Inviting an orphaned child from another country into your home is a profoundly rewarding experience that most will agree is worth every hour invested in the tedious adoption process. "Many children are usually in very dire circumstances due to poverty or cultural stigma, and you have an opportunity to radically change their future," says Terry Meeuwsen, founder of international adoption humanitarian organization Orphan's Promise. She's also a mother to five adopted children. For a smooth adoption, Meeuwsen advises pursuing countries with established histories of international adoptions.
South Korea is one of the most popular and efficient international adoption programs operating in the United States. It's also the oldest. "The smoothest, fastest adoptions seem to happen with countries that have been doing it for a long time and have tried-and-true systems in place," notes Meeuwsen. Both male and female children, ages 6 months and up, are available for adoption, including those with special needs. No travel is required.
"Countries that suffer extreme poverty, or where HIV abounds, have the most need for adoption," notes Meeuwsen. Ethiopia -- riddled with drought, famine, war and disease -- is one of those countries. Thousands of children are placed in institutions because their parents have died or are unable to provide for them. Prior to adoption, orphans are tested for diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and venereal disease. Travel is not required.
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Kazakhstan, located in eastern Europe, has a growing adoption program that's made it one of the top 10 countries to adopt from in recent years. Orphans are typically of Asian, Eurasian or Caucasian descent, though there's an emphasized placement need for Eurasian and Asian ethnicity. Male orphans are more common than females, and ages are 1 and up. Families are required to travel and reside in the country twice, prior to adoption, for five to six weeks.
As one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world, Haiti has an overwhelming need for adoptive parents. In fact, roughly 10,000 children live on the streets in Haiti, with an estimated 200,000 in orphanages. Still, the adoption process is often a longer one when compared to other countries, says Adoption.com. Infants through teens need homes, including sibling groups and those with special needs. Travel may be required.
Ukraine takes a different approach to adoptions, but the process has proven efficient and adoptive parents report satisfaction. Potential adopters submit dossiers for review and, if accepted, travel to Ukraine to meet a child already referred to them. Meeuwsen adopted three daughters from Ukraine -- ages 9, 11 and 13 -- and spent a month there as part of the process. "We got to know their friends, their culture and some of their background," she noted. "With older children, this is invaluable as it is very much a part of who they are." Ukrainian children available for adoption are ages 15 months and up.
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China has a long history of stable and predictable adoptions. Adoptive children are mostly girls between infancy and 6 years, though older and special needs children are also available. The China Special Needs Adoption Program -- which places special needs children in homes -- is one of its most reliable and efficient programs. Travel is required to complete the adoption.
The Philippines offers a stable adoption program for those open to older children or those with special needs. The adoption process takes longer than other countries, but it's organized and established. According to Adoption.com, children available for adoption are males and females typically between 3 and 5 years old. Travel is required.
India has a longstanding, stable adoption reputation, making it a popular country to adopt from. Many children, including infants, special needs, older children and sibling groups, are placed in orphanages as a result of poverty. Potential adopters with Indian heritage are given special consideration, says Adoption.com. No travel is required.
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