Kazakhastan, Kyrgystan, Taiwan, Marshall Islands, Ethiopia, Georgia, Armenia – what did I know about any of these countries before I entered the world of international adoption? When you’re nearing fifty, newly married for the first time and interested in adding a child to the mix, the learning curve for adoption is steep. Domestic versus international? Africa, Asia, or South America? Boy or girl? Infant or toddler? There are so many questions to ask, information to research and decisions to be made.
Exploring this new territory helped increase my understanding of the adoption process, bureaucratic formalities (ours and theirs), along with the adoption rules and regulations and cultures of many countries I’d heretofore had very little exposure to. Not to mention geography.
It didn’t take long before ruling out China – I’d be too old (50) by the time we’d been married long enough (two years); India – our combined ages needed to be less than 90; Nepal – just starting to accept applications again and four years minimum marriage requirement (though single women are accepted); Ethiopia – five years of marriage and a maximum age of 50, and Guatemala – currently closed until compliance with Hague Convention standards is achieved. I could easily list similar requirements and restrictions for a host of countries. Additionally, prospective adoptive parents might be ruled out for being overweight (China), gender (most foreign countries do not allow single men to adopt) or income.
While I understand that ‘50’ in most countries looks quite different than 50 in the United States and marriage requirements are based on assumptions of family stability, it still feels restrictive. Hundreds of thousands of orphaned children around the world need loving homes. Though the regulations are created with the best of intentions, to prevent child trafficking and create financially and emotionally stable family units, the reality is that many families who are willing and able to care for a child are kept from doing so because they don’t meet international requirements for adoption age, marriage, gender and income.
My husband and I thought long and hard about our beliefs, our abilities, our finances, and our dreams for what our family might become. Our decision to adopt from Armenia was a good fit for us in many respects. No upper age limit or minimum length of marriage requirement. Ratings for Hopscotch Adoptions, the adoption agency we chose, were unequivocally thumbs-up. We found the topography mesmerizing and the culture and traditions a fascinating blend of old-world mysticism and new world sophistication. And Armenian kids are just so dang cute. Plus, it didn’t hurt that our weekend dinner menu frequently featured all-foods Armenian. Lamb, hummus, yogurt, and Shish Kebab made regular appearances at our table.
So we raise a glass and offer a toast to our adoption adventure. To Armenia, a match made in geographic and gastronomic heaven. To life! Genatzt!