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LGBT older parent international adoption

I’m looking for advice on adopting as an older lesbian couple.  I’m in my mid 40s and my partner is in her early 40’s.  We are thinking about international adoption because we are nervous about the marketing involved in private domestic adoption.  Are there any countries that would allow an older lesbian couple adopt a toddler or infant? 

I read advice that LGBT couples should not get married if we want to do international adoption.  That sounds like there countries that go on a “don’t ask/don’t tell” basis.  Is this still true?

The amount of special needs we can manage at this point in life is probably limited.  Physical or sensory disabilities could be fine but a child who would be less than likely to live independently as an adult would be difficult.


i don’t know which countries allow older parents and gay couples to adopt, but I know it will likely limit your options. if you have an idea of what countries you are considering, its easy to google “china adoption requirements”  or whatever. i found the website reece’s rainbow to be very helpful; I have a medical condition that many countries will not allow me to adopt because of it, and am also single. I emailed the contact link on reeces rainbow and told them my condition and single status, and they responded the same day with a message informing me what countries I would be eligible to adopt from (in the end I went with us foster care). it is almost impossible to adopt infants internationally, because the process involved in declaring a child an orphan can be lengthy, then after that most countries will try to place a child in country for 6 months before allowing the child to be placed internationally. so babies under one are really, really rare. for a perfectly healthy todller, you can wait years, even up to a decade, depending on the country you chose and your gender choice. most likely you would adopt a toddler with special needs, although these needs can be really mild (like cleft lip/palate, minor heart defects, or abnormalities where one limb is longer than another, etc). good luck, hope some one will have more specific answers to your questions

Posted by rn4kidz on Apr 23, 2016 at 12:15am

Thanks m4kidz!  I will definitely check out reeces rainbow in a minute. 

And you are kind of answering another question I had, which is whether the special needs as defined in other countries might be things that are relatively easy to manage in this country.  I have read different things about that- sometimes I’ve read that minor medical disabilities are likely to be accompanied by other more challenging disabilities.  Then I also read that kids born with different than average gender characteristics might be considered disabled in some countries, but that doesn’t seem like a disability at all here.  I would love more info about that if anyone can give me advice on it.

I think I could enjoy raising a child with a wide variety of disabilities but I am pretty afraid of a child not being able to live independently when they become an adult, since we might not be around to help for that long into the child’s adulthood.

Posted by Mist on Apr 23, 2016 at 1:33am

you are correct that what can be considered a moderate or major disability in one country might be considered minor or not a disability at all here. you are also right that sometimes what appears to be a minor disability can be a symptom of a more serious problem. the best you can do is to do as much research as possible on the condition, and get as much informatiion on the child as possible. there are doctors here in the US that specialize in adoptions; when you are considering a child you can hire one to read over the info you are given and look at pictures, to look for other problems and give you advice

Posted by rn4kidz on Apr 23, 2016 at 1:55am

finally found the site i was looking for, couldn’t think of it earlier. google “adoption requirements by country” and it should be at the top of the list. its a government page ( that lists all the hague certified country, you can click on each country to easily find out what age requirements are and which ones accept lesbian couples

Posted by rn4kidz on Apr 23, 2016 at 1:59am

Thanks again.  I looked at Reece’s Rainbow and their country list says only heterosexual couples or singles for every country they work with.  I emailed them to ask if they work with single lesbians, since we aren’t married. 

I found the government website you mentioned.  It’s going to take a while to go through all those countries, but that may be the best I can do.

Posted by Mist on Apr 23, 2016 at 2:42am

At this time, I believe that only two of the countries from which Americans adopt will routinely approve adoptions by lesbian and gay prospective parents.

One of the countries is COLOMBIA In November, 2015, the court system announced that gay and lesbian people may adopt, whether they are legally married, in a domestic partnership, or single.  You do need to be aware, however, that with a ruling that is so new, the process may not be totally smooth yet.

