Decide on your target country
Review which countries allow their children to be adopted internationally. Decide whether you have a particular affinity for a particular country (for instance, you may decide on a particular country because of humanitarian reasons, because you like the culture or because it matches your own ethnic background). You can review country specific information and other valuable information on the U.S. Department of State website.
Make a decision regarding the use of an adoption agency
Once you decide on the country that interests you, you can determine which agencies provide adoption services for that country. Your choice may be based on the agency's proximity to where you live, experience, philosophy, or a recommendation from other adoptive parents. An experienced, reputable agency will assist you from beginning to end with the legal and practical aspects of your adoption journey. Some people choose to proceed without the use of an agency. Due to the complexity of the various federal, state and international laws and treaties involved, anyone considering proceeding without an agency should consult an experienced international adoption attorney prior to initiating any activity regarding the adoption.
Gather your documents in advance
You are going to have to show certified copies of your important documents. In order to prevent delays, you should be certain that you have a few official copies of each document available. These documents include, for each adopting parent: birth certificate, current marriage license, any divorce decrees or death certificates from termination of prior marriages, any court documents showing a name change. In addition: you will want to be sure that you have a current, valid passport ("machine-readable" in accordance with current law.) If you are a naturalized citizen, have your naturalization certificate available. Adopting parents will undergo fingerprinting and extensive criminal history checks.
Review your history and prepare for the home study
Be ready to answer questions or provide documentation about anything in your history. If you have a medical or physical condition that you think may affect your ability to adopt, or to parent, obtain any needed records in advance. If you have a past criminal history (beyond traffic tickets), this could be relevant. You should be prepared to show documentation of completion of probation or time served in the form of a certified court record. Obviously some crimes will bar you from adopting. You should reveal any issues "up front" so that you will know how it will affect your case. Adopting parents will need to submit to fingerprinting and criminal history checks for national and local records.
Review the financial commitment needed
If you are working with an agency, you will be able to get an estimate of what the adoption will cost. However, there is often a wide range of fees. Don't forget to include travel expenses and post-adoption expenses. (Costs of state court procedures needed to put the final touches on the process once you bring the child back to the U.S.) You will need to provide detailed financial information as part of the approval process. Have your taxes up to date and your tax returns and financial information organized and easily accessible.
Discuss the practicalities
If you are approved for an international adoption, you will need to make an international trip. Decide whether you will take your minor children with you. If so, be sure that each child has a current passport. If you are not currently married to your child's other parent, you will need to be sure that you are in compliance with all laws regarding taking your child outside of the U.S. If you are adopting with a spouse or partner, you will need to decide whether one or both of you will be able to travel, and this decision will have a bearing on how the entire case is processed. Planning ahead for all aspects of your adoption journey will make the process proceed more smoothly.