More than 200,000 children from around the world have become part of American families over the past decade. But lately, international adoption has become a more challenging choice for new parents. A new international treaty that governs adoption, and seismic shifts in the number of children adopted from previously popular countries like China and Guatemala, have ushered in a new era—one with fewer children being adopted, but with more openness and less chance for corruption.
If you're looking to adopt from abroad right now, here's what you should know, based on interviews with top U.S. State Department officials who help oversee the adoption process for American families.
Where can you adopt now?
The State Department keeps a constantly updated list of countries with active adoption programs on their adoption-focused website. Many parts of the world have strict rules that limit the number of U.S. adoptions to a small handful each year, but countries such as China, Ethiopia and Russia continue to send 1,000 to 2,000 children to the U.S. each year.
You'll want to review the rules carefully for each country—many have age and health restrictions, or won't allow adoptions to single parents or to gay or lesbian couples. Some countries adopt children only to parents who share their religion or heritage, or only after the parents agree to live in country for several weeks to complete the adoption. The State Department site gives a sense of the length of time you may wait before you'll complete your adoption.
How much does international adoption cost?
There are two sets of fees that you will need to pay to adopt: the fees to your U.S. facilitator and the U.S. government, to cover the cost of a home study, background check, and the agency's services in preparing your paperwork; and fees to the foreign government to cover expenses for paperwork and care for your child. You will also pay some travel expenses—either for you to travel to your child's home country to meet her and complete the adoption, or for your child to be escorted to the U.S., if you adopt from Korea or Ethiopia. The total cost of an adoption can run between $15,000 and well over $60,000. But keep in mind that the adoption tax credit, currently $13,360, can help offset some of those expenses.