One issue that some people, both straight and gay, have with Colombia, is that, in 2013, the Colombian government stopped referring children under age 7 to non-Colombian citizens living abroad, whatever their orientation, unless the children met certain requirements for being considered special needs.  The definition of special needs, in Colombia, actually includes both children with physical or mental impairments, children with chronic conditions such as HIV+ status, AND healthy biological sibling groups of three or more children or healthy biological sibling groups of two if one child is over age 8.  The ban on referring children under 7 was supposed to be reviewed and, possibly, ended in two years, but I am unaware of any changes to-date.  As a result, if you want to adopt a younger child, I’d suggest that you talk with some agencies with Colombia programs, to see what special needs are currently being referred to families who want younger children.

Colombia is a Hague-compliant country, as is the U.S.  As a result, you must use an agency that is licensed in the U.S. AND Hague-accredited.  You can find a list of Hague-accredited agencies on the U.S. State Department’s adoption website, at  Determine an agency’s comfort level with lesbian clients, both by talking with the agency and by checking around in the gay and lesbian community. You will need a homestudy by a provider who is acceptable to the Hague-accredited agency, and you will need to follow the I-800 (Hague) process, rather than the I-600 process, to get USCIS approval to bring an adopted child to the U.S.

The second country that is openly comfortable with adoptions by gay and lesbian prospective parents is South Africa.  It has very liberal rules, and allows gay and lesbian prospective parents to adopt, regardless of whether they are legally married, in a domestic partnership, or single.  And the only age requirement is that you be at least 18 years old.

Like Colombia, South Africa is a Hague-compliant country.  As a result, you will need to use an agency that is licensed in the U.S., has Hague accreditation, and has an adoption program approved by South Africa.  This could be a problem, as for quite a while, South Africa did not accredit any U.S. agencies.  I do not know whether any have yet been accredited to do adoptions from South Africa.

Be aware that South African law does not require agencies to disclose the HIV status of any child being adopted.  You should always talk to any agency you are considering, to be sure that it conducts HIV testing, using a reputable provider, on all children that are referred, and reveals their status to the prospective parents.

As far as your age, most foreign counties will not have a problem.  With many countries, people adopt when they are well into their 50s.  Now, some countries will tend to refer older children to older parents, but that isn’t always true, especially if you have strong financial resources, and a good guardianship plan in place in case something happens to both of you.

As far as “don’t ask, don’t tell”, that used to be common, when the possibility that a lesbian or gay person might want to adopt wasn’t even on the radar screen of most foreign adoption authorities.  However, most foreign countries now know that adoption by gay and lesbian people is acceptable in the U.S., and are explicitly stating in their adoption laws that same-sex couples, or even a single gay or lesbian person, may not adopt.  Ethical agencies will NOT go against a country’s explicit policies on the subject.  Some ethical agencies, however, may be willing to advocate for a gay or lesbian person, in certain cases where a country does not normally accept same-sex couples, but the couple is willing to accept a hard-to-place child, such as one with a fairly serious special need.

Be aware that the U.S., and most countries from which Americans adopt, will not allow unmarried couples to adopt jointly, regardless of their orientation.  What most lesbian and gay couples do is to have one partner adopt as a single, and then have the other partner do a second parent adoption in the U.S. if their state of residence allows it.  Otherwise, if second parent adoptions (which are not step-parent adoptions, although they are similar) are not available, a lawyer can be consulted about necessary steps to give the second parent rights with regard to medical care authorization and so on.

I wish you well with your adoption. 


Posted by sak9645 on Apr 23, 2016 at 11:14am

I don’t want to dissuade you from international adoption but I am just wondering if you have explored foster care adoption at all?  My dh and I brought our youngest home when she was 6 mos old and we were in our mid 40s.  I know that it is prob easier in our state which has a straight adoption from foster option.  In any event, I just throw it out there!  Plus you and your partner would not have to “hide” being gay (which unfortunately seems to be a barrier to intl adoption).  Good luck!

