The Challenges of International Adoption

By Kara Cousins

October 15, 2012 /thenewbrunswickbeacon

After three miscarriages, Janice Glover reconciled she would never give birth to her own children, so she decided to adopt with her husband Rupert. In the beginning, they looked to Europe. Once they heard stories of adoption scams in Russia, they changed their minds though.

“After more than four years and thousands of dollars into the process, we were still waiting. It’s hard waiting that long,” said Glover.

And they’re not alone.

Over the last decade, the number of Canadians adopting overseas has decreased significantly. Citizen and Immigration Canada reported 1,968 inter-country adoptions occurred in 2010, down from 2009 when there were 2,130 adoptions, and from 2003 when it peaked at 2,180.

In the United States, a similar phenomenon is occurring. The number of international adoptions has decreased by more than half over the past seven years.

International adoption is in flux because adoption regulations are constantly changing.

China allows only legally wed, heterosexual couples to adopt. If you are single, gay, obese, or at risk for cancer applying to adopt in China is a waste of time. Haiti’s bureaucratic disorganization worsened when the earthquake hit, and now the government wants children to be placed with relatives in the country and not with foreigners. If all that wasn’t enough, the Canadian adoption agency dealing with Ethiopian adoptions recently went bankrupt. All this leaves Canadian couples second-guessing how they can adopt ethically and whether they should pursue inter-country adoption at all.


Louise Reid adopted Nathaniel from Ethiopia almost five years ago. She recently decided to adopt a second Ethiopian child, but sensed the agency was about to bottom out and cancelled her application.

“Third-world countries are being overloaded with multiple adoption agencies, thousands of waiting, hopeful parents. The increasing demands can cause a system to become full of irregularities, non-ethical practices and it becomes too much for a small government to handle,” said Reid.

The adoption business has become lucrative in some countries. Canada no longer allows adoptions from Cambodia, Nepal or Guatemala for ethical reasons. Many allegations have been made about birth mothers being paid to give up their children.

“I would be very careful about researching the agencies and what steps they take to avoid illegal and unethical adoptions. I would be more proactive about asking the tough questions and not just accepting a blanket statement,” said Reid.

All these factors have contributed to the decline in foreign adoptions. As a result, the wait time is longer, agency fees are more expensive and the adopted children are older than desired by the time the adoption is finalized.

With all the paperwork and the loopholes, some are tempted to attempt private overseas adoptions or pursue unethical options to adopt.

In 1993, a Hague Convention was written to help countries regulate international adoption. It standardizes the process between countries and aims to prevent child trafficking and abuse.

New Brunswick author Darlene Ryan adopted her daughter, Lauren, from China in 1998. New Brunswick does not have an agency to deal with international adoptions. Ryan had to complete the adoption process with an agency in Ontario. She said her experience was positive and has no complaints.

Ryan believes adopting parents have to suspend judgment about the way things are done in other countries.

“I don’t mean that we should excuse or tolerate children being stolen, or abused. That has to stop. But as long as other governments think we’re going to be judgmental about the problems in their systems they aren’t always going to be honest about them. I like to think if we offer help instead of condemnation that maybe things would improve.”


Stacey Wilson-Forsberg, a professor of human rights and human diversity at Wilfrid Laurier University, knows firsthand the benefits of adopting ethically. She also believes international adoption is not always the best option.

“Attempting to place children with relatives is ideal, or have them adopted within their own country, or have foreign nationals adopt them so they can maintain their culture and language.”

Last year, Wilson-Forsberg and her Peruvian husband finalized an adoption two years in the making. She and Patrik welcomed three-year-old Serlina to their family from her former home, an orphanage in the Andes Mountains of Peru.

Although she has her reservations about international adoption, Wilson-Forsberg also knows the joy it brings.

“From the perspective of a mother, it is extremely important. I don’t know where my daughter would have ended up had we not adopted her . . . I saw so many kids at the orphanage who needed a home, but for various reasons were stuck there. Spending a week with these children was the most incredible, stressful, emotional experience I had ever been through.”


As Janice and Rupert Glover began their adoption paperwork –this time in China and not Russia – they received unexpected news. Janice was pregnant. They decided to remain in the adoption program despite the news. In November 2008, Macy Glover was born.

“This time last year we were still waiting for a child. We decided to switch out of the healthy child program. We said we would adopt a child with special needs. I think the healthy program will shut down and more people will adopt children with minor special needs,” said Glover.

Less than five weeks later, the Glovers received news of a child who recently had surgery to correct her cleft lip. In June 2011, Janice and Rupert flew to China for two weeks to finalize the adoption.

“The first week is the legal adoption process. The second week is spent in immigration getting a Chinese passport, but by the time we left China our daughter was a Canadian citizen.”

The Glovers spent almost $30,000 over the five-year adoption process.

Today, the average cost of an international adoption can cost between $18,000 and $50,000.

“Part of the cost was an orphanage fee. They said it was a donation for the orphanage, but it’s mandatory and it’s $5,000.”

In June 2011, the Glovers brought their new daughter home from the Chinese orphanage, to Prince Edward Island. Cidie and Macy are only nine months apart.

The Glovers said their overall experience was a good one, but they wouldn’t be eager to start the expensive and complicated process again.

Still for many Canadians, adopting internationally has become a hassle and something to avoid. Still, those who endure the paperwork, setbacks, and financial strains, say the wait is worth every minute.

“The wait was excruciating,” Louise Reid remembers about the first time she held Nathaniel in Ethiopia.

“But that first time they brought him in and I was able to see him in person, took my breath away. They handed him to me and he wrapped his arms around me. He held onto the small hairs on my neck. I was in love.”


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