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International Adoption: U.S.

International Adoption: U.S.

When most people think of international adoption they immediately think of faraway places like China, Korea, or Russia. They don't think of the U.S. Perhaps that's because geographically and culturally we're so similar to each other. In fact, it's for these reasons--our geographical and cultural proximities--that so many Canadians used to take their adoption search south of the border.

But not any more. Ever since the Hague Convention came into force in 2008, adopting from the U.S. has become more complicated and costly. Canadians can still adopt from there, but with the Conventionís new set of rules and regulations--designed to help countries regulate international adoptions and protect the best interests of adopted children--you can expect to find more delays, more difficulties, more red tape and ultimately, more fees.

The Process
Adopting from the U.S. is, in some ways, similar to adopting from another province in Canada. In addition to meeting the adoption criteria in your province, you also have to satisfy the criteria of the state where the baby is born or lives. And of course, the requirements of the Hague Convention and immigration laws. The exact process will vary, depending on the state's adoption laws.

As for the steps involved, count on, at the very minimum, going through the following:

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  1. Complete a home study
  2. Find a prospective birth mother considering adoption
  3. Have prospective birth mother and father undergo social and legal counselling
  4. Review birth parents' social and medical histories
  5. Meet the birth parents (optional but highly recommended)
  6. Complete the immigration paperwork to sponsor child to come to Canada
  7. Book the flight and process travel visa
  8. Fly to U.S. to pick up the child
  9. Process the adoption
  10. Process the chid's immigration papers
  11. Return home with the child
  12. Wait for a prospective birth mother's revocation of consent period to expire
  13. Post-placement visit from an adoption practitioner
  14. Submit a post-placement report to ministry in charge of adoption
  15. Receive an adoption order from the courts

There are three main ways to find a child in the U.S.:

  • By yourself
  • Through an agency
  • Through a facilitator

Conducting Your Own Search
Searching for a child on your own is potentially the least expensive route. It also enables you to take control of the process. Placing your parent profile on Canada Adopts! will ensure you exposure in the U.S. After all, the Internet is the first place that many birth parents go to when theyíre looking for information about adoption. And some of them may specifically want their child to be raised in Canada.

Classified ads are another effective search tool, provided you target your audience carefully. Campus and community newspapers are probably your best bet. The ad can be very simple: "Loving Canadian couple Interested in adopting a child" plus your first name, and a number to call. But check first with your licensee or the state's adoption experts. In some states, advertising of this kind is prohibited.

Agencies
Agencies in Canada don't work directly with birth mothers in the U.S. As a result, you'll have to go through one in the U.S. Speak to your licensee before you do.

Facilitators
More commonly known as "baby brokers", many facilitators are unlicensed and therefore illegal in Canada and parts of the U.S. Facilitators match prospective adoptive parents with birth mothers who are thinking of adoption for their child. They're not cheap--usually in the order of about $5,000--and they're not always effective or, for that matter, ethical. Think of them as an expensive Yellow Pages. To find out more about them and their practices, read any of the adoption chat room discussions. After you've done that, you won't need to do much else. Facilitators should be your last resort and, even better, ignored altogether.

Before you sign up with any adoption professional in the U.S., make sure that you know what you're getting into. The approach to adoption south of the border is very different from what it is in Canada. At the very least, make sure that the agency or individual you're dealing with is licensed. The differences between one adoption professional and the next are striking.
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Timeline
Your home study, which must be completed in the province where you live, usually takes at least three to six months to complete. The rest will be up to you--how quickly and easily you're able to find a child. It could take months or it could take years. Among other things it will depend on:

  • How picky or anxious you are
  • The kind of child you're interested in adopting
  • The method(s) you use to find a child
  • Your financial resources
  • Plain dumb luck
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The Costs
The costs of a U.S. adoption is about $30,000-50,000+ USD. A lot will depend on how--and when--you find a birth mother. Will you go through the Internet or an agency? The prospective birth mother's particular circumstances and the laws governing adoption in her state will also be a factor since, unlike in Canada, in some parts of the U.S. pregnant women who are considering adoption for their child are allowed to receive financial aid. Technically, these payments are called "living expenses", but the definition isn't exactly cut and dry. Depending on where the potential birth mother lives, it could mean anything from paying her monthly rent to covering her entire hospital expenses.

If, for example, a prospective birth mother doesn't have a car and decides she no longer wants to take public transportation to visit her doctor, she could ask you to rent her a car for the duration of her pregnancy. Needless to say, expenses like this have a way of adding up in no time. That's the least of it. Some of the women you'll be dealing with may come from low income families and consequently lack adequate health insurance.

Route 66Luckily, there are ways around this. For instance, you can limit your search to women in those states where it's illegal to help out with "living expenses." Or you can only work with those who have insurance. Since adoption in the U.S. is monitored less closely than it is in Canada, the system is ripe for abuse, and some people will take advantage of that, particularly if they believe they can benefit financially.

Often it's not their fault so much as the fault of their so-called "adoption professionals" . Instead of taking the time to educate a prospective birth mother about the repercussions of her life-altering decision, they'll take short cuts, leaving the pregnant woman ambivalent, confused and ultimately unprepared to make an informed decision.

Where the prospective birth mother lives will also have an effect on the overall costs. The further away she lives, the higher the travelling costs and the more you'll need for lodging.

And finally, there's the legal and administrative costs. They'll vary according to the professionals you choose and the amount of time it takes to process your file. At the very least, you'll need to find a adoption practitioner and lawyer in the state where the birth mother lives. As in Canada, you'll be expected to cover the counselling costs of both prospective birth parents, whether they go through with the adoption or not.
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Advantages
Searching for a child in the U.S. used to have one big advantage over searching for one in Canada: in the U.S. there's more people and, by extension, a larger pool of potential birth mothers and children. But since the Hague Convention came into effect in 2008, there are many more restrictions, making it harder than ever to get your placement finalized.

If youíre willing to put up with the new regulations, adopting from the U.S. has one huge advantage over adopting from overseas: Babies are available. Because of the delays overseas, itís virtually impossible to adopt an infant from abroad. Not so in the U.S. In the past, many placements actually took place directly after the birth of the child. Nowadays, itís a little more complicated, but itís still possible to bring your baby home within a few months.

Other advantages: you have the choice of conducting your search yourself and, if the adoption is open, you'll have access to the medical and social history information on your child's parents. Knowing about your child's heritage and origins is a huge plus for many reasons, not the least of which is it will help you later when your child grows up and starts asking you questions about his placement.
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Disadvantages
Now that the Hague Convention has come into force, adopting from the U.S. is riskier and more expensive. As a result, many agencies have stopped working with Canadian couples altogether.

quarterThe other big disadvantage: as in private domestic adoptions in Canada, the prospective birth parents can change their minds at any time and decide to parent themselves. However, given the increased costs and complications of adopting in the U.S., the stakes are ultimately much higher.
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Ten Common Mistakes Adoptive Parents Make When Adopting from the U.S.

  1. They underestimate the costs involved
  2. They underestimate the risk factors
  3. They don't screen a prospective birth mother enough.
  4. They open their heart and their wallets too soon.
  5. Their expectations are too high.
  6. Their expectations are too low.
  7. They don't trust their instincts.
  8. They think that adopting from the U.S. is just like adopting in Canada.
  9. They don't scrutinize their professionals enough.
  10. They underestimate the complications.

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