Family Helper > Adoption > Guide to Intercountry Adoption

Guide to

How to Bring Your Child
Home from Abroad

By Robin Hilborn

Fifth edition, 2006
$12 / ISBN 0-9733470-8-2


A portrait of intercountry adoption
Positives - Negatives - Forecast
Some issues to consider
Weigh the health risks
The process, step-by-step
What's the law on adoption?
The rules in Ontario
Countries make the rules
--Helen Mark
Evaluating countries: what to ask
Many choose China
24 countries
Status - Process - Time - Cost
Finalizing a U.S. adoption
Cost by country -
25 countries
Travel advice
Statistics, 1997-2005
Questions you can ask an agency
Agency chooser
By country - 47 countries
Agency roundup -
80 agencies
Immigration papers, please
That all-important trip

How to order Canadian Guide to Intercountry Adoption

Family Helper's best-selling Canadian Guide to Intercountry Adoption reaches its fifth edition. If you're a Canadian thinking of adopting from abroad, the Guide will help you make those critical decisions.

It covers all the steps ... deciding to go international, finding the best country, getting a homestudy, choosing an agency, planning your trip ... and then flying your child home. A survey of costs covers 25 countries. (See excerpt below.)

Use "Country Roundup" to research the countries you're interested in. Get the status of adoption (open, slow, closed), the rules, process and cost. Choose from 24 countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Liberia, Moldova, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, U.S., Vietnam.

To order a copy, fill in this form and send with your cheque to: 421 Clarendon St., Box 1203, Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada.

Please send me one copy of Canadian Guide to Intercountry Adoption, 5th ed. (#49) OUT OF PRINT - No longer available

Prices in Canada are in Can$.   For U.S. addresses, in US$.   Elsewhere, in US$ plus 50%.
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Discount. The Guide to Intercountry Adoption (#49) is also available at a discount ($9) when you order four or more titles from the Family Helper series. See the form at Family Helper, and choose the editions you'd like to order.


From the Introduction to the Fifth Edition
By Robin Hilborn

That long and winding road

First published in 1997, the Canadian Guide to Intercountry Adoption has reached its fifth edition. Intercountry adoption is on the cusp of change ... the latest statistics hint at a downtrend. More countries are closed now, leaving just seven likely candidates for the Canadian adopter: China, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Russia, Taiwan, U.S. For 24 major countries I've summarized the status, rules, process and cost, in "Country Roundup".

But conditions change, as ever, and a closed country now is an open country next year. For the latest news from each country, plus historical background, go to the Family Helper web site,

I've organized this fifth edition as you might proceed for an international adoption, describing each step, from your first decision to go international, to flying your child home.

I begin with a portrait of intercountry adoption -- each year Canada welcomes about 2,000 children from abroad -- and move directly into the pros and cons, and the issues you need to think about. The idea is to give you the basis for deciding if you're going to start down the road of an international adoption.

After that we're off on the ride: weighing the advantages of different countries, getting a homestudy done, choosing an adoption agency, sending off the paperwork, and waiting for The Call which will change your life.

And since the subject of money insists on surfacing, I've surveyed the cost of adopting from various countries, how to save money on air fare, and how to pay for it all.

Adopting internationally is a complex process, but reasonably reliable, as about 2,000 happy Canadian families a year can attest.

If I had any general advice to give, I'd urge you to learn all you can about the international process. Identify the risk areas and then assess whether you can accept the risks.

The international adoption journey is full of twists and turns, but take heart: thousands have travelled this road before, and found success and happiness.

A portrait of intercountry adoption

The story of intercountry adoption in Canada is one of dramatic growth in the early years -- the 70s, 80s and early 90s -- reaching something of a plateau over the last ten years. In 1970 there were 10 intercountry adoptions in Canada; this leapt to 2,000 by the mid-90s. The numbers are now fairly stable, running between 1,800 and 2,200 a year:

  1995: 2,010     1998: 2,222     2001: 1,874     2004: 1,955
  1996: 2,061     1999: 2,019     2002: 1,926     2005: 1,871
  1997: 1,800     2000: 1,866     2003: 2,181

In fact these numbers are small compared to overall immigration. International adoptees account for roughly 1% of all immigrants to Canada.

In 2005 Canadians adopted 1,871 children from abroad. 973 (52%) came from China. More than ever, people are choosing China. Other major source countries are Haiti, the U.S. and South Korea.

And domestic adoption? Annually in Canada, about 1,700 children are adopted through public agencies, and about 700 through private agencies.

That's a total from all sources of fewer than 4,500 children a year finding new Canadian families. Not many, considering the demand. I've seen an estimate that there are 16,000 Canadian couples seeking to adopt.

Where are they to turn, these Canadians who yearn to become parents? There are few healthy babies available for adoption in Canada, and waiting times are long, so would-be adoptive families look to other countries. (Behind the dearth of healthy babies is the decision of many single mothers to raise their children.)

Some positives

Intercountry adoption is popular -- why do people choose it?

-- Speed. Families wanting to adopt an infant domestically may find themselves on a years-long agency waiting list (because infants are hard to find: birth control and abortion are widely available, plus most single mothers raise their children). You could finish an international adoption in a year (because orphanages, for example, have many children available for adoption). As adoption expert Michael Grand explains: "The primary reason for the growth of foreign adoptions is that of expediency: it's simply faster. ... People are frustrated working in the domestic system because there are so few infants around."

-- Legal certainty. In domestic adoption a birthmother can change her mind during a certain period after giving consent, or a birthfather can later appear, claiming his rights. In intercountry adoption these legal complications are practically unheard of -- the birthparent's rights have been resolved. Most international adoptions are finalized in a court abroad, so your child is legally yours before you come home.

-- Choice of child. In some countries you are assigned a child. In others you may specify the sex and age of your child, or you may choose a particular boy or girl from a list of available children in a central registry. For those who want to be almost guaranteed a daughter rather than a son, China is the place to go.

-- Flexibility in rules. Rigid criteria at home may exclude people because they are older, single or the wrong religion, whereas various countries offer a variety of eligibility criteria.

-- Track record. You may know someone who adopted abroad and be impressed with their success.

[The text continues with "Some Negatives".]

How to order Canadian Guide to Intercountry Adoption


1995 -- Adoption Helper magazine received an Ontario Adoption Award from the Adoption Council of Ontario, "in recognition of its outstanding contribution to the adoption community of Ontario."
1997 -- Jennifer Smart, editor of Post-adoption Helper, received an Ontario Adoption Award from the Adoption Council of Ontario for her work on behalf of adoption causes.
2001 -- Robin Hilborn, editor of Adoption Helper, received an Adoption Activist Award from the North American Council on Adoptable Children for "dedicated work in making adoption information more accessible and providing materials for post-adoptive support".

Robin Hilborn edits and publishes Family Helper, which began as Adoption Helper in 1990. Write to him at

Infertility Adoption Adoption Resource Central Post-adoption Family Tree
Contact: Robin Hilborn,
421 Clarendon St., Box 1203, Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada
Copyright 2009 Robin Hilborn. All rights reserved
Updated   Dec. 12, 2009

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