By March 9, 2011 2 Comments Read More →

Adopting from the US while living abroad

By Karin Leishman, Delhi, India

Our adoption story, like that of so many others, began many years before we actually became parents.  We have been married almost 15 years, but the first few years flew by in a whirlwind of graduate school, establishing careers, etc.   Like many people, we assumed everything would just come “naturally” once we were ready to start a family.  Well, of course, it didn’t work out that way.  Fortunately for us, we had always planned to adopt and had assumed we would one day have a beautiful, blended family of both adopted and biological children.

We had actually signed up with an adoption agency before we even knew about our infertility.  But, soon after beginning the adoption process, I had my first gynecological surgery.  Afterwards, the doctor told us natural conception would not be possible for us.  We were devastated.  Many of our family and friends assumed that since we were already planning to adopt, our infertility was somehow easier to accept.  It wasn’t.  As many people reading this may know, infertility is an emotional roller-coaster, and it can create a powerful cycle of depression and despair.  I was sad, hurt, disappointed and angry.  I felt terrible and selfish for being jealous of pregnant friends and family or even random strangers.  I felt guilty that my husband wouldn’t have biological children because of me.  For a time, infertility robbed me of my sense of myself, and I felt weak and powerless and pathetic.  People pitied me.  I pitied myself.  It is such a difficult place to be, and it can seem as though you’re in a deep, dark pit all alone.  But, you’re not alone, and, if you’re reading this and you’re trapped in that cycle, please reach out to someone who has been there.

We tried IVF, but it never worked and my body reacted quite badly to all the drugs.  For me, at least, it seemed like a sick joke to take IVF meds when I was already riding the infertility roller-coaster.  I felt (and probably acted) like a crazy lady.  So, we stopped.  We picked ourselves up and we moved on, literally as well as figuratively.  We moved overseas in 2005 and re-started the adoption process once we were settled.  We talked only briefly about domestic adoption – it seemed out of reach, especially once we moved abroad.  We couldn’t imagine that anyone would choose us or how hard it would be waiting to see if the birthparents changed their minds or what it would be like having an open adoption.  So, we focused on international adoption because it seemed like an “easier” ABC kind of process with a greater likelihood of coming home with a child at the end of it.  We had no idea that we would spend the next three years spinning our wheels waiting for an international adoption that was destined never to be.

Somewhere in the midst of all the paperwork and waiting, we got a phone call from my aunt back in the US.  She dropped a big, beautiful bomb shell:  a woman she knew had approached her and asked if she knew someone who would consider adopting her unborn baby.  We were shocked, amazed, thrilled and terrified to hope all at the same time.  Soon after, we started speaking to the birthmother directly.  We bonded, and she asked us to adopt her baby.

Since we were chosen directly by the birthmother, this was an independent adoption.  We hired an attorney for ourselves and one to represent the birthparents.  Independent adoptions (also known as private adoptions) involve only the birthparents, the adoptive parents, the lawyers, the court and, hopefully, some counseling support for the birthparents.  Three months after my aunt’s call, we flew to the US to be there when our daughter, Elizabeth Hannah, was born.  She was born in an adoption-friendly state, and her adoption was finalized when she was just 12 days old.  She had her passport at 15 days old, and we flew back “home” overseas the day after that.  It still seems like a dream to us, but we just celebrated her 5th birthday.

Elizabeth’s adoption was a blessing beyond measure, but we still hoped to complete our pending international adoption as well.  Unfortunately, that fell apart 18 months later, just one week before our court date.  Just as with our infertility, we couldn’t understand why international adoption worked for so many other people but not for us.  It was a hard time in our lives, but we also realized how blessed we already were.

A year and a half later, we got another surprise phone call from my aunt.  Another young woman had heard about us from a family friend who also knew our daughter’s birthmom.  This young woman was 8 months pregnant and wanted to talk to us about adopting her baby.  We started talking to her and, soon, she chose us to be her baby’s parents.  We were just as humbled and just as honored to be chosen by the birthparents the second time as we were the first time.  Everything happened so fast yet, at the same time, it felt like we were moving in slow motion.  Two weeks later, we flew to the US to be with her, and three weeks to the day of our first conversation, I was in the delivery room when our beautiful daughter, Sarah Grace, was born.  Her birthmom even asked me to be the one to cut the umbilical cord.  It was a moment I will never forget.

Sarah’s adoption was also an independent adoption, but, since she was born in a different state with different adoption laws, we had to wait 6 months for her final adoption decree.  But, we received the interlocutory adoption decree when she was 2 weeks old, and we were able to get her passport and travel soon thereafter.

Looking back, it all seems so much more simple and straightforward than it felt like it was at the time.  Adoption is a very emotional journey, and there are almost always some issues along the way.  People often ask us about our adoption story and then tell us it’s amazing.  And it is.  But, all adoption stories are.   For those of you who are still waiting, hang in there and know your time will come.  Then, you will have your own adoption story to share.  I, for one, can’t wait to hear it!

Adoptive Family Magazine has some excellent articles about independent adoptions from the US. Here are a few links to stories that provide more information:

Domestic US Adoptions

Independent Adoptions (with a list of state guidelines)

Perceptions and realities about domestic US adoptions

Find an adoption attorney in the US

Posted in: Process, Success stories

2 Comments on "Adopting from the US while living abroad"

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  1. Katrina says:

    Wondering if you could share with us details about how you fulfilled the homestudy requirement for the US while living abroad? Did you have to fulfill any requirements for the country you were living in at the time?

  2. Lori says:

    Could you share about the process of obtaining passports and visas? Could you recommend a professional who helps with that? Thanks!

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