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Adopting a child abroad is an enormous undertaking. These tips will help you make sense of the process.

Madonna doesn’t do things by halves and has rarely been known to take no for an answer.

When Madonna flew to Malawi recently to adopt a second child, who could have foreseen the problems she would face?

Madonna’s case has once again reminded childless people that there are millions of children in the world today who are looking for homes.

In spite of her wealth and the fact that she set up a children’s charity in Malawi, Madonna’s adoption application didn’t cut it with the judge.

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So what did she do wrong, and what should you do if you’re considering welcoming a child from another culture into your life?

1. Stop and think.

The first step in the long journey towards adopting a child from another country or indeed adopting or fostering any child is to stop and think.

The Jolie-Pitts of this world may make adoption look easy, but integrating a new human being into your world is a challenge.

Think about your emotional commitment to a child for the next twenty years and how the rest of your family will feel; in other words, evaluate all of the factors that most prospective birth parents consider.

You should also think about your commitment to the child’s home country – you should be ready to keep the child aware of their heritage.

2. Check home-country regulations.

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It’s a good idea to look into the regulations in your home country before you start the process.

Adopting a child is not as simple as signing their name into your passport.

For example Canadians need to sign up for a home study by a government representative, which can take up to a year to complete.

There’s no point getting indignant about this paperwork; the rules are in place to protect the kids from even more trauma than they might already have suffered.

3. Prepare to pay the fees.

When there’s paperwork, there are fees to be paid. Adoption of foreign children isn’t a cheap process; the US Office of Children’s Issues talk about costs of $30,000 just for the adoption agency fees.

Not that a child’s life can be measured in dollars, but you should be prepared for the financial commitment.

Groups like Help Us Adopt exist to help you find that initial funding, but you’ll also need money for education and all the other costs of raising a child.

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Remember that the adoption process is only the beginning of your commitment to the child.

4. Avail yourself of help from agencies.

But even though the agencies are expensive, you’ll find the process a lot easier with their help and going through an agency mandatory in some countries.

Each year in the USA, about 20,000 foreign children are taken into homes along with about 2,000 in Canada, so adopting a foreign child is not an impossible task.

It’s important for you and the child to check that the agency is fully accredited – American agencies should be accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA).

5. Check foreign regulations.

With the help of the agency, you’ll need to carefully check out the regulations of the child’s country.

Madonna wasn’t aware that she had to live in Malawi for 18 months before adopting a child – probably because she had managed to get around that law once before.

This U.S. state department website gives you detailed information on which countries have signed up to The Hague Adoption Convention and also allows you to track changes in national adoption laws.

This kind of information will make your journey to finding a child smoother and more successful.

6. Familiarize yourself with the Hague Convention.

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Read up on The Hague Adoption Convention.

This agreement between 75 countries was set in place to stop trafficking or other abuse of children. It means more paperwork for you if you adopt from one of these countries, but you and the child will feel a lot more secure in your relationship.

After all a child takes a huge leap of faith getting on a plane with you, so the more safeguards there are for them the better.

7. Think beyond logistics.

Of course it’s not all about paperwork. Try to get as much information as you can about the emotional effects of adoption.

Books like Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew or The Complete Book of International Adoption will give you a good idea of what’s going to happen.

Use the internet – once you know which country your child is from, you can join online support groups to help you though the adoption process and to make friends who can support you in your new life.

8. Think about the child!

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Depending on how old your child is, the adoption process can be quite difficult for them.

Older children will have to learn a new language, new culture and come to terms with being far away from familiar life. We talk a lot about culture shock but imagine what it’s like being 7 or 8 years old and thousands of miles away from home with no return ticket?

You’ll need to be patient and remember that no matter how much you love this child, it will take time to create that perfect family you’ve been dreaming about.

But given time and oodles of love, adopting a foreign child will be the most rewarding journey you can imagine.

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