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Adoption Process For Indians Abroad: A Primer

Posted: July 12, 2013

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Living abroad and want to adopt a child? Here we explain the trans-racial adoption process for Indians in the US.

By Lakshmi Iyer

As an Indian woman who is a mother through trans-racial domestic adoption in the US, I get several questions on the adoption process for Indians abroad. Many Indian women begin their research on how to adopt from India and often find themselves at a dead end.

To adopt a child from India, at least one adoptive parent needs to be a US citizen or the couple should be willing to relocate to India for a few years so they can adopt domestically in India and then work on moving back to the US. Often this means putting careers on hold or reworking life plans and it sounds the death knell to parenting dreams.

Another option that most Indian women overlook involves opening our hearts and minds to look past racial boundaries; to question: “Why do I want to adopt? Is adopting about becoming a parent or about parenting a specific kind of child?”

Once you decide to welcome a child regardless of its race and ethnicity, the adoption process for Indians abroad is a long one. Here are some resources to help you out:

I am a permanent resident or I am on a H1/H4 visa. Can I adopt a child?

Yes you can! This link here explains who can adopt. There are federal and state laws that regulate domestic adoption. Most common legal terms that govern adoption are explained here.

Where do I start?

This is perhaps the most daunting thing that faces potential adoptive parents venturing into hitherto unknown territory. Is there a network or forum for prospective adoptive parents? Good starting points are:

The Adoption Guide
Child Welfare Government website
Adoption Language

What does the adoption process for Indians abroad look like?

A quick overview of the adoption process can be found here.

Agency Research: Adopting a child in a private domestic adoption means finding parents who are ready to relinquish their child, an attorney to handle the legal process and a social worker/counsellor who can work with expectant parents to help them navigate the adoption process emotionally. Trying to do this individually is a lot of work than most of us can handle. Adoption agencies typically handle all of this for a fee and are the popular choice in domestic new born adoptions.

A good starting point for agency research is here, here and here. Agency reviews can be found here and here. Also check out the BBB rating for the adoption agency you are considering. Some good tips on finding out if the adoption agency you are considering is ethical.

Homestudy: This is the next step in the process that lays you and your family open to scrutiny. This is done to ensure that the child being adopted is placed is a safe and healthy environment.

Adoption profile: The home study takes anywhere between 2-6 months to be completed. The time spent waiting for the clearances and the home visit is a good time to work on the adoption profile. Think of it as a resume that you send out to expectant parents, explaining what you as a couple offer to a child that needs parents. At a basic level, the adoption profile includes a letter to the expectant parents explaining why you want to adopt their child. It also includes pictures and bios of the people wanting to adopt. There is no right or wrong way to create one; just keep it real and honest.

What am I open to? Most agencies will have a checklist as part of their application that asks you as a potential parent about the kinds of situations you will be open to such as race, gender, special needs children, exposure to smoke, drugs, fetal alcohol, premature birth and so on.

Closed, semi open, open adoption: Another question that comes up early in the adoption process is what level of communication are you comfortable with once you have adopted the baby. A good primer on this can be found here.

Costs involved in domestic adoptionWhat are the fees involved in an adoption process for Indians abroad? How much should I prepare myself for? Remember that some of this cost can be offset by the adoption tax credit.

Matching: Once the above steps have been completed, you are on your way to being matched with an expectant parent. This is the hardest part of the process because there is nothing to do but sit and wait and hope that an expectant parent will pick you to parent their child. But this is a good time to prepare for the changes that lie ahead.

Some excellent adoption related reading resources are:

Reading recommendations for a prospective adoptive parent
Adoption themed books
Adoption resources
Attachment and adoption

Being matched and post adoption: It happens one day. You get a call that an expectant couple liked your profile. They would like to place their child with you. Once the excitement is over, this is the time to get to know more about the child’s heritage and medical history. If open adoption is being discussed, this is the time to forge those connections and build a new family that your child is going to be part of. This would also be a good time to talk about birth plans and discussing boundaries.

Once the child is placed, then the legal process of relinquishment happens. These laws vary from state to state. Post relinquishment, the next step would be to get ICPC clearance for crossing state lines with the new child.

Post adoption home visits and finalization: Once the baby is home, there are two more steps that must happen before the baby is legally your child. The first is the post adoption home visits and the next is finalization. Finalization is the court process that pronounces the child as yours. This is also the time when the child’s name can be legally changed and birth certificates and passports applied for.

Being a visible family

Congrats! With finalization out of the way, start enjoying your new family. As Indians adopting across racial lines, you will probably be subjected to pointed questions, abject curiosity and occasionally, rude comments. One thing that will help ease that initial hesitation on how to answer would be to ask “Why do you ask?” This places the onus on the other person to reflect on why they want to know.

As your children grow and make new friends you may get calls or emails from concerned parents about how to introduce their child to the world of adoption. A handy primer is here.

Building a community:

As an adoptive parent in a trans-racial adoption, I have found it important to build a community of similar families. It takes a village to raise a child and raising an adoptive child is no different. To that end, I’ve created a Facebook page for parents of Indian origin who have adopted or are thinking of adopting trans-racially.

*Photo credit: Amie Fedora (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

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