the country which can take months to receive
  • Attending court and waiting for the official ruling to be issued
  • Receiving all the documents necessary to register the adoption and to obtain the visa.

Reality:  Each step of the International Adoption Process is one step closer in bringing your child home but each step takes time.  Exercising patience is important because these steps ensure that the process is completed correctly and ethically.


Initial Expectation: My travel time in the foreign country should line up perfectly with the timeline given by my agency.

The timeline given by your agency is an estimated timeline.  Your agency does not have control over foreign country entities, holidays, office closures, etc.  An estimated timeline is given so that you have an idea of the steps in the process.  Delays must be expected.  Americans have the most difficult time waiting.  Most other cultures know that delays happen and they take these delays in stride.  Americans tend to become frustrated, angry, and upset, many times expecting the adoption agency or representative in country to fix the delay.  These are things that are not in our control.

Reality:  Your timeline is an estimate and a view of the steps needed to complete your adoption.  Your adoption agency and the country representatives are doing all that they can to ensure that the adoption is completed as quickly as possible while recognizing the country culture and requirements.


Initial Expectation: I have extenuating circumstances and should be able to obtain an expedited adoption procedure.

In the world of International Adoption there are very few extenuating circumstances that would make the process go faster.  Your job or your time away from family is not considered extenuating circumstances.  We have had families beg for expedited services for a terminally ill child to be brought home for medical attention to be given quickly only to be told that they must go through the process everyone else goes through. Even adopting a relative often does not change the process you will go through.

Reality:   Your adoption provider cares about you and your family.  The adoption process does not change for anyone.  All steps must be completed.  Exceptions or expedites are rare.


It is important for families to have a realistic expectation of the adoption procedure.  Your program coordinator will begin setting those realistic expectations in the inquiry and application process.  It is important for you to know that to us – every adoption is important and we are working hard to move you through the process so that your child can come home.  Delays are inevitable.  The process takes time.  Patience is key.  Devote this time to preparing your life and your home for your child.  Place your faith and trust in God who desires the orphan to be in a family.

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