Professor Caroline Alphin
08 December 2015
Domestic vs. International Adoption
There is a preconceived notion that children should be adoptedinternationally rather than adopting domestically. Internationaladoptions tend to have less “red tape” involved with them thandomestic adoptions do. Part of the reason that intercountry adoptionsare deemed “easier” is simply the lack of politics involved whenpreparing for an adoption overseas. For instance, the bulk ofAmerican adoption process includes the use of attorneys, and theprocess can fail if a judge rules otherwise. Many adopting parentsfind it hard to handle the situation when the birth mother comes backcalling for their child in domestic adoption due to either guilt oflosing them or any other personal reason. For that, it becomes socomplicated to adopt a child domestically even though the cost oftaking locally and internationally is always the same from $25,000to $50,000 (American Adoption, ‘How much does it cost to adopt achild’).Logically, children from the United States should be justas readily adopted as children from foreign countries to encouragepotential parents to adopt American children and give homes tochildren in our country.
Adoption is a legal process that allows someone to become the parentof a child even though they may not be related by blood. There aremany reasons people chose to adopt. Infertility is often the mostcommon reason, Empty nest syndrome, LGBT relationship, and that isjust skimming the surface. When someone decides to take there aremany factors involved in the adoption process. For instance: Age ofthe child, whether or not the child has a disability, the race of thechild, their gender, if the child comes from an abusive home, if theyhave siblings, whether the biological parents are going to be presentin the child/child’s lives after the adoption process hasconcluded, and the time it takes between termination of parentalrights and the adoption. With all these factors to take intoconsideration, choosing to adopt domestically or internationally isalso a decision that needs to be made by the adoptive parents.
Domestic Adoption is one of two ways to adopt a child. Domesticadoption means to adopt within the United States. More often thannot, people will try and avoid Domestic adoption. When adoptingdomestically the birth parent/parents has the overall decision on whothe child is taken by, unless the child is in foster care, because ofthis fact couples tend to avoid domestic adoptions in fear that thebiological mother may change their minds in regards to the adoption. Individual states govern their adoption laws, and they all varygreatly, for specificity and time this essay will use Virginia as theexample (Virginia Adoption Toolkit). Virginia’s adoption processesare done through either the Department of social services or a childplacement agency.
The Department of Social Services is an agency responsible for theofficial installation of a fostered or temporarily placed the child.DSS becomes the deciding factor for whether the child is adopted ornot, and all legal standings are put in their hands. There is aprocess that must be followed to place children in a forever home.First, a child may be removed from their home due to abuse orneglect. At which time they are cared for by the state until a laterdate when the courts can determine if the parental rights of thechild/children should be terminated, or if the child can be placedback in the care of the biological parents. The courts willtypically try and place the children with relatives or someone withinthe child’s life that has already established a bond with thatchild. For children to become adopted out a series of steps needs tobe accomplished by the DSS. The first step is a home study needs tobe performed, in which the home of the potential adoptive parents isvisited and evaluated by a social worker. Next, a background checkand personal evaluation are carried out, to determine if the childwill be placed with the potential adoptive parents as a “fosterchild.” The final step is an Adoption Placement Agreement in whicha signed contract is signed stating that the child cannot be removedat any time, unlike a foster child can be. The APA also says whetherthe birth parents have terminated their rights.
There is a post adoption proceeding as well in which a Social workerwill make three home visits within 90 days of the child’s adoptionto assess the acclimation of the child and the adoptive parents. Thesocial worker`s primary focus in post adoption is to identify theextent of association between the child and the new parents. In casethere is any form of abuse and neglect the child can be taken back tothe foster home at that very moment. At this point, an adoptionpetition is filed, and the whole process is taken back to court forjudge’s decision. In case all goes fine, the monitoring processwill last for six months to one year during which the social workerwill identify areas to help the adopted parents and child improve intheir Association(NACAC, ‘How to Adopt’). The social worker willassist in determining the areas that the child can become a fullmember of that family by ensuring they are enrolled in school fortoddlers and infants there must be a day care available for them. TheUnited States domestic adoption agencies Families who foster kids canreceive adoption subsidies and assistance which often encouragespeople to adopt “Special needs” children.
