On our adoption forums, a member asked this question:
For all of you who have adopted internationally, what have your experiences been? What should we be looking out for and asking agencies?
Here is one of the replies she received from a forum member:
We went the international route after becoming severely discouraged and disappointed with the US domestic. But before we made the final decision about choosing another country from which to adopt, we had tried adopting biracial babies domestically. During the time that we were going through these adoptions that eventually failed, we had time to imagine being the parents of a child of a race different from ours. I really do think that was an important part of the process for us. I really think that mind-shift that we went through helped us with our own adjustment period when we did receive our children. By the time we chose Cambodia, we were dedicated to being the parents of a brown child (children). We had already worked out how we would handle reactions to our new family, comments, stares, questions, etc.
I can tell you that adopting a child of a different race, and culture changes your own life in a very profound way, and this is a wonderful thing, but is also something that is wise to be prepared for in advance as much as possible. Your new little child will have a tremendous amount of things to adjust to and it’s important that you be prepared to help with that rather than having to deal with your own adjustments. I hope I am making sense, I am trying to say something to the effect that I’m advising you to make the mental adjustment long before the adoption takes place.
As for choosing a country, agency, etc. It’s all a very personal choice, and sometimes it’s pure serendipity like it was for us. We started out heading for one place and ended up in another, which was a wonderful thing. So an open mind is also important. I also wanted an infant and my girls were 5 months old when they joined our family. I did have to go through something of a mourning process over the missed time with them. With international adoption, you will miss some of your child’s first months and moments, and that is the trade-off. It’s important to be at peace with that. I worried so much about all the questions I wouldn’t be able to answer for my girls when they got older, but then I decided that it was more important to establish a trust relationship with them, and be honest, and when I couldn’t answer a question, I would try and help them understand the circumstances of why, rather than be sad about the missing pieces.
In my opinion, I think that mostly it’s important that you are wiling to accept that yours will be a different kind of family and that you can feel very good and proud about that. We impress on our girls that we are grateful for everything that led to our adopting them and that they are the best thing that ever happened to us.
I think it’s important for us, as the adopting parents, to be at peace and completely satisfied with the way our families were formed because that will influence our children to also be satisfied.
In 2002, I began to chronicle my adoption journey and created Forever Parents, a supportive online community for adoptive and waiting parents. Over the next year, we grew our support forums to include an adoption shop and a blog. Forever Parents stayed active, helping thousands of people for over ten years. I’m in the process of updating and moving all the posts to this blog, in the Forever Parents section. This post was originally published on August 23, 2011.