Quora: Why do parents adopt children from foreign countries rather than from their own country?

My answer, originally published on Quora.

Q:Why do parents adopt children from foreign countries rather than from their own country?

Foreign adoptions are more expensive, the process is more time consuming, and switching to a new language and culture is hard on the child. What is the motivation for parents to adopt foreign children in the first place, and what keeps them motivated through these challenges?

This is a genuine question and I am interested in hearing from parents and children of foreign adoptions.

My Answer

First, children that are born abroad need families just as much as children that are born here in the United States. We are all citizens of the world. Children, no matter what country they are from, are innocents who deserve families.

Second, the premise of the question, that "Foreign adoptions are more expensive, the process is more time consuming, and switching to a new language and culture is hard on the child" is incorrect.

In many cases, foreign adoption is less expensive than private domestic adoption (at least within the US), largely because it is common for adoptive parents to pay the labor & delivery medical expenses of birth mothers, who are sometimes uninsured.

I'd venture that the international adoption process is a lot LESS time consuming, on average, than for domestic. With private domestic adoption in the USA, it could go fast if you are lucky, but it could take years and maybe never happen.

If the child is young enough, the impact of changing languages and culture is minimized. My son was saying a few words in Korean and no English when we adopted him at 12 months. 9 months later, his English vocabulary was far larger than the average American-born 2 year old. At adoption time, he had only just started to eat solid foods, so the change in foods was minimal.


Finally, for the rest of my answer, I'll talk about how my husband and I made our decision to adopt our two boys from Korea. We chose to adopt internationally instead of domestically (in the USA) because, frankly, the Korean process was straightforward, easy, and predictable compared to adopting within the United States.

At the time we'd been struggling with infertility for over five years, and I was just emotionally exhausted. I sought the comfort of a straight-forward process, where you basically just get in line and wait for a child. At the time, Korean adoption offered that.

Domestic adoption didn't. With US domestic adoption, the birth parents typically choose the adoptive family. So, for adoptive parents, it's like looking for a job...you go on a lot of interviews, but you don't know when-- or if-- anyone will ultimately choose you. It could be years. Or you might never get chosen. Your heart could get broken time and time again, as you are introduced (or even matched) with birth parents who ultimately choose to parent or pick someone else.

The other domestic option is adopting from the US foster care system. Alas, it is far from straightforward to do so, because the goal of foster care is not adoption, but the reunification of biological families. Even if a "foster-to-adopt" child is placed with you, you might not be able to ultimately adopt him/her. The birth parents' parental rights have to first be terminated by the court -- and they often fight it and win. Further, the available children are often older, part of sibling groups that need to stay together, or have serious medical or emotional problems. As first-time parents, we didn't know if we'd have the skills to deal with those types of issues.

Sue Raisty

Product management geek, born-again engineer, adoptive mother of boys, coach & mentor, mountain trail runner, tinkerer, no-bull communicator, wannabe writer, room mother & compulsive researcher.

Silicon Valley, California http://blog.sueraisty.com