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This is a clip from an episode of Life Report called “Local Experts Clarify Domestic and International Adoption.” In this episode I interviewed Stephanie Grant, Executive Director of Infant of Prague Adoption Services and Laurel Boylan, Founder of God’s Waiting Children.
In this clip, I asked X.
If you don’t want to watch the 3-minute video, you can read the full transcript below.
Josh Brahm: Okay, let’s go to international adoption. Contrast for us — I mean, there is going to obviously be some significant differences between domestic and international adoption. What does that process look like?
Laurel Boylan: Well, sure. The process is very different in that the family — in most countries — must actually travel to the country where the child is from to do the adoption. And every country varies in how the process works. For instance, in Ukraine, the adoption actually happens in Ukraine. The matching of a family with a child happens in Ukraine. And that’s why we’re not an agency. We just help families go through the process, navigate through the Department of Homeland Security and the immigration process and so forth and the paperwork — and then hook them up with reliable people on the other end who then, you know, take it from there.
And so when you go to court, you are going to court only a week or two after bonding and meeting with your child. And then ten days later after the appeals period, the adoption is final. So by the time that you bring your child home — into your home and meeting your family members — that adoption is final in Ukraine.
And then the family chooses — California, it is optional — whether they want to re-adopt here in California or not. We encourage most families to go ahead and do that. But that’s a very simple process compared to adopting a child from the start.
Josh Brahm: So pros and cons of international adoption, what would they be?
Laurel Boylan: We have two reasons people usually contact us for international. One, they are drawn to a particular country because of their own origin or they know of somebody who just adopted from that country and they feel moved to research that. Or they have heard somebody’s horror story locally and they just think all adoptions will fall along that path, so they decide “I don’t want to deal with, you know, that,” and they’ll want to go overseas.
And they want the adoption to be final. They don’t want to risk having somebody change their mind once the child is in their home.
The negative part of it is that it is very expensive. Depending on the country, it can be very, very time consuming. Ukraine, we typically do in less than six months, but most countries are a year or more.
Josh Brahm: You have to spend a long time in the country too, right?
Laurel Boylan: Well, every country varies. Some countries require two or three trips, but they are not necessarily very long. In Ukraine, each adoption — from the time you arrive to the time you leave with your child is approximately six weeks. But there are three different ways a family can do it. They can make one trip, two trips, or make — both of them travel and then one comes back right after court. The other one just stays and brings the child home, which is what most families do. That’s the cheapest.
Josh Brahm: And then you said that because the cost is greater, there are a lot of grants out there to help with that. Talk to us a little bit about that. I’ve heard that Steven Curtis Chapman’s foundation –
Laurel Boylan: Show Hope.
Josh Brahm: Yeah, so just talk to us a little bit about that. What is out there for people that are wanting to do [international adoption] — and then I’m going to ask you if there are also grants for domestic adoptions, obviously.
Laurel Boylan: There are foundations all over the United States that have been touched by adoption, mission work, or foreign adoption in some way. Each of them have their own criteria. Some are income-dependent, most are not. Some require you to adopt a certain-aged child, or a certain number of children, or a child with a special need. Others do not. And so that’s where one of our missionary projects is to stay on top of what’s available and to help families.
We also believe in families connecting with other families for fundraising. And the power of Facebook and the power of the internet is amazing in trying to raise money for adoption. You share a story out there and people end up raising the money. It’s just really, really fun to see it come together.
Josh Brahm: And are there also grants and things for people who want to do domestic adoption, but don’t have a lot of money for that?
Stephanie Grant: Absolutely. And Steven Curtis Chapman also provides grants for domestic adoption. Also, there is a tax credit that was just renewed. I don’t know the exact number, but it’s $13,000-something. But yeah, it’s a tax credit, which is a great support for –
Laurel Boylan: It’s foreign or domestic.
Stephanie Grant: And that’s great. The other thing — with Infant of Prague, we have a sliding scale. And so we try to make it as affordable as we can for individuals and knowing that it is a financial commitment. We have found with our families too that they are really creative in different ways. They fund raise and a lot of times families and friends will help.
We also do — the way we set up our payment plan is in steps. And so we have families that — they were going to save money up to this certain step, and they take their time through the process. And we just work with them that way.
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Special thanks to Kimberly Carmany for the transcription.
Josh Brahm: Let’s talk about this Russia thing. A few months ago, Russia basically banned Americans from adopting Russian children. And this now — in fact, you said that you know someone who is being really affected by this. So real quick, if you could kind of explain what’s going on there and also tell us about your friend just to give us a personal idea of how this can impact people.
Laurel Boylan: Well, sure. Currently, the — President Putin got angry and came out with some public statements that were very, very strong, basically saying that not only is he stopping adoption, but that he would not allow those families who had already traveled and met a child or already gone to court to finalize the process to bring them home. A lot has happened since that news article hit. The State Department has been very active in daily trying to work out an amenable solution.
At the moment, we don’t have anything in writing, but the agencies are being told that anybody who has gone to court may be allowed to finish their adoption as long as it finishes by January 2014 because of the treaty that was signed last summer between the two countries. We’ve been told unofficially that anyone who has already met their child may be allowed in the next few months to go back to court and finalize their adoption.
But until we see something in writing from the State Department, I’m encouraging any family in that situation to not book a ticket. You need to have support and make sure that once you get over there, you’re really going to be allowed to bring the child home.
Josh Brahm: This affects a lot of people. I mean, I’ve read there’s around 1,000 kids from Russia that have been adopted by Americans in just 2010. So I’m kind of curious from both of you…what was your reaction when you heard this? Is this just a frustrating — why are we bringing politics and has this affected kids? Just kind of give me your reactions to this.
Laurel Boylan: My personal reaction? Oh, I was just livid. I was so livid — like yelling and screaming, and then I fell into sadness and literally was crying because I have a family friend who was supposed to be traveling the very next week to bring her — you know, to go to court, and that was their second trip. And they had their little boy’s stocking on their mantle. They have five other children. They had already been bonding with Sergei. They hadn’t actually met him yet — the family had met him, the mom and dad, just not the children.
And so it hit really personally to them and to me and it was hard.
Stephanie Grant: It’s heart-wrenching. As Laura was talking about this family who has a stocking, ready to bring him home for Christmas, and I just think of our waiting families and just the process our adoptive families — they are very vulnerable, a lot of hoops they have to jump through. And I’m thinking — just with the international and the extra hoops of the different countries and things that — and to think of this particular family at that waiting stage, they had already met the child and they are anticipating bringing him back the next week. Really, it’s just very sad to think that politics can — this child that was so excited to finally have some permanency, and now, you know, languishing in an orphanage, most likely.
Josh Brahm: If there’s a pregnant teen listening — or maybe if someone knows of a teen who is pregnant and maybe she’s not yet sure what she wants to do, maybe she’s thinking about adoption — although a lot of people don’t end up choose adoption, I think, sadly. And so, does that person — does she need to basically decide “I’m definitely going to do adoption before contacting an adoption agency” or what would you advise that girl to do?
Stephanie Grant: Absolutely not. She does not need to be sure. I think a lot of times, people think that and so they don’t contact our agency. We work with women that are in crisis with an unexpected pregnancy. And so when they make a plan to parent, we connect them to resources. Pregnancy Care Center is a great resource we often connect our young moms to. And then, you know, we just help them figure out pros and cons, what’s parenting going to look like, what’s adoption going to look like — and help them make the best decision they can make and then just support them in that. So it’s not only about adoption, absolutely not.