Why should I adopt internationally?
International and domestic adoptions carry different risks, so your decision revolves around which risks you are most comfortable with. The benefits of international adoption include finality, irrevocability, and the relative speed of completion. Many families complete their adoptions within 6 months. Once an adoption has been finalized overseas, it cannot be overturned. International adoption is also generally less restrictive in respect to the age and marital status of adoptive parents.
The children we place internationally are generally older than 6 months, so you cannot adopt a newborn. Although the health risks seem greater than with domestic adoption, KidsFirst guides you through the medical review process. We analyze all of the provided medical information with international adoption specialists.
Should I work with a local agency?
Not necessarily. Although your home study must be prepared by a local agency (in your state of residence), it is not necessary that you work locally on completing an international adoption. A proven agency in a different state may be able to provide a better adoption experience than an in-state agency lacking the same expertise and overseas coordination. You should look for an agency that has proven itself, both with what it does for you in the U.S., and with what it can do for you overseas. We work with families across the country, and through phone, fax, and e-mail correspondence are able to provide the same level of personal attention to all families we work with. We are always accessible and respond quickly to any questions or concerns you may have. While traveling, our overseas coordinators (who are among the very best from the countries in which they reside) will be available to guide you through the process step-by-step.
Can I specify the gender and age?
Yes. We understand that gender and age may be important to families, so we look for referrals that meet the families' stated expectations.
Can I decline a referral?
Yes, you can decline referrals. If you are not satisfied with a referral for any reason, and do not accept it, you will receive another referral fairly soon thereafter. We understand that there are numerous reasons why a referral may not be accepted, so we do not put families “at the back of the line” when they choose to reject one. Rather, we give families the next referral that falls within the parameters they have expressed to us.
Can I adopt multiple unrelated children at once?
Yes. We have successfully placed many un-related children. We will discuss with you the issues involved, including the ages of the children you hope to adopt, and the ages of any children currently in your household. This helps us determine how to most successfully place un-related children.
Will I have to pay the fees in advance?
No. We have structured our fee schedule to spread payments out over a period of time, and to assure that our families do not pay large sums of money prior to the submission of necessary adoption-related documents. At the time you commence the adoption process, you will pay $300 as a non-refundable application fee. The next amount due will be due when you submit your dossier, upon which time you will pay the agency fee balance (currently $4,700 on one-child adoptions, and $5,200 on two-child adoptions). Foreign fees are not due until approximately 10 days before you travel to finalize an adoption.
Is an adoption final?
Your adoption will be completed in the country in which your child resides; you will go through the legal process in that country. After going to court, the adoption will be final and irreversible. When you return to the U.S., your child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen. We still, however, recommend that our families obtain an official Certificate of Citizenship. Visit our legal page for more information.
How will I travel if I don't speak the language?
All of our families are met at the airport by a coordinator. Throughout the adoption process in a foreign country, you will have a translator to help you communicate, a coordinator to walk you through the entire process, and a driver to transport you to where you need to be. Visiting the region in which your child resides, you will travel by car, train, or plane. You will generally be accompanied by one of our representatives. Our families have found that what could easily be a stressful process, can actually go by very smoothly.
Are the children healthy?
It is important to realize that these children have lived in an institutional setting for much of their lives, and have not received the attention and care they would have had they been born into your household. Most children have what we would refer to as “minor correctable conditions,” which generally appear as physical and/or mental developmental delays. Most of these children will catch up with their peers once they are living in a healthy household with a good family. We take great care in assuring that our families are able to perform a complete evaluation on their child's referrals. We help obtain all of the available health information in order to facilitate the medical review process with international adoption specialists (who we have carefully chosen). We arrange conference calls between the orphanage and the international adoption specialist so that the families can make an informed decision before accepting a referral. As a result of the intensive review process, we have had great success with our placements. Our families do not have to go through the difficult process of reviewing referrals on their own.
Special needs children are also available.
Why does it cost so much to adopt internationally?
We believe that anyone should be able to afford adoption. Unfortunately, the international adoption process is extremely complicated. It involves the correspondence of two countries and the myriad of governmental entities in both countries. The legal process of adopting takes place in a foreign country, which only complicates matters.
What is the first step?
Contact our agency to learn more about different programs, and (if you are in Maryland) to begin the home study process.
What is a home study?
A home study is, in a way, your life story. It includes information about your family life and your reasons for adopting, as well as other information that pertains to your life. Home studies are completed by an agency in your state, and involve an actual visit to your home.
What is a dossier?
