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If you're interested in learning more about the international adoption process, please fill out the inquiry form here.


For general questions, contact our office.

The International Adoption Process

international adoption process

In order to bring a child from another country into the United States for the purpose of adoption, you need to comply with the laws, requirements, and regulations of the United States, your child's country, and the state in which you reside. View the country requirements for all countries with which the U.S. may cooperate here.

Hands Across The Water is one of the only Hague-accredited international adoption agencies in Michigan, and provides pre-adoption consultations and support to families before, during and after their adoption. 

A general guideline of steps include the following

  1. Attend an information meeting or meet with the international staff for a one-on-one consultation in person or on the phone.
  2. Send Hands Across The Water your completed application with the non-refundable application fee.

  3. Decide on a country you wish to adopt from. Some people know before this point what country they are going to adopt from, but if you haven't decided, we can help you choose and guide you through the process for that country. 

  4. Begin the Home Study process with HATW or your home study agency.

  5. Prepare the legal documents (dossier). The documents required by each country vary, but will include documents such as birth, marriage, and health certificates, financial status reports, local police clearance and USCIS approval.

  6. Receive and accept a child referred to you. 

  7. Travel to your child's birth country to bring your child home.

Image by Leo Rivas
who can adopt?

who can adopt?

Most countries have their own policies regarding the age and marital status of adoptive applicants. A number of countries are open to single people wishing to adopt. USCIS requires that adoptive applicants be U.S. citizens who are at least 24 years of age at time of application, provided that he or she will be at least 25 years of age at the time an orphan petition is filed.

There are currently many more children around the world in need of families than there are families considering adoption. To help you determine if you would like to pursue an international adoption, here are a few questions to consider:

  • What age range child will you consider? Most international adoptions are usually over 2 years of age.

  • What known medical, developmental and emotional needs are you able to consider? 

  • How open are you to a child of another race/culture?

  • Are you able to travel to a foreign country, possibly multiple times, to facilitate the adoption process and ultimately to bring your child home?

  • Will you be able to stay for an extended period of time in the country to adopt your child? Could one parent stay while the other returns home?

  • Can you be flexible with a often unpredictable process? 

  • What is your ideal timeline for adding a child to your family?

HATW can help you understand all the different requirements and information on children available so that you can make the right decision for you.

How long will it take?

How Long Will It Take?

The wait times for referral of a child for adoption vary country by country. We can provide you with time estimates during your initial orientation visit based on the country program you select. At a minimum, you can expect to wait 18 -24 months from home study completion to a referral of a child to your family.

Relative Adoptions

relative adoptions

A family wishing to adopt a relative child who resides in another country must have a Primary Provider for the purposes of inter-country adoption, regardless of whether the country the child is resident of is a Hague or non-Hague country.

(Under the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012, adoption service providers working with prospective adoptive parents in non-Convention adoption cases need to comply with the same accreditation requirement and standards that apply in Convention adoption cases.) 

The Primary Provider takes on the responsibility of the adoption process in the foreign country and makes efforts to ensure that all adoption services stated within the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption are ethical and professionally completed. A Primary Provider ensures that non-Convention adoption services are provided with the same standards of practice and ethical conduct as in Convention cases.   

Home studies completed for a relative adoption must be completed by a Hague accredited adoption agency and approved by the Primary Provider in the case. Hands Across The Water is interested in assisting families interested in adopting a relative, and may be able to assist families who have received guardianship of a relative child under the laws of the child’s country of residence. Depending on circumstances, we may be able to assist with the finalization of the adoption in the child’s country of residence under the Inter-country Adoption Act , or assist with finalization within the United States. If you are adopting a relative, HATW would like to discuss the possibility of our assisting you in this process.

Please contact our agency with the specifics of your adoption. HATW may be able to assist you from any country.  For more information, see Universal Accreditation Act.

Image by Michael Mims
Hague Adoption Convention

hague adoption convention

Completed in 1993, the Hague Adoption Convention is an international agreement to safeguard international adoptions. The Hague Convention entered into force for the United States in 2008, and it applies to all adoptions between the United States and other countries that have ratified the Hague Convention.


Those seeking to adopt from a Hague country receive greater protections as the Hague Convention requires its countries to establish a Central Authority, which is the entity responsible for giving adoption referrals & monitoring a child's status post-adoption.


 The Hague Convention works to ensure that inter-country adoptions are in the best interest of the child by aiming to prevent the abduction, sale of, and trafficking of children. The Hague Convention recognizes the need of inter-country adoption once a suitable family has not been found in the child's country of origin.


If you choose to adopt from a Hague Convention country, it is ensured that your adoption service provider meets both State requirements and Federal accreditation requirements. Hague standards require that agency's service contracts must contain information about their policies and all itemized fees. The Hague Convention mandates that adoptive parents receive a minimum of 10 hours of Hague-compliant training. Hague countries must provide the parents with medical records, and determine that the child is truly adoptable. Hague countries preserve adoption records for 75 years. These measures are in place to safeguard the adoption and eliminate any possible dilemmas.

Upon request, HATW will disclose the following: service policy contracts, the number of adoption placements per year for the prior 3 calendar years, the number of placements that remain intact, the number of families who apply to adopt each year, and the number of waiting children eligible for adoption. To obtain this information please contact our office.