Posted by mamallama on Apr 23, 2016 at 11:16am

Thank you sak and mamallama!!!

sak, that is super helpful to know Columbia passed that law in November.  I went through a ton of countries on the US gov website last night and apparently their page about Columbia hasn’t been updated yet. 

Your info about South Africa is helpful too.  The US gov’s website doesn’t have the info you mentioned about them not accrediting any US agencies. 

I am wondering about what you said - Ethical agencies will not go against a country’s EXPLICIT policies on the subject.  It seems, according to that US gov page anyway, there are still a lot of countries that don’t EXPLICITLY prohibit it (though I know the big adopting countries of China, Ethiopia and Korea do).  I’d love to hear if anyone has experience on how this plays out in countries that don’t explicitly prohibit it.

mamallama, yes, we are considering foster to adopt as well.  We need to learn more about how families manage ongoing support for an adult child.

Posted by Mist on Apr 23, 2016 at 3:26pm

what do you mean ongoing support for an adult child?

Most children, depending on their special need, can grow up to have a job maybe with supports (like subsidized housing) maybe not. If they are disabled to the point of not being able to earn a living they qualify for SSI or other help. There are group homes etc. I am not sure what you mean.

Posted by Regina on Apr 23, 2016 at 6:15pm

Thank you Regina, that is the kind of information I’m looking for, but in more detail. 

I worked in a home for adults with intellectual disabilities and, although it was better kept than other homes I knew about, it doesn’t seem like a place I’d feel safe about leaving my (grown) child, especially not without any outside supervision after I’m not around any more.  We were paid barely above minimum wage and so there was very high turn over and low skill level.  It seems there are repeated exposes in the news over the decades about abuse of residents in caregiving institutions, but there is still low level funding for staff in these services, so I am afraid it is very hard for them to keep good staff.  I remember at another place I worked briefly, they had a very hard time hiring staff who would even reliably show up to work. 

I guess it would help to know more about whether there are any better supports than what I’m familiar with.

Posted by Mist on Apr 23, 2016 at 7:31pm

It would depend on the state you live in, what the disability is etc. They try for the least restrictive. My freind’s son has Downs Syndrome he lives a=in an apartment by himself with help to shop, pay bills etc. He has a job supported through a disability program and social events also.

Other children might need to have 24x7 supervision.

Sometimes parents leave an estate to help but sometimes that is not a good thing to do. Developmental disability programs usually have information as well as classes re these topics.

Yes, like day care and nursing homes caregivers are poorly paid so often move around. My friend used to say he paid more to board his dog than the foster parent got to care for a child.

We live in a weird world.

Posted by Regina on Apr 23, 2016 at 9:19pm

Thanks Regina!  Yes, a messed up world in some ways.  The classes you mentioned sound helpful, maybe I could find something like that.

Posted by Mist on Apr 23, 2016 at 10:07pm

I really don’t think that “don’t ask, don’t tell” will fly in any of the countries open to adoption by Americans, except those I’ve noted.

You may think that the U.S. is not terribly gay-friendly.  However, in comparison with those countries, the U.S. is a paragon of inclusiveness and liberalism.  People in some of the countries have been imprisoned or placed in institutions for the mentally ill, simply because they are gay or lesbian.  Getting accepted to college, or getting a good job may be out of the question. 

Now that officials in most countries outside Western Europe and the English-speaking world know that gay and lesbian people in the U.S. marry, adopt children or use surrogacy or assisted reproduction, hold significant jobs, live in nice neighborhoods, and exercise all the rights and privileges of non-gay people, they have generally made it very clear to the U.S. government that their countries do not agree with the way that the U.S. does things.  When pressed, they will usually argue that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder, and/or that homosexuality goes against the traditional religious and cultural norms of their countries, and leads to a breakdown of the social order.

