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Adoption 101: Types of Adoption

What is International Adoption?

International adoption is, by far, the most popular adoption choice for Canadians. International or 'intercountry' adoption refers to the adoption of a child from outside of Canada.

International adoptions are often very complex and expensive, however, many families pursue this process because there are more infants and young children available. What makes an international adoption so complicated is that the laws of the province or territory, federal immigration laws as well as those of the child's country are followed and met.

These adoptions are also extremely expensive and can range anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000.

International adoptions are arranged with the assistance of licensed private adoption agencies. These agencies provide a full range of pre- and post-adoption services for families. Many agencies offer a variety of international adoption programs whereas others only specialize in adoptions from one or two countries. Before registering, it's very important to thoroughly research the agency and to speak with other families that have successfully adopted through the agency.

The first step in the international adoption process is to choose the country from which you want to adopt as well as the type of child. The most popular countries Canadians adopt from include China, Russia, Korea and the United States. Every country has different requirements of the adoptive families; some countries will only allow married couples to adopt whereas others put limitations on age and health circumstances.

Who are the children available?

Depending on the country, the children available for adoption may be infants, toddlers, and older children. As well, some countries like China have more children of one gender available for adoption. Poverty and lack of family services are the main factors in making these children available for adoption. Adoptive parents must be aware that these children have special needs. These needs may be due to traumatic early life experiences, health problems, poor pre-natal and postnatal care, or malnutrition.

Adopting a toddler or child is much different than adopting an infant because they've experienced much more and carry those experiences with them. Adoptive parents must be trained and aware of these children's special needs. These needs would be the result of the following:

  • they lived in orphanages and may have had many caregivers which often leads to attachment problems
  • they did not have the stimulation and human contact a child needs for healthy development
  • there is little or no background on their biological families or their own early life experiences they had to fend for themselves “on the street” whose independence may make it difficult for them to adjust to life in a family environment they suffered physical or emotional deprivation, leading to long-term problems despite receiving loving care in their adoptive homes.

After the adoption has been completed, many families need assistance in dealing with post-adoption issues. For example, older children may need to talk about their earlier life experiences. They may need professional counseling to help them deal with their feelings and adjust to their new families. This is normal and most adoption agencies have resources and/or professionals that can assist with such issues.

As well, in most international adoptions, the child is a different race or culture than the adoptive parents. Unfortunately, racism still exists in today's society and families need to plan for and be prepared for potential racist and ignorant attitudes from their community and even friends and family. There will be inquiries, often from strangers, about the child's origins and the adoption. Most inquiries stem from genuine interest and others from ignorance and how parents react and respond will make an impression on their child and how he/she views their adoption.

Another issue parents must consider when adopting a child of another race/culture is how they're going to honour the child's culture. Families must learn about the child's country of origin and its traditions and customs so that they can incorporate some into their family once the child comes home. Honouring the child's culture will help foster a healthy sense of identity in the child as well as pride and interest in his/her heritage.

Overview: The International Adoption Process

Depending on the country, the process to adopt a child internationally will vary, but looks similar to the following:

    • Choose the country from which you'd like to adopt as well as the type of child.
    • Research licensed adoption agencies and register with one that facilitates adoptions for the country you've chosen.
    • Contact the adoption agency and request an information package.
    • Complete the agency's application forms and attend any information sessions offered.
    • Complete a home study (usually with a social worker from the agency) as well as have medical and police checks done and submit references.
    • Prepare your dossier of necessary documents and send it to your agency.
    • Your agency will have your dossier translated, notarized and legalized by External Affairs and authenticated by the Embassy of the country chosen.
    • Your dossier will be sent to adoption authorities in the child's country of origin.
    • Complete immigration paperwork to sponsor the child so that he/she can enter Canada
    • Wait for a referral
    • Receive offer of a child through your agency. The child's file will include a medical report from a Canadian, government approved doctor in the child's country.
    • Review the information and research any concerns about the child.
    • Send a written acceptance to the child's country.
    • Receive a notice to travel from adoption authorities in the child's country
    • Make travel plans and fly to the country to pick up your child
    • Process and finalize the adoption in the child's country *
    • Process the immigration papers and return home with your new son or daughter
    • For the next several months (usually six), your adoption placement will be supervised by your adoption practitioner who will submit reports to your province and the child's country.
    • Obtain a birth certificate and the adoption order from your provincial court.

* Not all international adoptions are finalized in the child's country. Some adoptions are finalized in Canada because the child's country requires post placement reports before it gives consent to the adoption.

Advantages of International Adoption   Disadvantages of International Adoption
  • Timeframe - Most international adoptions are relatively quick compared to the years many families wait to adopt domestically.

  • Children - There are more children of all ages available due to extreme poverty in many countries overseas.

  • Legal Issues - The majority of children available have been abandoned or orphaned so there is no risk of a birth mother changing her mind.

  • Control - In an international adoption, families have the option of being specific about the age, race and gender of the child they adopt.
  • The Cost - Adopting internationally is the most expensive type of adoption. Families may face fees ranging anywhere from $20,00 to $50,000 depending on the country.

  • Red tape, legal issues and delays - Families should prepare themselves for lots of red tape and potential delays if there is political instability in the country.

  • Lots of Unknowns - The majority of the children have lived in orphanages and were abandoned. There is often very little information about their biological families and if the birth mother drank, did drugs or had any prenatal care. Also, children living in orphanages often have several caregivers and not enough attention so many have attachment problems that will require therapy.



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