The other option that can be used in the state of Virginia to adoptis a child placement agency. More often than not the biologicalparents will contact a child placement agency to place an unwantedchild into their custody because this is a voluntary act on behalf ofthe biological mother, the rights are terminated in a faster processthan normal. The adoptive parents and biological parents have thechoice for an open or closed adoption. Typically there is a feeassociated with this type that the adoptive parents are responsible.The process of adopting domestically is very detailed and requires alot of tenacity, patience, and knowledge of how the laws of the statethat one resides in work. For instance, the adoptive parents have toundergo a legal process that they are not sure if it will lead totangible results. They need to enroll into counseling classes andtherapy as they plan for respite classes or even support groups(NACAC, How to Adopt’). After that, a social worker has to makevisits to the adoptive home to ensure that the adopted child does notface mistreatment and there is a cordial understanding between thechild and the new parents (Adoption Exchange Association, ‘Adopt USKids’). An adoption petition is filed to give the parents therights to the child once all these are confirmed.
Other than the issue of social workers, race and age are one of thedriving factors putting domestic adoption quite difficult to handle.According to the AFCARS report of 2012, the average age of childrenin foster care has increased from the 6.3 in 2006 to 9.3 in 2011.Concerning ethnicity, the average African American child finds itquite challenging to reach the finalization stage due to reasons arebest known to adoptive parents (Hansen 9). Race channels the bestadoption houses to consider which type of children they want. Whiteare the most dominant followed by African Americans and thenHispanics.
Expenses involved in domestic adoption make the whole process to bequite challenging and one that requires patience unlike ininternational adoption. Among others, adoptive parents need to meetthe requirement of having to undergo several seminars on childadoption to ensure they have the right frame of mind to challengeapproval. The bulk of these efforts are to make sure that the childthey are adopting has no health complications and if they do a waiverfee is given (American Adoption, ‘Domestic vs. InternationalAdoption’). They are supposed to meet health insurance needs of thechild and also the salaries and prenatal expenses for the agency andthe birth mother respectively. In reality, these costs and theprocesses involved in meeting them makes international adoption muchattractive than what is commonly referred to domestic. Also, theinvestigations aim at establishing any form of mistreatment the childmay be experiencing from their original parent home. Internationaladoption has expenses but, the limited technical issues associatedwith meeting them are what makes them more attractive than domestic.For example, when an adopting parent wants to bring the child toAmerica they are only supposed to go for visa expenses so that theycan channel the child’s citizenship to be American. Since Americais part of the Hague convention what might make the process ofmeeting the expense to be a bit longer is if the adopting nation isnot part of the Hague convention. But in a real sense, the process isnever as lengthy as that envisioned in domestic adoption.
International Adoptions tend to be less complicated than local ones,due in part to the amount of less “red tape” involved. Whenadopting internationally it does not matter what country someone istrying to adopt from, the politics and process over all are minimal.There may be many contributing reasons certain people chose to adoptinternationally, such as a number of homeless children in severalcountries tends to be higher than in the United States. Mostcountries have a higher poverty level than the U.S., which in turnmeans a greater number of homeless children. The Quality of life fora child can be greater by living in the U.S. Most couples thatdecided to adopt initially want an infant, by adoptinginternationally they have a greater chance of acquiring a baby.Sometimes families want to diverse, so by adopting overseas, theyhave a wider selection of races, in which to choose from in theirsearch. The United States has many immigration laws, and this canprove to be challenging for someone trying to adopt domestically vs.internationally. The Hague Convention states "The child, for thefull and harmonious development of his or her personality, shouldgrow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love,and understanding. … [I]inter-country adoption may offer theadvantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable familycannot be found in his or her State of origin." (Hague AdoptionConvention, Preamble). These, therefore, means that people tend toappreciate the advantage provided by international adoption due tothe fewer politics involved in adoption. Other than meeting the lesslegal requirements from the adopting nation, they have the power obeing birth parents of the child without the fear of revocation ofagreement from the original parents as those in the US. They alsohave the less mental challenge of offering healthy living environmentbecause by default America is the most developed nation in the world.Safety is not an issue, and health maintenance is aided by Medicaidand other health insurance programs which they must meet beforebringing them to America.
When comparing the process of adopting domestically vs.internationally the list is much shorter. During an internationaladoption application is filed, an application fee of $720 is paidalong with an $85 fee per resident of the adoptive home. Finally, ahome study is done in which an “in person” interview occurs, anda detailed account of the adopter`s income, debts, and expenses istaken under advisement. Adoptive parents wishing to go internationalhave to consider three legal requirements. First, they have to locatetheir state’s legal obligation regarding adoption. Other than that,the parents have to meet the federal government’s legal needs inthis perspective and finally have to see The Hague Conventions of theadopting nation is fulfilled (US Department of State, The HagueConventions). If a country of adoption belongs to the Hagueconvention then several forms such as I-800A, I-800 and DS-260 andDS-5509. If they are not members, then an alternative is offered uponthe parents review the last of the adopting country and meet them.