Universal Accreditation

the universal accreditation ACT 

The Universal Accreditation Act (UAA) was signed into law in January 2013 and took effect on July 14, 2014. The UAA extends Federal safeguards to any agency or person providing adoption services in inter-country adoption cases involving orphan children and Hague adoptees. These agencies must now be accredited and monitored by the Department of Stateʼs accrediting entities. The UAA universal accreditation standards apply Hague policy to both Hague and non-Hague adoption cases in the United States and effects all adoptions in non-Hague countries. Information on the Universal Accreditation Act.

How much does international adoption cost?

how much does international adoption cost?

When you adopt internationally, your costs include: non-refundable application fee, home study fee, HATW program fee, document fees, governmental seal fees, USCIS fees, international attorney fees, and travel and in-country stay expenses. Some of these fees vary by country.

The home study, HATW program, and international attorney fees are paid in increments as services are rendered. When you begin the adoption process with HATW, we give you an itemized list of fees to expect and when those fees are to be paid.

We suggest you inquire about the Federal Adoption Tax Credit, employer assistance programs and national adoption loan programs. HATW is open to discuss your specific financial needs and assist you in locating financial assistance avenues to pursue.

Int'l Adoption Home Study Only Services

international adoption home study only services

Some Michigan families choose to work with a placing agency that is outside of Michigan. If you are a Michigan family and are interested in adopting using an agency outside of Michigan, you will need a Michigan agency to complete your home study and any post adoption services. Hands Across The Water would be happy to assist you in this process. We have worked with many agencies and are often recommended by some agencies to their Michigan families who are seeking home study services.

We contact the agency you are working with to be sure we provide you with what is required by that agency and the country you are working with. Although our home studies meet USCIS, Hague, and Michigan requirements, some states, agencies, and countries may have additional requirements. We will coordinate with your agency to make sure your needs are met.

Hands Across The Water knows international adoption and is a good choice to guide you through the home study process. We are an IAAME Hague Accredited agency which allows us to complete home studies and post adoption reports for any country.

Int'l Adoption Countes in Cooperation w/ HATW

international adoption countries in cooperation with hands across the Water

International Adoption FAQ

International adoption faq

How long does it take to adopt a child from another country?

The timeframe to adopt a child-- from application to placement-- usually ranges from 18-48 months, depending on the country from which you adopt. In some countries, the major part of the wait will be before the child is identified. In others, it will be after.

Are there income requirements for adopting parents?

Income requirements vary by country, as both the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and overseas governments set different income guidelines for international adoption. Currently, CIS requires adoptive families to have an earned income equal to 125% of the poverty guidelines. HATW evaluates each family individually to determine their financial stability. 

What if I move during the process?

Contact us immediately when you decide to move. Where are you in your process will determine what you will need to do to meet state, USCIS and overseas requirements.

Can HATW work with families that do not live in Michigan?

Absolutely. It is highly likely we cooperate with an agency in your state. Contact us for information about an agency in your area who will do your home study and post adoption work. We contract with various agencies who are familiar with our programs.

What if I already have a completed home study? Can you work with me?

That depends. Please contact us to review your home study and home study agency to determine if any updates to the home study will be needed. It is also important to know that HATW must have a signed agreement with the home study agency.

Can we state a preference for a boy or girl?

In most countries, parents may state a gender preference. Please keep in mind, however, that any parameters you place on the type of child you wish to parent will likely result in a longer wait for a referral.

I'm not sure what country I want to adopt from. Is this a problem?

Not a problem. Many do not know which country will be best for them. HATW international staff will talk with you about the type of child you are interested in, the specific dynamics of your family, and help you narrow down the country choices. It is important to remember you should adopt from a country that you can become (or are) passionate about as you will be the connection between the country's culture and your child.

Can single people adopt? 


Yes, it is possible in some countries.  However, there may be limitations and/or additional requirements for single parents depending on the country selected. 

Can same gender couples adopt internationally?


While most countries are not open to LGBTQ applicants for adoption, there are some limited options.  Hands Across The Water is happy to assist LGBTQ couples to consider their adoption options, including international choices.   

Can I adopt an infant? 


Generally, children will be preschool age or older, with the majority of children being over age six and/or a younger child who is part of a sibling set. 

What kind of information will we get about our child?

HATW provides prospective parents with as much information as possible about the child they may adopt, including their medical and social emotional histories. The amount of information available will vary widely depending upon the country and the particular situation. After a child is referred, we will help you understand the information provided and put you in touch with professionals who may be able to assist you. If there is an extended period of time between referral of a child and the time the family travels, the agency will get updated information on the child which may include additional medical reports and pictures.

What is a dossier?

The dossier is the collection of documents sent to the legal decision-making body in the child's country of origin. It describes the person or couple that would like to adopt and demonstrates that they have met the requirements of that country to be eligible to adopt. The dossier requirements vary, and are detemined  by each country.

Will I/we need to travel to pick up our child?


Yes. Traveling gives the parents a unique opportunity to see their child's environment and to begin to develop an appreciation for their child's heritage and culture. In all of our programs there is support and guidance given to families in preparation for and during your travel. The number of trips and length of the stay in the country varies depending upon each country's requirements and legal procedures.

For more information, please contact our office by filling out the inquiry form here.

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