For my master’s project, I plan to write a handbook for prospective adoptive parents pursuing an international adoption. International adoptions have dramatically risen in the 20th century with the decline in the number of healthy, Caucasian babies available for adoption in the United States. In the past decade, over 150,000 children have been adopted from foreign countries to families in the United States. The initial thought of pursuing an international adoption is often very overwhelming for parents to think about. There is a lot of information on the internet, but that too can be overwhelming and it is sometimes difficult to determine if the information received is legitimate.
            In addition to the stresses of the international adoption process, parents are often not prepared for the first few months after bringing home their new child. This is especially true of parents who adopt a child from an orphanage. Children who spend considerable time in institutions prior to being adopted often have medical issues that need immediate attention upon entering the United States – malnourishment, lice, parasites, upper respiratory infections, etc. Additionally, institutionalized children are at risk for cognitive, social, and emotional delays and attachment disorders.
International adoption is a major adjustment for the adopted child, parents, and other siblings in the family. When my family was in the process of an international adoption, it would have been helpful for my parents to have one place where they could turn to for information about pre- and post-adoption issues and lists of quality resources to further aid them in the international adoption process.
My vision for this handbook is to be an all-inclusive tool for adoptive parents to utilize throughout their international adoption journey; something they can use to feel like they are in control and not get overwhelmed with reading dozens of books and searching thousands of websites to find what they are looking for. I want parents to first turn to this handbook as a guide for what to expect from the time they begin thinking about international adoption. This handbook will be a straightforward, easy to read, informative, and interesting guide for adoptive parents.
Source of information
            The information I choose to include in my handbook will come from many sources – adoption books, reputable websites, academic journal articles, personal experiences with international adoptions, and adoption magazines. At the end of my handbook, I am going to include a list of additional resources (books, magazines, websites, etc.) that adoptive parents can turn to for further information about specific questions they have.
This is an outline of what I want the handbook to include:
Handbook Content
           Introduction letter to prospective parents reading the handbook
           Table of contents
PART ONE – “Before You Adopt”
Chapter 1 – How to get started with an international adoption
           Legal work
           What is a homestudy?
           How to research adoption agencies
           What to consider when choosing a country
-           Table of country requirements (parental age, # of children, length of marriage, etc.)
-           Travel requirements
-           Cost to adopt
-           Country-specific support groups in adoptive parent’s state
-           Nationalities of other children in adoptive parent’s neighborhood
Chapter 2 – Financing an International Adoption
           Cost analysis
           Financial assistance available to families
Chapter 3 – Involving Siblings in the International Adoption Process
           How to make siblings not feel left out
           Should siblings travel to pick up the child?
Chapter 4 – Travel tips
           What to pack for your child
           Gifts for orphanage/foster family, interpreters, legal representatives, etc.
           Importance of taking photos of child with orphanage staff/foster family and photos of country
           Take time to buy souvenirs from country so child will have tangible items from birth-country
           Know customs of country visiting (i.e. don’t take photos of children on the streets in Guatemala)
PART TWO – “After Your Child Arrives Home”
Chapter 5 – Medical issues
           Issues of children from institutions
Chapter 6 – Attachment and Adjustment Issues
           What is attachment disorder?
           How to facilitate secure attachments
           Helping your child adjust to a new language and culture
           Facilitating bonding between new siblings
Chapter 7 – Celebrating Your Child’s Heritage and Adoption
           Country-specific adoption reunions
           Country-specific adoption support groups
           Activities you can do at your child’s school
           National Adoption Day in the United States
           Language classes
Chapter 8 – Resources
           Financial grants available for families
           Adoption/country-specific toys/books/dolls
           Adoption country tours
           International Adoption Clinics at pediatric hospitals
-           pre and post adoption evaluations
-           developmental interventions after child is home
            To evaluate my project, I will contact several adoption agencies and adoptive parents and ask them to read my handbook and complete a questionnaire in order to evaluate the usefulness of it. I hope that if the directors of the adoption agencies I contact like the handbook, they will want to permanently make it a resource they give to all adoptive parents who work with their agency!             I have not yet developed the actual evaluation questionnaire.