Locally the process is quite complicated because most adoptionsinvolve infants and statistics pointing to the state of abuse theyare exposed to, makes the government ensure that a “red tape” isimplemented. First, the Children’s Bureau Express report of 2015points out that Child Protection Agencies (CPS) had received 4million referrals associated with 7.2 million kids taken in foradoption. In this report, 683, 000 children were reported to bevictims of abuse and neglect in the US, alone. Victimization rateaccording to the report stood at 9.2 per 1,000 children. In the samereport, it was noted that children in their first year of life hadthe highest rate of victimization at 24.2 per 1,000 (Children ExpressBureau 45). What alarms most policy makers regarding children safetyand protection are the number of reported fatalities in kids underadoption (Child Welfare Information Gateway, ‘Adoption Data andResearch’). The adoption of Child and family Services Improvementand Innovation Act of 2010 opened ways for people to start reportingthe number of fatalities associated with kids across the country. Outof a total of 49 states, there were an estimated 1,585 child deathswhich represented a total of 2.25 deaths per 1,000 children in theUnited States (Children Express Bureau 53). From these figures, it isquite evident that the danger placed on children under adoptiondomestically is one that needs special attention from leaders. Theonly challenge is that legal standings have been so tight on thisissue, but kids still suffer at the hands of adopted parents locally.The only way out is for the government to emphasize counselingprograms and make sure that those who undergo these therapies canconfront the emotional challenge that comes with raising a child thatis not biologically your own.
The total cost of domestic and international adoptions is similar.The only challenge between the forms of adoptions is the uniquenessof the cost involved, and adoptive parents have to consider thembefore making any decision on adopting (American Adoptions, ‘HowMuch Does It Cost to Adopt a Child’ )The United States offers onething different than that of other countries, fostering. If someonechooses to foster children, the cost is minimal and in some cases canbe reimbursed. Adoption subsidies are available to adoptive parentsand also Medicaid is provided for the adopted child. Often bychoosing to go through an agency, most people can get an infant, andcut through an extra process that would be rougher if trying to adoptin the states. The cost for an international adoption can be morethan $15,000 to $50,000. But this depends on the level of interactionbetween the adopting parent and the country of adoption and theagency involved. For instance adopting from Ethiopia to Virginia isfrom $39,526 to $47,867(Adoption Fee Calculator, ‘Bethany ChristianServices’).Also, international adoptions have a minimal medicalhistory of the kids being adopted. For that reason, an individualwishing to international will have to risk issues such as depressionand child exposure to drugs while in the womb.
So if adopting a child domestically vs. internationally cost aboutthe same why is there so much more politics involved in the domesticside of things? All children of the world deserve to have homesforever. However, it is not right that the children in the UnitedStates backyard are not up for grabs first, all because our legalprocess is more advanced than that of a foreign country. If thenation could come together as a whole unit and stop being viewed asseparate entities, perhaps the thick “red tape” that makes theadoption process so hard could finally be eliminated, and thechildren of the world could find loving homes and families to watchover them for the rest of their days.
Also, the usual age of termination of parental rights betweeninternational adoption and local adoption is entirely different.While most international adoptions do not consider the issue ofadopting infants, domestic adoptions have that advantage. But thechallenge is that, once all legal expenses have been met takingrights take about six months to be transferred from the both mothersto the new parents (Hansen 9). In a research conducted by Hansen, theaverage length of termination of parental right for all the kids inthe adoption process is two years, and this is very depressing fornew parents who are trying to get a child through the domesticprocess. In the international case, once the DS-5509 has been filledthe process is much easier. But then the international adoption canbe a challenge when there are changes in laws, political and economicclimates of the given nation. When these issues come into play, theprocess can be longer and unpredictable.
The need to reduce the red tape associated with domestic adoptionover international is commonplace. Nevertheless, policy makers needto reduce the tightened legal framework which is associated with agrowing fear of domestic adoption. Adopting parents have toappreciate the need for having counseling and have to balance allcosts with ensuring they make the best decision in adopting locallyrather than internationally. In as much as the US government isconsidering the safety of the kids concerning mistreatments anddeaths, they should also factor in the mental challenge that wishfuladopters go through while trying to adopt either through an agency orfrom a foster home. In other words, international adoption has morerisks than domestic, but the latter one is much longer and depressinghence need for the paradigm shift in the attitudes.
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