Intercountry adoption peaked in 2004 when over 22,000 children orphaned in other countries were adopted by American families.
Sadly, that number has declined in recent years, leaving tens of millions of orphans facing life without a family. We work hard to combat fraud and promote best practices and transparency throughout the adoption process while encouraging host countries to adhere to strict adoption policies and standards. We also collaborate with U.S. and international government officials to ensure that intercountry adoption remains a viable option for orphaned children and for building families.
To learn more about intercountry adoption, select a topic below. Or, for information on a specific country, visit our country updates page.
Intercountry adoption is the process by which a child born in one country becomes part of a family in another country through adoption. Intercountry adoption is recognized as an important method of meeting the needs of children living outside of family care. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption regulates intercountry adoption between over 80 different countries, including the United States, and is intended to promote transparency in adoption and protect the rights of all parties to adoption. Intercountry adoptions of children from countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention require a different adoption process. All intercountry adoptions, both Hague and non-Hague, must meet all adoption regulations and requirements in both the child’s country of origin and the receiving country.
NCFA believes intercountry adoption is part of a continuum of care that should include enhanced support services for families that need help to care for their children, quality care for orphaned and vulnerable children pending permanent placement, and the development of domestic adoption programs in every country. Children who cannot receive permanent, nurturing care from their families of origin or another family in their country of birth within a reasonable time should be considered eligible for adoption into a permanent family through intercountry adoption.
- Intercountry adoptions to the U.S. peaked in 2004, when more than 22,000 foreign-born children were adopted by American families, but since then adoptions from abroad have steadily declined.
- In 2014, there were 6,441 international adoptions.
- Between 1999 and 2014, 256,135 children were adopted by U.S. families via intercountry adoption.
To read NCFA's statement on the factors that contribute to this steep decline in intercountry adoptions, click here.
More statistics are available at the U.S. Dept. of State's intercountry adoption website.
The United States is a party to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, so adoptions from other Hague member states are governed by the Hague process. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption was created to protect the best interests of children by helping to ensure ethical standards for intercountry adoption. Member countries of the Hague Convention have set international standards for intercountry adoption that must be upheld.
Adoptions from countries that have not signed the Hague Convention follow a different non-Hague process. Non-Hague countries that participate in intercountry adoption have different standards, often agreed upon independently between sending and receiving nations. Recently, A U.S. law, the Universal Accreditation Act (UAA), held that adoption service providers working with prospective adoptive parents in non-Hague adoptions must comply with the same accreditation requirement and standards for all children, regardless of their country of origin.
Differences between Adopting from Hague versus Non-Hague Countries1
|Selecting a Country||Approximately 80 countries – including the United States – are parties to the Convention.||Non-Hague countries include Ethiopia, Ukraine, and Democratic Republic of Congo.|
|Selecting an Agency||In the U.S., agencies must be accredited by the Council on Accreditation.||All adoption service providers must comply with Hague standards.|
|Agency Services||An agency will conduct a homestudy, work with the country of origin to identify a child for referral, secure consent to the termination of parental rights, monitor a case until the adoption is finalized, and provide post-adoption services.||All agencies must comply with Hague standards as well as supporting families with any other services required by the countries adoption agreement. This might include rules regarding matching, education, and providing any appropriate follow-up monitoring.|
|Parents must “habitually live” in the United States (Options are still available for citizens living abroad). Requirements may vary based on agency, sending nation, and the needs of the child.||Requirements may vary based on agency, sending nation, and the needs of the child.|
*USCIS must approve homestudies. They must include specific information about the parents.
|Homestudies must be conducted or supervised by the accredited agency. The homestudy must include a statement about training and counseling received by parents and their eligibility to adopt from the specific country.||Agencies must conduct homestudies according to accreditation standards and in compliance with any requirements of the country of origin.|
*It is forbidden to give birth parents money or favors.
|Hague agencies must disclose fees and estimated expenses in writing.||Reputable agencies will disclose reasonable estimates of all fees and expenses.|
|USCIS Involvement||USCIS must determine eligibility and suitability of parents (I-800A Form) before the child is matched with parents and before a Hague petition (I-800 Form).||The child must meet the special definition of an orphan to be eligible for adoption and for USCIS to approve an I-600 form for the child’s immigration into the U.S.|
- Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2009) Intercountry Adoption From Hague Convention and Non-Hague Convention Countries. Washington, DC 20024
Resources from National Council For Adoption
- Adoption Advocate No. 81: Avoiding the Perils and Pitfalls of Intercountry Adoption from Non-Hague Countries: Considerations for Agencies and Adoptive Parents (Part II)
- Adoption Advocate No. 80: Avoiding the Perils and Pitfalls of Intercountry Adoption from Non-Hague Countries: Considerations for Agencies and Adoptive Parents (Part I)
- Adoption Advocate No. 66: Recognizing FASD-Related Speech and Language Deficits in Internationally Adopted Children
- Adoption Advocate No. 60: Preparing Children for the Adoption of a Sibling: Recommendations for Families Considering Intercountry Adoption
- Adoption Advocate No. 57: Reconsidering Intercountry Adoption: Who Wants to Adopt and Who Could Be Adopted?
- Adoption Advocate No. 50: Earlier is Better for Family Care: What Research Tells Us About Young Children and Institutionalization
- Adoption Advocate No. 44: Global Trends in Intercountry Adoption: 2001-2010
- Adoption Advocate No. 40: Protecting the Rights of Intercountry Adoptees: Steps to Ensure the Right of Citizenship for Every Adopted Individual
- Adoption Advocate No. 38: Race and Identity in Transracial Adoption: Suggestions for Adoptive Parents
- Adoption Advocate No. 33: Equalizing the Treatment of Foreign-Born Adopted Children
- Adoption Advocate No. 28: Examining Intercountry Adoption After the Earthquake in Haiti
- Adoption Advocate No. 18: State of Adoption from China
- Adoption Advocate No. 16: NCFA Position Statement on the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2007 Technical Instructions on Tuberculosis (TB) as They Relate to Internationally Adopted Children
- Adoption Advocate No. 13: Six Views on Intercountry Adoption
- Adoption Advocate No. 11: A Case for Ethical Intercountry Adoption
- Adoption Advocate No. 7: Thousands of U.S. Internationally Adopted Children Lack Legal Citizenship
U.S. Department of State
The U.S. Department of State provides information for prospective parents and adoption professionals, booklets on specific countries, news and alerts on intercountry adoption, Hague Convention information, and more at www.adoption.state.gov.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
USCIS lists information on both Hague and non-Hague adoptions as well as the immigration requirements for adopted children at www.uscis.gov.
Intercountry Adoption Journey
An online training program that meets the education requirements for prospective adoptive parents adopting from a Hague Convention country
Jason and Shannon Devine
"Just like some biological births are more complicated than others, our road to adopting our daughter was at times frustrating, challenging, and even heart-wrenching. While it was all of those things, it was at all times worth every minute. In our wildest dreams we could never have imagined having the ability to love someone so deeply and unconditionally as we do our daughter. I guess the true miracle of parenthood is that we all think our children are the best in the world and all of us are right."
Dan and Elisa Rosman
"Intercountry adoption has been an amazing adventure for our family. We have met people and had experiences we never would have had otherwise. And our children are endless sources of joy, love, and amazement. With one biological daughter, one daughter from China, one son from China, and another adoption from China in-process, we feel that our family is just as it was meant to be!"