One of the most impactful choices one must make when considering adoption is selecting the country from which you plan to adopt. For instance, for citizens of the United States, should you grow your family with a child from the U.S., or should you go the international route and seek to adopt a child from a foreign country? This decision should not be taken lightly, as there are immense logistical, cultural, and even ethical concerns to consider.
That said, for many couples eager to share their love with an adopted child, one of the most influential factors in choosing a "sending" country is how easy or difficult it is to adopt from that country. Adoption programs vary greatly from country to country, and choosing one country over another can make the process years longer or shorter and add or subtract tens of thousands of dollars to the cost.
Types of adoption in the United States
Most adoptions in the United States fall into one of three categories: Private Domestic Adoptions, Foster Care Adoptions, and International Adoptions. While all three have the same ultimate goal—expanding the parent's or parents' family and placing the child/children with a family of their own—the details can differ significantly.
Private Domestic Adoption — Children are primarily newborns, gender is rarely selectable, birth parents may change mind or wish to be involved, medium paperwork, costs range $15,000-$45,000 (avg $35,000-$43,000).
Foster Care Adoption — Children are usually 6+ years old, gender can be chosen, parents/extended family often wish to remain involved, minimal paperwork and cost (may even be subsidized).
International Adoption — Children range from 18-24 months to toddler/preschool-aged (most common) and older, gender can be chosen, family rarely involved, massive paperwork, may take 12-36 months, costs range $20,000-$60,000 (avg $30,000-$35,000).
Why adopt internationally?
People adopt internationally for many reasons. Some are faced with a waiting list in their home country and seek international options so they can adopt sooner rather than later. Some feel called to remove children from risky situations in less-developed countries, where orphans often end up as child laborers, child soldiers, or prostitutes. Some find the range of children available to adopt is greater internationally. Some are drawn to the decreased likelihood of the child's family remaining involved (courts in the U.S., for example, go to great lengths to keep birth parents involved in a child's life. International adoptions are more likely to be "closed", which some adoptive parents prefer). Some simply fall in love with a child who happens to be from another country.
Which country is the easiest from which to adopt?
The answer depends upon the "sending" country's specific requirements, the potential parent's life circumstances, and whether the parents have a particular type of child in mind. For example:
- Some countries require children to reach age 5 or older before adoption, which would be a poor match for parents specifically seeking to adopt a baby.
- Some countries refuse to place children in an adoptive family that already includes several children (typically 3-4 or more).
- Other countries only offer children with special needs—which may be more than some couples are prepared to take on, but exactly what other couples are seeking.
- Still other countries refuse to place children with single parents, people with a body mass index BMI above a certain threshold, couples of a certain age, or especially LGBTQ+ couples (outdated as this may seem in other nations).
Finally, certain countries and/or adoption agencies may suspend international adoption services at any time for one reason or another. For example, Russia stopped allowing adoptions to the United States in 2013. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel to many countries in 2020 and 2021, limiting many would-be adoptive parents' ability to complete the necessary visitation and adoption processes. The U.S. State Department is a good place for U.S. residents to obtain the latest information on country-level adoption news.
With these guidelines established, we hereby present the top 20 countries from which to adopt a baby (or a foster child), compiled from a collection of online lists and sources.
Top 20 Easiest Countries to Adopt a Child:
Note: This list should not be viewed as a strict best-to-next-best ranking. Because adoption is a very complex and personal process and every prospective parent's situation is different, an adopter's personal best fit may be with the country ranked 5th, 8th, or 20th ... or with a country not even on the list.
- Your home country — The easiest country to adopt from is often one's own. To use the United States as an example, the country's foster care system is undoubtedly imperfect, and adopting a child can be time-consuming—you may even have to wait years for a child to come available. But it will likely be much less expensive (it is often entirely subsidized), you will likely get more information about your child's family and medical history, and there is virtually zero risk of your child having been trafficked.