A dossier is a set of documents that are sent to a foreign country during an international adoption. Your placing agency provides guidelines and walks your family though the dossier process. The requirements differ for each country; KidsFirst is trained in the completion of dossiers for each of the countries in which we are involved.
What is immigration clearance?
Immigration clearance is needed in order to bring an internationally adopted child to the U.S. First, you must apply and submit a copy of your home study for approval. Afterwards, you will receive an appointment for fingerprinting, upon which time you will be sent your immigration approval in the mail. From the time that your application is received, the wait for approval is approximately 2 months.
What is the difference between a passport and a visa?
A passport is a formal document issued by the government of a country to one of its citizens, authorizing the bearer to travel to foreign countries and re-enter their native country. A visa is an endorsement made by the government of one country on a passport issued by another country, which allows the bearer to travel into or through a country for a specific length of time.
What is a post-placement report?
Post-placement reports are essentially progress reports on how a child is developing/adjusting with a family after adoption. These reports are required for both domestic and international adoptions. The number and frequency depends entirely on the country from which the child is adopted.
Is financial aid available for adoptees?
Yes! Many grants, loans, and other resources are available to adoptive families. Our agency has a list of grants and programs that may fit your needs. Also, KidsFirst Foundation works with families who are adopting special needs or older children, in order to help cover some of the costs. Please contact us to learn more.
There are essentially 4 steps to completing the domestic adoption of a newborn or infant child. They are as follows:
- Agency consultation: You will meet with our agency director and staff to learn about the program and determine what is best for your family. We will explain the difference between open, semi-open, and closed adoptions. Afterwards, we will work with you to begin formulating your adoption plan, and to help you understand your specific role in the adoption process. 
- Agency application and completion of a home study: This step can be completed with the help of KidsFirst, a licensed social worker, or another licensed home study agency. Your final agency approval is contingent upon your recommendation by an agent. Your social worker will be able to advise you of your state’s policies regarding approval. You may also complete an education on birth family issues, adoptee issues, and adoptive parenting. 
- Matching: Once your home study is approved and your dossier is complete, you are ready to be matched with a potential birth mother. The first step in the matching process is to clarify your child preference. It is important to be honest with yourself, and with your caseworker, in identifying the child you would like to adopt. It is helpful to make an inventory of what you are hoping for in a child. You can prioritize the characteristics that are most important to you (social and health status of the birth mother, race, etc.) Although we try to reasonably honor your preferences, please be advised that if your criteria is too restrictive, you will significantly narrow your options for referral. There needs to be a mutual level of comfort between the birth family and the adoptive family.
You should clarify with your caseworker what your preferences are concerning an open, semi-open, or closed adoption. In an open adoption, identifying information is fully disclosed, and contact between the birth family and the adoptive family is frequent and continuous, depending on the agreement made between families. In a closed adoption, all identifying information is confidential, and there is no contact between the birth family and the adoptive family. A semi-open adoption falls somewhere along the continuum, often allowing for an initial meeting between birth and adoptive families, as well as occasional correspondence through the agency in regard to child pictures and information. The families and the birth mothers both have the freedom to determine their level of openness in the adoption. You will only be matched with a birth mother whose preferences match your own. It is important to note that many birth mothers prefer an open adoption, as it is considered a healthy choice for her. Please consider the well-being of all members of the adoption triad while formulating this plan.
Once you have clarified your child preference, the length of time before you are matched with a mother will vary. There is no way to predict the length of time; it is different for each family. Your referral comes in the form of a medical abstract of the birth mother, containing prenatal information and pictures. Sometimes a meeting will be appropriate. KidsFirst would like you to make an informed decision before moving forward with a birth parent match. We encourage you to present the received information to an independent doctor for second opinions.
There are several avenues for gathering additional information about a potential child, and for clarifying any questions that your consultants may have. You will communicate your questions through your caseworker. Generally, answers can be obtained within a week. If necessary, conference calls may be arranged between your consultant and a prenatal doctor, or with any other professionals involved. 
- Child's birth: Once you have accepted a match, you will begin your relationship with the birth family. In some cases, financial support of the birth mother is necessary. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Your wait will be dependent on the birth mother’s due date. You may begin working on any necessary travel preparations. You may be invited to the hospital for the child's birth, or you may be asked to refrain from visiting, depending on the birth mother’s personal wishes. All parties involved must be supportive of each other during this difficult time. KidsFirst will have staff available to both the adoptive parents and the birth mother at the time of the child's birth.
