I wrote this blog post nearly two years ago. Since writing, much has changed in Ugandan adoption. For more current information about adopting in Uganda, please visit this post. If you have questions on Ugandan adoption, pease contact me. I would be happy to answer questions in future posts.
Are you thinking about adopting a child from Uganda?
Many of our friends both in real life and the blog world have have been asking questions about what it is like to adopt a child in Uganda. I will do my best to answer some of the common questions in this post. If you have any more questions, please post in the comment section and I will do my best to answer your questions in future blog posts.
Is it possible to adopt a child in Uganda?
Many people have heard that itis only possible to adopt from Uganda if you spent at least three years living in the country. This is true, however the Ugandan courts are, when it is in the best interest of the child, willing to grant qualified Americans legal guardianship for the purpose of adoption in the United States. Occasionaly the courts do grant Americans who are not residants of Uganda adoption of a child if the child has special medical needs, however most adoptions are actually legal guardianships. After the parents are granted legal guardianship by the courts in Uganda, they must apply for a visa for the child – who is still a Ugandan citizin – to immigrant in to the United States. The parents then adopt the child in the United States.
How long does it take to adopt from Uganda?
It takes 4-6 months to complete a homestudy. When your homestudy is done, you must apply to the US Government for permission to adopt a child from Uganda. This process takes approximately 2 more months. When you have your homestudy and immigration documents done, you will either wait to be matched with a child or search for a waiting child. This can take anywhere from 1-12 months depending on your situation. In most cases, it takes much longer to be matched with a young, healthy child while there are many older or special needs children waiting. After you have a referal for a child, it takes approximately 1-2 months before your legal papers are ready and you file them with the Ugandan courts. The trip to Uganda tyically takes between 3-6 weeks.
For our family, we began our homestudy in June 2010. Our homestudy was delayed because it took more than 4 months to receive back my FBI background clearance. It was complete in November. We then applied with USCIS and had our immigration approval in January. In the end of January, we traveled to Uganda to decide which baby home to work with and to hopefully locate a child. We ended up being matched with two little girls. Our papers were filed with the Ugandan courts the first week of March and we’re hoping for court dates near the end of March or early April, and hoping to fly home around the end of April.
How much does adopting from Uganda cost?
In general, families spend around $15,000-25,000 to adopt one child or $20,000-30,000 to adopt two, depending mostly on travel expenses and whether or not the family works with an agency. Agency fees add somewhere around $5,000 to the total cost of the adoption, however families who work with agencies are eligble for grants and loans unavailable to families adopting independently.
Most families are eligible for a tax credit of around $13,000 to help with adoption expenses.
Would you suggest adopting independently or with an agency?
I think it depends on how involved you want to be in your adoption process. Managing an independent adoption is a lot of work. Over the last two months, our adoption has required between 10-40 hours of work every week. We began our Ugandan adoption working with an agency that I respect and believe will have a great program in Uganda, but eventually decided to switch to an independent adoption. I believe this was God’s unique calling for our family and that it would not be the right decision for everyone. Another thing to consider is your level of comfort traveling internationally and working with people from a different culture. For families who have traveled widely or who have connections with people living and working in Uganda, adopting independently is very doable. If the thought of traveling to Africa is overwhelming, having the support of a good agency is worthwhile. If you are somewhere in between, there are several different baby homes that will function somewhat like an agency, walking you through the adoption process on the Ugandan side. If you do consider working with an agency, look for an agency that is Hague accredited.
How did you find your girls? How do families adopting independently find referals?
Many families adopting independently contact baby homes that have wait lists for adoptive families. For families who are only open to healthy infants, these wait lists are often long. Many baby homes work with a limited number of adoptive families at each time. Likewise, many baby homes try to place children back with their biological families or with adoptive parents in Uganda before being open to international adoption. Other families work with their lawyers to contact baby homes. In some cases, the lawyers who often do adoptions become aware of children needing families who are not living in baby homes.
Some families make the decision to travel to Uganda to learn more about the country and hopefully find a child to adopt. This is what we did, however I would not recommend it to everyone. It requires humility, flexibility and cultural sensitivity. When we traveled to Uganda, while we were of course hoping to find the daughters God would lead us to adopt, we were content to just serve and build relationships. If you go with this attitude, it can be a very beautiful experience and is a great opportunity to learn about the country and people. Ugandan people view trips where families are serving and building relationships positively. On the flip side, they are very uncomfortable with the idea of “baby shopping” – as they should be. One of the benefits for our family of traveling to identify a child was that after meeting older, special needs children in person, we were much more comfortable moving forward with adopting one than we would have been having just seen her information on paper. While we began our process hoping to adopt an infant, after spending time with many school age kids, I have a huge heart for seeing these children in families!
Is it possible to adopt a healthy infant in Uganda?
While it is possible to adopt a healthy infant in Uganda, the majority of children waiting for families are older or have special needs. Some families are matched with babies, however there are lots of examples of corruption in international adoption with the demand exceeds the supply of healthy babies available for adoption. The majority of orphans around the world are older and many have special needs. I would encourage every family considering adoption to learn more about adopting toddlers, preschool and school age kids. Likewise, families should consider whether they could parent a child with special needs. Many children waiting with special needs around the world would thrive with access to medical care, therapy, education and the love of a family. In Uganda, there is a need for more families to be open to HIV+ adoption.
When we began our adoption, we were hoping for a baby as young and healthy as possible. As we went through our process, however, we eventually decided we could be open to a child up to age 5 and with medical needs. If you are open to a child who is over the age of 2 or 3, or if you are open to children with special needs, many are waiting. Many of the agencies working in Uganda are involved in advocacy looking for families for these children and will reduce their fees to help these kids go home.
If you are hoping to adopt an infant, be patient as you wait and ask lots of questions. There are not orphanages full of babies waiting for families. When we went to Uganda, the majority of the orphanages we contacted had no infants and in some cases no toddlers. So be patient and committed to doing the right thing.
To learn more, I would suggest reading our blog and the blogs of other families who are adopting from Uganda. For more detailed information, visit the US State Department.