Risks of International Adoption
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Risks of International Adoption

Celebrities, such as Angelina Jolie and Madonna, have brought the joys of international adoption to the forefront. However, behind the headlines are many stories of the risks and challenges inherent in international adoption. Research your options carefully and consult with others who have undergone the experience to determine if adopting internationally suits your resources and interests.

Adopting Children in Orphanages

The Association for Research in International Adoption points out that children in international orphanages typically have experienced poor nutrition, lack of access to good health care and a low standard of living. Sometimes, impoverished single mothers with little prenatal care abandon their young children, resulting in the child being institutionalized. Sometimes, these children have experienced neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse. Many have major medical problems resulting from low birth weight or other issues. These factor make the children high at risk for requiring specialized medical or psychological care.


While domestic adoption has its share of paperwork and processes, the realm of international adoption demands far more. An adoption facilitator with experience in cases from the country with which you are working should support you through the procedure, and keep you updated on any shifts in policy. No matter how quickly you complete your paperwork, you cannot rush the U.S. government’s approval, nor can you shorten the foreign government’s time frame.

Special Needs

Doctors Julia M. Bledsoe and Brian D. Johnston wrote a paper to support families as they prepare for international adoption. They assert that a high number of children in international adoption placements have developmental delays or special needs. Expressive language, gross motor skills, fine manipulative skills and cognitive processes are among the areas that may be affected. In addition, early developmental tests, either in the child’s home country or in the United States, may not reveal the child’s delays or needs, and parents will need to have specialists conduct further testing as issues arise.

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