International adoption is when a citizen of one country adopts a child who is a citizen of another country. There are many countries that allow for U.S. citizens to adopt internationally. You can view the statistics concerning international adoption on the U.S. Department of State’s website here.

Thousands of Americans adopt internationally each year. The process is very regulated as it must be determined that a child is legally available for adoption before the child can become a U.S. citizen. This type of adoption is governed by three sets of laws: the U.S. federal laws, the laws of your state, and the laws of the country from which you are adopting. In addition, because the U.S. is party to the Hague Convention, it is important to understand how those laws affect the process.

International adoptions have been declining in the U.S. since 2004 for many different reasons, and one of those reasons is that countries have closed to international adoption. However there are still many countries that are open to adoption, and determining which country you want to pursue will help you determine which agency you want to choose.

The larger percentage of children adopted internationally are cared for in some type of group care facility. Depending upon the level and nature of care given, group care can often encourage developmental or motor delays. These delays are not necessarily long-term issues for the child but will need to be addressed once the child is home.

Next, consider how important it is to you and your family to have your child’s social and medical history. With many international adoption programs, this type of history is impossible to gain due to governmental policies and the circumstances surrounding abandonment.

Although not always true, international adoption generally does not allow for any type of interaction between you and your child’s birth family. If this aspect is an important one to you in the process, look for international programs that might allow for such interaction between birth and adoptive families.

International adoption will generally involve placing a family on a wait list once their paperwork is in place to adopt. Once on the list, a family will wait until they move to the top of the list allowing for a match to be made with a waiting child.

Although the wait list can be a lengthy process depending upon the country adopting from, it is generally seen as a reliable and trusted method for being matched to a child.

Your personal demographic can also determine which countries you qualify to adopt from as each country’s program has their own requirements for adoptive families. Marital status, parental age limits, minimum length of time married, number of marriages, and age difference between the adoptive parents and waiting child are among some of the parameters used by international programs. Be sure to check out the regulations in place for the potential programs you are interested in pursuing for more specific information.


With international adoption, the process differs based on whether or not a country has signed on to the Hague Convention or not. Click on the link below to learn more about The Hague Convention and whether or not the country you wish to adopt from has accepted these regulations on adoption.

The Hague Convention on Inter-country adoption aims to prevent the abduction, sale and trafficking of children and to ensure that adoptions are in the best interest of the child.

Here is Show Hope’s position on the Hague Convention.

Learn more in depth about the Hague here.

Next Steps

Once you have decided to adopt internationally, it is time to Find an Agency!