- Kazakhstan — This former member of the Soviet Union is known for the diversity of its adoptable children. One of the fastest-growing adoption programs in the world. In-country visits are required, but both couples and single parents are eligible.
- India — No visits required and there are many orphans in need of families, from infants to older children, special needs children, and sibling groups.
- Haiti — This impoverished country is home to more than 200,000 orphans, many of whom are siblings. Boasts streamlined paperwork and a "Waiting Child Program" to match parents willing to take on older children, siblings, or special needs children.
- China — Described as one of the world's most stable and efficient adoption programs. Often requires visits, but worth it—especially if you'd like a girl or special needs child. Places children from 5 months to 7 years old (even older for special needs children).
- Thailand — With fast-moving paperwork and minimal fees, this Asian country is a destination for many prospective parents. Children aged 1 to 10 years can be placed with healthy married parents in less than two years.
- Colombia — Prospective parents can adopt orphans aged 0-15 years from this South American country is as little as 6 months (though 1-2 years is more likely).
- Malawi — Comparatively affordable fees (estimated at $28,000-$32,000), less than four weeks' required visiting time, and zero COVID-19-related travel advisories as of 2021 make it relatively easy to welcome an orphan aged 18 months to 15 years into your family.
- Taiwan — Orphaned boys and girls of all ages are waiting for families in this Asian country. Many have various degrees of special needs.
- South Korea — This efficient adoption system places children as young as 6-12 months of age, as well as many special needs children. Parents must be healthy, married three years, and 29-49 years old.
- Bahamas — This beautiful island country is home to many orphans, aged 6 weeks and up, in need of homes and families.
- Ukraine — Prospective parents will need to visit for at least a month. Oddly enough, the state chooses the match rather than the parents. However, the process can be completed in a single year. Many sibling groups available.
- Philippines — This island country does its due diligence (and prefers Christian couples) but has a well-organized system. Most children are 3-5 years of age, some have special needs, and an in-country visit will likely be required.
- Bulgaria — With one of the highest rates of orphaned children in Europe,
- Hong Kong — This independent region of China operates its own adoption network. Available children range in age from 1-15 years and will often have some degree of special need.
- Uganda — Don't be spooked by the requirement that parents must live in-country for three years—a judge can waive it.
- Honduras — Orphans in this country are often at risk, so its encouraging that foster children of all ages can be adopted quickly.
- Ghana — While this African country prefers to place children domestically, once the court approves an international adoption, it can happen fast.
- Burundi — Parents must be 30+ and married at least 5 years, but there are few other barriers to adopting one of this country's more than 500,000 orphans.
- Ethiopia — Not only is this country's adoption system efficient, there is also great need thanks to the number of orphans. Sadly, recent civil unrest has forced a (hopefully) temporary suspension of international adoptions as of 2021.
The dark side of intercountry adoption
With adoption fees that sometimes climb into the tens of thousands of dollars, international or intercountry adoption can a very lucrative business. Heartbreaking as it is to contemplate, in many countries (particularly those with some level of government corruption) there is a legitimate possibility that a child offered for adoption was actually kidnapped from their original family by child traffickers. One of the best steps you can take to ensure that the child you are adopting is legitimately in need is to seek out a reputable adoption agency. You can also consider adopting a child who is at least five years old, as an older child is more likely to be able to communicate whether or not they were taken from their parents.
The Hague Convention — what it is and what it does
Finally, many countries have agreed to what is known in adoption circles as the Hague Convention, which is essentially a set of rules and guidelines designed specifically for international adoptions. Prospective parents are free to adopt from both Hague and non-Hague countries. Adopting from Hague countries tends to take longer and require more paperwork (and possibly more in-country visits) as compared to non-Hague countries, but it gives both the children and the parents better protections: fees are disclosed more transparently, screening is more in-depth, adoption records are kept for 75 years, any existing medical information is included, the child has already been legally declared an orphan by the sending country (which helps prevent trafficking), and so on.