And, unfortunately, all the positive efforts of the Hague Convention and other legislation to improve transparency in adoptions, root out attempts to coerce birthparents, eliminate efforts to mislead parents about children’s health status, and so on have had the unintended consequence of requiring the collection of more and more information about people’s lives—which often includes information on sexual orientation and relationships.  Unless an agency is willing to commit outright fraud—and most are not—it is very difficult, nowadays, for it to send a dossier of a gay or lesbian person that does not disclose his/her status.

I would definitely suggest that you talk with gay and lesbian internationally adoptive parents, agencies that serve the LGBTQ community, legal experts, and so on to see if you can come up with more options for you, besides Colombia and South Africa, if you want to adopt internationally.  Unfortunately, it seems as though many people who advise lesbian and gay prospective parents, these days, are encouraging them to pursue domestic adoptions, either independently, through a private agency, or through the foster care system.

Independent domestic adoption is often a good choice for gay and lesbian people who are well connected in their communities.  If they are well-perceived by colleagues, neighbors, and friends, and make a concerted effort to get the word out, they may well find it relatively easy to identify a pregnant woman who is considering an adoption plan and open to having them adopt her baby.

Many domestic agencies, which specialize in newborn adoption, are open to gay and lesbian couples nowadays.  While some are not, and while some pregnant women who work with them are not open to placing their babies with same sex couples, matches with gay and lesbian parents do occur, and not all that infrequently.

And foster care agencies are often open to gay and lesbian parents, especially if the parental rights of the birthparents have already been terminated, or if they need homes for children with special needs.  As an example, some agencies have had success placing HIV+ children with gay men, with or without HIV, who have been active supporters of programs that seek to find a cure for people living with the disease.

You may find domestic adoption easier than you think, if you work with agencies that are located in big cities where there are large LGBTQ communities and a lot of people who actually interact on a daily basis with gay men and lesbians.

Over time, I think that laws and policies in foreign countries will change.  Already, gay men and lesbians in some of those countries have begun to become more open in their advocacy for their rights to marry, raise families, go to school, get jobs, and so on.  But it’s not going to be a quick process.  The fact that a couple of countries have gone public with their acceptance of adoption by gays and lesbians is a positive sign.

Straight, but supportive

Posted by sak9645 on Apr 24, 2016 at 6:45am
Posted by sak9645 on Apr 24, 2016 at 6:45am

Thanks to everyone for so many thoughtful responses.  I never guessed I’d get so much help on here! 

Especially thanks to Sharon for taking the time to write so much for me!  I can tell you are very knowledgeable about adoption from all the info you’re giving me.  If you feel comfortable letting me know more about your experience that leads you to what you said about other countries attitudes about lgbt adoptions, I appreciate it, especially if you’ve had any related personal experiences that come to mind.  I have a sense of the prejudiced attitudes in some cultures, but of course that is not everyone, and I don’t have experience with people involved with adoption or the process of how decisions are made in other countries specifically.  It seems likely that what you’re saying is true, but, of course, I want to find out in really exact detail.  I have to hope that some of the people who are oblivious about LGBTs would not react negatively if it is presented to them positively.  Or that a US agency feels it is ethical to cultivate an understanding with a foreign agency of not bringing up what isn’t asked, given the potential that it could provoke unwarranted prejudice.  That could be easier since my partner and I are not able to live together at present, though we want to before adopting.

I will also continue trying to find others who might have experience with this, as you suggested.  There are some resources I haven’t gotten to explore yet in my city. 

I am keeping a somewhat open mind to all options, including private domestic adoption.  My partner and I both have professional connections, a few close friends, and families who would probably be somewhat supportive, but we are strong introverts and the networking for private domestic adoption seems incredibly intimidating.  At the moment, I’m looking into the other options first.

Posted by Mist on Apr 24, 2016 at 3:48pm

Hi Mist,

I intended to answer your thread earlier, but life got away with me! Sac’s answers are totally accurate! I often am a proponent of International adoption but for newborn adoption in your situation, (and actually you aren’t really an “older” couple in your 40’s, at least not in this day and age of many adoptions by people in 50’s and 60’s) I’d recommend US adoption…either foster or domestic.

