Deciding on your child's birth country
Adoption is for life and you are not only adopting a child, but you are also adopting the country of your child's birth.
An internationally adopted child needs to grow up with a strong sense of identity and cultural heritage. Thus, adoption and your child's birth country, will be present everyday for the rest of your life. Do not underestimate this. Each child is of course is different and some will have a very strong affinity for their birth country and others may be milder, but it is forever present in some form or another.
Some people come to international adoption without any idea of where they would like to adopt from, they just 'want to adopt a child that needs a family'. From there you have to narrow down the field to find your country of choice.
Unless you have a very firm idea in your mind, or very strong reasons why you choose a specific country, this could be a very difficult task. Even if you really want to adopt from a specific country this may not be possible. This is because each country has strict criteria on who they will allow to adopt and if you do not fit into this criteria then you will not be able to adopt from that country.
See here for specific country criteria.
Once you have established that you can adopt from specific countries then you have to regard several factors which will determine your life long committment to that country and its children.
Obviously the stronger your ties to the country that you choose - the better. I thought that I did not have much to connect me with Russia and then I sat down with a pen and paper and started to write down everything that I knew about Russia. Although I was incredibly naive about the country I managed to fill two pages with everything from, yes, Vodka to Sputnik. I realised that actually Russia was part of my worldview and thus not too alien.
Factors to consider when choosing a country to adopt from
Reiterating - First of all you must fulfil the requirements of the country from which you are adopting. There is no point in planning to be a single mom and falling in love with China when you are no longer permitted to adopt from there. Or your connection with Guatemala leads you in that direction, only to discover that the United Kingdom has closed the door on adoption from that country.
To see if you fulfil a country's requirements check the criteria in the following country pages.
The second major consideration is the connection to the country. Besides the actual adoption process, you will have a connection with this country forever. Conventional wisdom is that internationally adopted children must be bought up with a positive understanding of their heritage. The more you like the country and its people the more pleasurable will be your future. You will be spending a fair amount of time in country during the process and its is likely that you will travel back to this country in the future. You will also spend time educating your child to his or her birth country's customs, traditions, history and language. It is not uncommon for adoptive parents to fall in love with the country of their children and this is all good and positive for bringing up your child up with a strong and positive image of themselves.
If, however, for what ever reason, you hold a deep resentment for a country and its people, you should think twice before adopting from that country. Russia is a country that comes to mind - its turbulent history has meant that many toes have been stood on and if you and your family have been adversely affected by the actions of this nation, you might find it very difficult to bring your child up with a positive image of its birth country.
I had a family that were happy to adopt from anywhere, as long as it was not Pakistan. For whatever reason, they held very negative images about that country and its people and were very brave to be able to acknowledge this and to express it.
There is, to be blunt, much prejudice when it comes to Nationalities. It is a complex and personal subject. When considering adopting from a particular country you need to be aware not only of your beliefs, but also those of your extended family. When you adopt internationally you are inviting another nation into your family and although you may be completely happy with it, the sentiments of your family may differ. Some may simply never accept your child and you may face rejection, alienation or daily conflict from family members. Prejudices run deep and it is best to discuss these openly with your family before you chose to adopt from that country.
When ever I saw one of my friends, he would always make some quip about Russia,'Vodka', 'Bears' 'Ruskies' - I knew that this was coming from a place of ignorance rather than prejudice, and I had to sit him down one day and make him aware of the slant that he was inflicting on my son. He was horrified when he actually realised that what he thought was just a joke was actually causing some offence. He backed off and all was well.
One of the most sensitive issues in inter-country adoption is, the colour of your child's skin. It is always at this stage that voices drop and people start to be furtive. Having a child who is obviously not yours is always going to highlight the fact that he or she is adopted and you must be aware of that - not only for your sake, but also that of your child. Are you willing to always be asked about adoption? How do you think a child may feel being a different race from you? There are many schools of thought on this and the issue can be controversial.
In international adoption you are creating a family and it is your prerogative to want to have a child whose skin colour is the same or different to yours. You must be robust in your decision and be prepared to stand up to the nay sayers.
This issue alone may dictate what country you will adopt from. Mary, a single woman from Bristol chose to adopt from Russia because she felt that the child would already be at a disadvantage with only one parent and did not wish to place additional weight of difference of colour, race and all those issues on the child.
Peta on the other hand adopted from Ethiopia for the very reason she believed in mixed race families, and delighted in creating a 'non-traditional' family.
Before you make that all important phone call to you local authorities you need to know what country you are wanting to adopt from. The social worker expects you to be well researched on the topic and eligible to adopt from your chosen country. You must also have on hand, your reasons for adopting from that country and how you will bring your child up in their country's heritage. So you need to do your reasearch!
What sounds better - "I don't know, I think I would like a child from, um I don't know, Asia?"? or "We would like to adopt a boy under 3 from a Russian orphanage because we feel very strongly that although Russia is doing the best for its children, there is nothing that can replace a family environment and with our family links in the Russian community we feel we can offer a Russian child a loving and secure family who will honour his heritage."? Nuff said!
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