You must remember that no child belongs to you until the final papers are signed. This is very difficult to understand, as you will likely feel connected to the birth mother and the child, which you may perceive as being yours throughout the process. Though KidsFirst does all it can to ensure that a birth mother does not proceed with an adoption plan unless she is certain, things can change once the child is born. According to national statistics, about 20 percent of birth mothers change their mind after the child's birth. The birth mother has a minimum of 48 hours after the birth before she makes her final decision. Once the decision has been made, it is final and cannot be revoked. It is in the best interests of your family that the birth mother makes the best decision for her and her child.
Once the birth mother signs the relinquishment papers, you will complete your adoption petition with the court. At that point, the child will officially be yours forever.
KidsFirst's team of dedicated staff will work to guide you through the complexities surrounding this process. We will ensure that the adoption is carried out in a safe, efficient, and sensitive manner. We strive to minimize anxiety for both parties throughout the process. 
There are essentially 5 steps to completing an international adoption. They are as follows:
- Apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): You can complete this by submitting an I-600A form, for non-Hague countries, or an I-800A form, for Hague countries. To establish your ability to provide proper parental care, you must submit a home study completed by an approved agency within your home state. As part of the processing of your case, USCIS (or sometimes, the Department of State) will conduct an overseas investigation verifying the orphanhood of the child. To expedite a USCIS approval, submit your application as quickly as possible, even if you have not yet completed a home study. The filing of this application will enable USCIS to set a date for fingerprinting. Upon the submission of a completed home study, USCIS will already have your file, and (assuming your application is satisfactory) will be able to issue your adoption approval in the form of an I-171H (non-Hague), or an I-797 (Hague). Once you have received approval, a cable is sent to the American embassy in your country of operation. Your USCIS approval will be valid for 18 months, and your fingerprints will be valid for 15 months. For more links and information, click here. 
- Complete an international home study: This can be done through KidsFirst, a licensed social worker, or another licensed home study agency. Your final BCIS approval is contingent upon your recommendation by an agent. In some states, including Indiana, you are allowed to file an I-600A prior to, or during, the home study process. In other states you cannot file for BCIS approval until your home study has been completed. Your social worker will be able to advise you of the policies in your state of residence. Your completed home study is valid for 12 months, though an update may be necessary if circumstances change prior to the adoption. 
- Complete a dossier: Once you have applied with our agency, you will be given a dossier packet. Your dossier consists of all the documents necessary for processing the adoption in your country of operation. We will go over the preparation of your dossier with you in detail. These documents must be notarized. In some states, a county-level certification may be necessary. Our staff is available to answer any questions you have regarding the dossier. The time frame for dossier completion is up to you, however, the child referral process cannot begin until it is completed and in our possession. For our Indiana families, we will schedule an appointment to finalize the dossier, at which time you will sign your documents in front of us. We will notarize them and submit them to the proper country. 
- Child referral: Once your dossier is complete and you have received notification of your BCIS approval, you are ready for a child referral. The first step is to clarify your child preferences. It is important to be honest with yourself and your caseworker in identifying the child you would like to adopt. It is helpful to take an inventory of your child preferences, and to prioritize the characteristics most important to you (sex, age, health status, etc.) Though we try to honor your preferences, please be advised that if your criteria is too restrictive, you may significantly narrow your referral options.
Once you have clarified your child preferences, you will receive your referral in a time period as short as a few weeks, though it could take up to 6-8 months. This waiting period is dependent on your child preferences, and the country that you are hoping to adopt from. Referrals come in the form of a medical abstract, complete with pictures and occasionally video. Medical abstracts are faxed to you immediately, while pictures and/or video may be sent overnight by mail. Medicals usually include birth information (weight, height, head and chest circumferences, etc.), Apgar scores, availability information, medical diagnoses, and other updated measurements. Information regarding the birth parents is minimal, if available at all.
KidsFirst would like you to make the most informed decision possible in accepting a child. We advise our families to consult with a pediatrician and/or physician for second opinions.
There are several avenues used for gathering additional information about a child. You will communicate your questions through your caseworker. Answers are generally obtained within a week. If necessary, conference calls may be arranged between your consultant, an orphanage physician, a facilitator, or a lawyer. This depends on the phone access in your country of operation. 
- Referral acceptance and travel: Once you have accepted a child, your dossier is sent to the applicable country, and a court date is scheduled for you. Your travel dates are scheduled around this court appearance. The travel lengths and details are different for each country.
Our overseas coordinators will meet you upon arrival in the country of adoption. Coordinators arrange your in-country travel and accommodations, help with translation, walk you through the legal and adoption process, troubleshoot, solve problems, and manage your schedule. They are there to ensure that the adoption progresses in a safe, efficient, and culturally sensitive manner. To learn more, contact us or refer to our individual country pages.