Considering Cultural Issues After an International Adoption
International adoption has become a popular choice for many couples these days. In the ten year period from 1988 to 1998, international adoptions went from about 9000 to almost 16,000 per year. Today, international adoptions comprise 25% of the adoptions that take place in the United States each year. Given these facts, it is very important to understand some of the complications and issues that you might face if you choose international adoption.
Working With the Country
It is often quite difficult to work with the country where you may want to adopt. They may have certain rules about their adoption policies one month and change them another month. They may not know English or be able to work with you well. For these reasons, it is always recommended to go through an adoption agency when adopting internationally. You can encounter complicated laws and customs with which you are not familiar, and it is always a good idea to have someone working with you and taking you through the process.
When you bring home an internationally adopted child you may encounter some initial difficulties. If you've travelled a good distance to adopt the child, the child may have jet lag. Certainly, this is only a short lived issue. However, many people want to throw a party for their new child, or welcome people to come and meet her. It is very important to recognize the long physical journey that the child has taken and to respect their initial needs. Similarly, the child may not speak your language or understand you in the beginning. If the child is older, this may prove particularly challenging and frightening to both you and the child in the beginning. It is very important to respect the emotional distance that the child is travelling and to give them the love, warmth and space that they need. You may want to find someone in your community who speaks their language and ask that person to be around. If you have time before the adoption, perhaps you can also learn some choice words so that you'll understand something that the child says.
Issues That Develop Over Time
Since you've brought a child from another culture and heritage, you will probably encounter some issues with these differences over time. The child doesn't look like you, and you will need to help her be comfortable with the differences. Similarly, adopted children sometimes get negative remarks from children or adults who don't know that they are adopted. You have to help your child to be comfortable with these differences and to learn how to react to people who respond in an insensitive way. In addition, you, as parents, have to decide how you want to deal with these cultural differences. Do you want to teach your child about her culture of origin or only focus on your culture? Do you want to retain your child's original language or only focus on yours? There are many cultural questions that you'll have to discuss, and to be prepared for as your child grows. You may have to deal with questions of religion as well.
Certainly, these are all issues that can be addressed and dealt with; it is very important, however, to be aware of the potential issues and to be ready with your strategy to deal with them. This child is going to be part of your family forever - it's up to you to decide how you want to mesh the original culture, religion and heritage from which they come with to one in which they have arrived. The most important thing, of course, is to create a loving, nurturing home for this beautiful person who needs you so much!