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International adoption: beware slow processes and closed countries
BY ROBIN HILBORN, Family Helper editor

(Sept. 20, 2006)   Which country should I adopt from? For Canadians considering adopting from abroad, choosing a country is no easy task. How can you narrow down the dozens of possibilities?

A survey of adoption conditions in 24 countries by Robin Hilborn of Family Helper web site,, reveals what Canadian adoptive parents-to-be can expect ... and what to avoid, including countries where the process is slow, or has just shut down to foreign adoption.

According to the Family Helper survey, ten of 24 countries are open as usual, seven have a slow process, and seven are closed either permanently or temporarily. The 2006 survey of international adoption for Canadians is at "Country Survey",

Here is the status (open, slow or closed) in fall 2006 of 24 countries which have been popular in the recent past with Canadians adopting abroad. Click a country name to read a history of adoptions there.

Below are descriptions of the status in 24 countries, but first the highlights:
The top three countries, China (choice of 52% of Canadian international adopters), Haiti and the U.S., remain open. However the process is slowing for China: the number of applications is building but the number of available children is not; it takes longer to match children with prospective parents. (For the annual numbers, see International Statistics.)
No longer possible: Guatemala and Romania have both been closed since 2001.
South Korea is theoretically open to Canadian adopters, but is in fact temporarily closed, as Canadian agencies have stopped taking applications, their quotas already filled. South Korea has restricted the number of files it accepts, wishing instead to encourage domestic adoption.
Ukraine continues with its temporary suspension, with no chance of applying for a Ukrainian orphan before Jan. 1, 2007. The first priority of Ukraine's State Department for Adoption is to promote domestic adoptions.
Vietnam, which was closed from 2002 to 2005, opened in 2006 to high expectations. But Vietnam has been slow in accrediting adoption agencies, and those which do have working programs are swamped with applications. New applicants could find the wait long.
The trend in intercountry adoption is for options to become more limited. More and more governments are giving preference to domestic adoption; they want their children to grow up in their own country. That makes international adoption harder, with fewer countries available, longer waits and higher costs. Would-be parents have to be more flexible: ready to accept a longer process and a choice of children available for adoption who tend to be older or have special needs and challenges (i.e. harder to place domestically).

News about international adoption is found in Country News,, part of "Adoption News Central" at Family Helper.

AZERBAIJAN     Intercountry adoptions from Azerbaijan resumed in August 2005, after an April 2004 suspension, but the process is working poorly owing to bureaucratic delays.

BELARUS     Apparent suspension of international adoptions in Belarus continues, with no word on when adoptions will resume.

BULGARIA     Bulgaria is open to international adoptions, but they are not happening quickly. The number of applications exceeds the number of children available by ten to one. Under the 2003 adoption law, a Bulgarian child is eligible for intercountry adoption only after three domestic families have declined to adopt him.

CAMBODIA     Adoptions from Cambodia are still suspended. There is some hope for new adoption legislation in Cambodia in 2007.

CHINA     The adoption process in China is now running normally. One possible delay in 2006: as the number of applications increases, CCAA is taking longer, 10-11 months, to match prospective adoptive parents with children.

COLOMBIA     Adoption from Colombia is open, though subject to a travel warning.

ETHIOPIA     Adoption from Ethiopia is open, and gaining in interest.

GEORGIA     Private international adoptions in Georgia, on hold since September 2003, remain suspended pending new legislation.

GUATEMALA     Adoptions from Guatemala have been suspended for Canadians since September 2001 and will remain so until the Guatemalan government implements effective adoption safeguards. The Canadian Embassy advised that illegal and unethical practices still exist and issues of child trafficking continue to arise.

HAITI     Adoptions continue but travel to Haiti remains fraught with danger.

INDIA     Adoptions from India are proceeding despite reports of irregularities. A new law in 2006 still allows intercountry adoption.

JAMAICA     International adoptions remain open in Jamaica.

LIBERIA     Intercountry adoptions from Liberia are open. Canadians may find the process interrupted by lengthy visa approval in Ghana.

MOLDOVA     Adoptions in Moldova have restarted but delays in the process are to be expected as agencies are gradually being accredited.

PHILIPPINES     Adoptions from Philippines are open. Philippines reports a delay in matching children to parents; Canadians report a long wait, about two years.

ROMANIA     Adoptions from Romania have been halted since June 21, 2001. The new adoption law of 2004 restricts adoptions by foreigners to only grandparents and siblings. Adoptions by non-relatives abroad are not possible. Official declarations in Europe and the U.S. urge Romania to finalize the 1,100 pending cases.

RUSSIA     Adoptions from Russia are open. The process of accrediting, or re-accrediting, foreign agencies is advancing.

SIERRA LEONE     Adoptions from Sierra Leone are open, though slowed by tightened procedures.

SOUTH KOREA     South Korean adoptions opened for Canadians in 2005 after years of being closed, but may now be considered temporarily closed, as Canadian agencies have stopped taking applications. South Korea has restricted the number of files it accepts, wishing instead to promote domestic adoption.

TAIWAN     International adoptions continue in Taiwan.

THAILAND     After the 2003-2004 suspension due to a huge waiting list, adoptions in Thailand have restarted, but with severe restrictions on numbers.

UKRAINE     Intercountry adoption from Ukraine is temporarily suspended. The new adoption authority took over in May 2006 and announced in July that it would not accept any new applications from abroad before Jan. 1, 2007.

UNITED STATES     The U.S. is open to intercountry adoption. The Hague Convention will come into force in the U.S. in 2007.

VIETNAM     After being closed for Canadians since April 2002, Vietnamese adoptions became possible when the two countries signed an agreement in June 2005. As individual agencies got their needed accreditation from Vietnam, they resumed their adoption programs, but those approvals are coming through slowly. In addition, demand for Vietnam is high and agencies must limit the number of applications. Prospective adoptive parents should temper their expectations.

The 2006 survey of international adoption for Canadians is at Country Survey,

For the annual numbers, see International Statistics for Canada,

Robin Hilborn has followed the ebb and flow of international adoption since 1990, when he founded Adoption Helper magazine (now Family Helper). He launched Family Helper web site,, in 1996.


2005: Many countries closed or experiencing slowdowns

(Aug. 18, 2005) A survey of countries you can adopt from has found many instances of delays or stoppages in the adoption process. The survey of the status of intercountry adoption (by Robin Hilborn, for the Adoption Council of Canada) shows that while popular countries like China and South Korea remain fully open, 13 countries out of 19 process applications slowly or are closed temporarily or permanently.

Here is a summary of the 13 affected countries:

  • Delays: Haiti, Moldova, Philippines, Russia
  • Suspended pending new procedures: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Sierra Leone, Ukraine
  • Closed: Cambodia, Guatemala, Romania, Vietnam (slated to open)

For the status of adoption in all 19 countries at mid-2005, see Adoption Council of Canada, "Country survey reveals status of international adoption", July 30, 2005.


For resources for a given country, see Adoption Resource Central, Country-specific Resources.

For more on international adoption, see Canadian Guide to Intercountry Adoption.

Find an adoption agency for a given country: use Agency Chooser,

Descriptions of agency programs are at Adoption Agencies,

You may reprint this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper,"

Country News is written by Robin Hilborn,
author of Family Helper,



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Contact: Robin Hilborn,
Box 1353, Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada
Copyright 2009 Robin R. Hilborn
Updated Sept. 20, 2006

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