5 Things You Should Know About International Adoption

I’m happy to feature guest author Jessica Goodpaster. She’s a fellow adoptive mom and blogger who has experienced the joys and challenges of international adoption. Since my family adopted domestically, I’m so excited to share her post on 5 things you should know about international adoption. Read on to learn more about Jessica and her story.

Meet the Guest Author

Jessica Goodpaster is a recovering perfectionist, pun enthusiast, and loves good food. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband, a seven-year-old son she birthed out herself (with the help of medical staff and a double dose of epidural drugs), and a three-year-old daughter they flew all the way to China to adopt when she was 18 months old. Learn more about parenting, adoption, saving money, and the good stuff in life on her blog www.jessicagoodpaster.com. Or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

5 Things You Should Know About International Adoption

I love adoption! Our youngest child was adopted from China in 2017 and I can’t imagine life without her. Now that we are on the other side of the process, I like sharing our experience to make adoption seem more accessible to ordinary families.

There are many ways to adopt a child into your home. For those of you curious about international adoption, below are five important things you should know before you get started.

1. You don’t have to be a superhuman to adopt.

As a mom of an internationally adopted daughter, I frequently get comments like: “I could never do that.” Or “You guys are such wonderful people for adopting.” Maybe you feel this way about adoptive parents as well. Let me assure you that our family is nothing out of the ordinary! We put on our pants one leg at a time just like everyone else. But I completely understand that the adoption process can be intimidating.

The first time I looked into adoption was the months before my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our son.

It took us a little while to conceive, so I explored other options. I was immediately discouraged by the $30,000+ cost and stopped looking. Fortunately for us, we revisited the topic a few years later and were able to fund our entire China adoption without debt. See how we did it here. Even as a family with a very middle-class income, we made it work. There are tons of financial options, so please don’t let money be the reason you choose not to adopt.

Beyond the price, know that adoption isn’t only for “perfect” parents. There is no such thing. We had no special qualifications or skills that set us apart from the general population. My husband and I simply decided to step forward in faith with an open heart and mind. Our adoption agency provided a thorough home study and training to ensure we are prepared for the road ahead. We learned and grew so that we could provide a home for our daughter.

Superhuman skills are not required for international adoption. Having a desire to provide a safe and loving home to a child is a great place to start.

2. International adoption isn’t for everyone, but you can still help families with the process.

Though I believe many more people are capable of international adoption, it isn’t for everyone. Even if you don’t physically bring a child into your home, there are lots of ways to help other adoptive families.

We were blessed by the folks who contributed financially to our adoption, by those who showered us with gifts, and by the people who brought us meals in the early days home. I can’t properly express my gratitude for the help we received to make international adoption possible.

But there are less obvious ways to assist families with the adoption process. Do you own or run a business? Consider updating your leave policies to include paid time off for adoptive families to travel and bond with their new children. Have unused frequent flyer miles? See if you can transfer them to a family for their flights. Are you a teacher? Educate yourself on the effects of trauma and how it affects children in the classroom.

Offer to entertain other kids in the household while parents focus on their new child or babysit everyone after things are settled so mom and dad can have some time to themselves. Housesit or mow the yard when the family is out of the country. Be a listening ear even when you don’t understand the unique parenting challenges.

There are tons of ways that people from all walks of life can assist adoptive families. This may be a good way to dip your toe in the proverbial water to see if international adoption is right for you.

3. You don’t have to be familiar with your child’s culture to adopt…but you should make an effort to change that. 

When we chose to adopt from China, we had no particular tie to the country or culture. I feel strongly that it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that our daughter grows up with a connection to her birth country. Of course, we can’t provide the same cultural experience she would have growing up there. But we are trying to learn and incorporate traditions into our family.

For example, we now celebrate the Lunar New Year. I attempt to make more Chinese meals. We added stories from China to our library, watch movies set there, and make sure that she has dolls that look like her.

I also joined a group for transracial adoptive parents that includes perspectives of adult adoptees. Though it takes me out of my comfort zone at times, it is important to hear stories from people outside my circle. We do a disservice to our daughter if we attempt to raise her with only white voices. Our whole family benefits from listening and learning from others.

One of the things I need to be more intentional about is making sure my daughter has Chinese role models in her life. We live in a fairly diverse neighborhood and her school has kids and teachers of many different ethnicities. But there are not many Chinese people in our network except for other adoptees. My goal is to find ways to change this, especially as she gets older. I want authentic relationships for my entire family.

International adoption, when done well, makes the worldview of your family so much wider and richer.

4. Special needs are intertwined with international adoption.

Because of the nature of international adoption, the majority of children coming home through these programs have some degree of special needs. Fortunately, more kids are being adopted in their own country which often means the ones made available for foreign adoption are more difficult to place for one reason or another.

The Chinese international adoption program is almost exclusively a special needs program. This can mean a medical diagnosis that requires lifelong attention or something minor and/or correctable. It also could be that the child is older since young kids are more likely to be adopted. Many other international adoption programs have similar situations.

Regardless of the details in the file, those considering adoption from a foreign country needs to be aware of the effects of childhood trauma and institutionalization. My daughter’s medical need turned out to be insignificant (though you should not assume this will be the case), but the developmental delays related to her time in an orphanage are pervasive in her life even three years later. It is very common to have delays in speech and language, fine and gross motor skills, and sensory processing. And the effects of trauma can be far-reaching.

I don’t mean this to be a discouragement, but as a plea for potential adoptive parents to make sure they research and prepare for the variety of special needs their child may face. A good adoption agency should help with your education.

5. It’s hard work, but so worth it.

Parenting isn’t easy regardless of how the child enters your family. But international adoption definitely comes with some challenges. Whether the massive cost, foreign travel, missing firsts, cultural differences, special needs, trauma, or other inherent difficulties, you should expect some hard work will be required.

Personally, I have grown in so many ways since beginning the process. My faith is stronger, I have let go of many of my perfectionist tendencies, and I have rebalanced my priorities. Our family is more compassionate and empathetic to people with different backgrounds and experiences.

Above all, I gained the love and affection of a beautiful little girl. Her tenacity, silliness, intellect, and personality are a gift to everyone she meets. She is full of joy…and a little sass! I am beyond blessed to be her mother and am so thankful my husband and I said “yes” to international adoption.

If you have questions about our adoption journey, read more here, or send me an email at jessica@jessicagoodpaster.com.

Thanks again to Jessica for guest posting on my blog! If you would like more information on different types of adoption and their associated costs, you can grab a free download here:

Adoption Costs Guide


    • Heather
      September 16, 2020 / 11:13 am

      You’re so welcome! Thank you for sharing! I love the insights you shared on international adoption!

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