Are you considering an international adoption but don’t know where to start? Do you not know what you don’t know? When we started our international adoption journey, we learned some surprising things. Here are some criteria that you didn’t know were important for an international adoption.
Each country that participates in the Hague Treaty for International Adoption has its own unique criteria for adoptive families and the dossier process.
For the most part, to be considered for international adoption placement, you must work with a Hague-Acrcredited agency, select a home study provider, complete a home study (if you are wondering what a home study is, click here). Then, you move on to your dossier.
When we started our adoption journey, we knew that we would have to go through years of paperwork and agency responses. However, what shocked and surprised us were some of the criteria we never expected could be a deal breaker. Here are 8 of the criteria that you might not know matter for your international adoption.
THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN YOUR HOME MATTERS
Most countries that participate in the Hague Treaty (read more about that here), have a maximum limit for the amount of children that an adoptive family can already have in the home.
WHAT? This was so strange to me when I first started researching countries and their specific programs.
I assumed that limit would have something to do with the amount of money that a family made or even the amount of bedrooms that the family had.
However, the number of children you already have in your home, whether adopted or biological, is a huge factor in which standard country program is for you.
For example, the Philippines will not permit a family to enter its standard match program if the family already has more than 3 children in the home. (1)
Even more shocking, Thailand, and many other countries, restricts the number of children already in an adoptive family’s home to 1. (2)
Therefore, if you already have 2, 3, or more children in your home, then the country programs that are right for you, will be much more limited than if you have no children in your home or only one.
THE AGE OF YOUR CURRENT CHILDREN MATTERS
Did you know that the age of the children already in your home matters for international adoption? Many countries who have reputable adoption programs will not place a child outside of your family’s natural birth order.
Even more will not allow you to submit a dossier before your youngest child is 2 or 3. Thus, for some programs if you have a baby at home, you will have to wait to submit your dossier (and thus wait to start your wait time) until your youngest is at least 2.
Luckily, for us, for our Philippines program, our youngest needed to only be a full year old. We were able to complete most of our paperwork before his second birthday and hopefully keep our children closer in age.
However, in other countries, the youngest age is 2 or 3, so be sure to take that into consideration as you look for the program that best suits you. (3)
YOUR NATIONALITY MATTERS
Did you know that your nationality, race, and heritage matter in some international adoptions? If you are a prospective adoptive parent who is also the same nationality as the adoptee, then you might be able to ignore many of the other criteria and even some of the waiting period!
For example, in Korea, some of the age restrictions are waived if one of the adoptive parents is from Korea. And, in the Philippines, Filipino heritage is favored. (4)
One of the main purposes of the Hague Treaty on International Adoption is to preserve the culture and heritage of adopted children. Countries must first attempt to match children with in-country families before pursuing international adoptive families.
Thus, if you are a foreign national, a step-parent, or an ex-pat, you have a leg up because you presumably share heritage and culture with the adoptive child.
YOUR INCOME AND NET WORTH MATTER
Of course your income matters when you are talking about caring for a child. But, who knew it mattered so much!?
Having 3 kids, I know that kids can be quite expensive, but for the most part, my small children do not require half of what I spend on them.
However, for purposes of international adoption you will be required to prove two things. 1. That you have money in the bank (or a positive net worth). And, 2. That you have income to support your family.
Many countries require that you prove that you have at least $10,000 of income for each person in the home subject to a variable minimum. (5)
Considering the average world income for an entire family falls shy of $10,000, according to a Gallup study by by Glenn Phelps and Steve Crabtree, the income variable makes international adoption only an option for the relatively wealthy (on an international scale). (6)
YOUR BMI (BODY MASS INDEX) MATTERS
This one might scare you. Countries around the world are united in that they want healthy adoptive families for their children. This means physicals, descriptions of chronic or past illnesses, and even disclosing your BMI.
In many countries, people with a BMI of more than 35 are ineligible to adopt. Although some countries will permit an individual with up to a 40 BMI to adopt, it may require additional documentation. Some countries require that an additional physician’s statement be present for any BMI over 29. (7)
In other words, international adoption is another potential motivator to lose those extra few pounds!
YOUR RELIGION MIGHT MATTER
In some countries, the religion of the adopting family really matters as an important international adoption criteria. Sometimes your religion is also agency specific.
If a foster program or group home is funded by a philanthropic group run by a certain religion, then your application may be required to reflect your dedication to that particular religion.
Further, in our case, the Philippines program through Holt required not only a statement of our faith but also a corroboration of our commitment to our faith by multiple religious leaders who have known us for more than 5 years.
YOUR MARRIAGE MATTERS
Even in the United States, generally, men or women cannot adopt whose husband/wife does not join the petition or consent to the adoption. Similarly, unmarried individuals generally cannot jointly adopt with an unmarried boyfriend/girlfriend.
In the same way, international adoption requires that spouses join in an adoption and that joint applicants be married.
However, what you might not know is that some countries will not permit an unmarried individual to adopt a child. This means that in some countries, only married couples can pursue adoption. Further, the amount of time that a couple has been married matters.
Many countries require a marriage of more than 3 years (Korea, Thailand). Other countries have no limit on time but will require evaluations of the health of the marriage in the home study.
What’s more, whether you have been divorced and how many times will be a determining factor for which country will accept your dossier.
YOUR AGE MATTERS
For international adoptions, your age matters. For purposes of international adoption, your age is measured on two scales. 1. How old you are, and 2. How much older than the adopted child you are.
Of course, any adoptive parents must meet a basic age requirement to adopt. For some countries and situations this is 21, but many have a minimum age of 25. In many countries, you are no longer eligible to adopt if you exceed the age of 55 unless you have a relationship with the child already.
Additionally, your age in relation to the adoptive child is also important. Most countries require that you be a minimum number of years older than the child but no older than a certain maximum.
For example, China permits a difference of as much as 50 years. But, Thailand requires that an adoptive parent be no less than 15 years older than the adoptee.
Similarly, Korea caps the max age at 49. (8) Contrastingly, Uganda has no max but an adoptive parent has to be at least 21 years older than the adoptee. (9)
SURPRISINGLY, THESE CRITERIA MATTER FOR AN INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION
Some of these international adoption criteria might surprise you, but they matter when choosing the country that is right for you. Be sure to consider each one of these factors before you select the country that is right for you.