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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The easiest country to adopt a baby from is the country of Kazakhstan.
The cheapest country to adopt a baby from in the world is the country of China.