Hi, my name is Emily Lund, and I am an adoption counselor for Holt International. I am often the first person to speak with many families who are just starting the process and have questions about adopting through Holt. That said, I thought I would share some of the more common myths and assumptions I hear about international adoption. I hope this is helpful!
MYTH #1: Eligibility requirements are set in place by the placing agencies.
In almost every instance, this statement is false. Each country’s government establishes the rules regarding parental eligibility to adopt that must be honored. Other entities — such as USCIS, overseas partner agencies, orphanages or placing agencies — can build on these rules, which is why families might see differing eligibility requirements when researching different agencies. Ultimately, however, it is the country that sets the initial eligibility requirements about everything from age and length of marriage to religious affiliation and number of children already in the home. Prospective parents must meet eligibility requirements at the time of initial application to Holt if possible, but no later than dossier submission.
MYTH #2: Special needs only refer to lifelong conditions that severely impact a child’s quality of life or mobility.
The term “special need” really encompasses a wide spectrum of medical conditions ranging from mild/correctable to major, medical conditions and everything in between. And as Jessica mentioned in a previous myth-buster post, many children with “special needs” don’t even have a physical or medical condition. While adopting a child with special needs is not a good fit for every family, we find that more parents are becoming open to special needs after researching different types and degrees of medical conditions. In fact, the vast majority of children now joining families through international adoption have some level of special need or medical condition — and in most cases, they lead full, active lives. During the homestudy process, your social worker will assist you as you consider the degrees and types of special needs that your family might be open to.
MYTH #3: Adoption is the best response when disaster strikes.
When conflict or natural disasters create a situation in which children become orphaned, separated from their families, or otherwise vulnerable, many people understandably want to provide immediate help in any way that they can. As an adoption counselor, I get a lot of calls and emails from concerned people asking how they can adopt children who are refugees or impacted by terrible natural disasters. How I first respond to these inquiries is always to share that Holt International is a child-centered organization. By that, I mean that we always strive to determine what is best for each individual child in a given situation — and that in the case of a national disaster or crisis, adoption is not typically the best first response. In fact, the first priority is always to reunite children with their families and their community, whenever possible — a step that we in fact take with every child who comes into our care. This is a key part of our model of service, and why we invest so much in family strengthening and preservation efforts. Here are a few additional reasons why we cannot immediately place children for adoption after a natural disaster:
- It takes a very long time to ethically ensure that a child cannot reunite with his or her birth family and is legally free to be adopted. It is also up to each country to determine who can legally be adopted.
- The application and approval process to become ethically licensed in a country to provide adoption services there is very lengthy (for good reason).
- Not every country allows international adoption or even domestic adoption.
To read a recent article about this very topic that also quotes Holt’s vice president of policy and external affairs, click here.
MYTH #4: I did my homestudy first. Isn’t that the first step?
Yes, the homestudy is the first big step of the adoption process. However, due to Hague accreditation, there are restrictions in place regarding which homestudy agencies that placing agencies can accept homestudies from. It is best to find the placing agency that you want to work with first, and then use their guidance to locate a homestudy agency in your area. Please note that domestic homestudies cannot be used for an international adoption process.
MYTH #5: It’s easier to adopt siblings
Sibling groups of varying sizes are occasionally available for adoption and we often have more families open to sibling groups than there are sibling groups available. Families are not encouraged to be open to sibling groups only, but you are welcome to state openness to siblings on your application and homestudy. The majority of families are matched with a single child.
Emily Lund | Adoption Counselor