Maybe consider a lawyer managed adoption? You never know who will choose whom.Also, lawyers who are experienced will often have contacts or be helpful with suggestions about how to find a potential child that is being placed for adoption.

.Even if Colombia has become more accepting of gay/lesbian…it is a slow process to adopt a younger child there…people wait many years to move up on the list.

There are other countries where people in the past were able to hide the fact that they are gay and adopt as a single parent, but really why do this?

Unfortunately one of the hard things about adoption is that potential A parents have to go thru a HUGE amount of prying into personal info.  I also am a private person, but I have learned to be more open thru the process. It has been a help in later being able to share and find support with others in similar situations. It also unfortunately is good practice for dealing with the attention that you will get for adopting a transracial child.

Good luck to you.

Posted by Happy Camper on May 01, 2016 at 4:45am
Posted by Happy Camper on May 01, 2016 at 4:45am

Thank you Happy Camper!  I would like to find out more about lawyer managed adoption and how much it costs.

Posted by Mist on May 02, 2016 at 2:24pm

I’ll post a bit here so others that are interested can get the basic info that was in the pm I sent you. Generally it seems to cost about like private domestic, but slightly less. The people I knew who went this route there was a blanket fee from the lawyer. There were 2 lawyers and 2 social workers (one set for the A parent related to the separate home study, and 1 set for the E parent). The A parent produced book about themselves with the lawyers help. Then eventually when EM was found (one asked for a visit to meet before approval, and the other did not)  after that point it was sometimes the lawyers in contact and other times contact was direct with EM. One listing of adoption lawyers is American Academy of Adoption Lawyers. Suggest you check out any lawyers you are considering using thoroughly on line and on this site. Another thing to make sure is that the EM has counseling provided - not to pressure them to go thru with the adoption,  but to be sure this is what they want to choose and to deal with emotions around the choice, as well as consider other options… better for all concerned.

Posted by Happy Camper on May 04, 2016 at 4:49pm

Have you considered embryo adoption ? This would be a great option.
Have you been on the Rainbowkids website for international adoption?
Fostercare in our area are having trouble finding homes for newborns.
Do not give up:) Goodluck!

Posted by Amy03 on May 05, 2016 at 12:47am

Thanks you two!  Hmm, what’s EM?  Seems like birth mother fits there, but I haven’t guessed what EM stands for! 

Amy, do you have much experience with the foster care in your area?  My worry about adopting a newborn through foster care is that there might be a higher but unknown chance of the child having a significant disability.  (I explained some more earlier, but when it comes to disabilities, I’m mainly concerned about a child who grows up to still need a lot of parental support throughout their adulthood.)

Yeah, someone recommended Rainbowkids above (not that I’d expect anyone to read all of this very long thread!).  Their website lists heterosexual or single for all the countries they work with.  I emailed them to ask if they work with single lesbians and I didn’t hear back.  Of course, you never know with email- it would be more reliable to call- but I’m not that far enough along that I’m calling places and not encouraged by Rainbowkids website.

Posted by Mist on May 05, 2016 at 2:46am

Mist, many newborns adopted through foster care are adoptable bc of parental drug use.  My dd was drug exposed but is a totally healthy, thriving 4 yo.  There has been a lot of scientific research on the long term effects of prenatal exposure to drugs and most of it is very positive.  Otoh, there does seem to be many problems associated with alcohol abuse/use during pregnancy and sometimes that goes hand in hand with drug use. 

In any event, I don’t expect that dd will not be independent as an adult….i imagine that’s true for many if not most kids adopted from foster care.

Posted by mamallama on May 05, 2016 at 4:16am

EM stands for expectant mom. At first it may seem like a minor distinction (from birth mom), but it is important in that until a mom (and dad) have signed away rights to their child, or had their rights taken away, they are just an expectant or an actual mom and dad with all the rights and choices inherent in that status. (including to decide medical care, how the birth is to be handled, who they want there, how much time with their child they want, and where, how much time any potential A parent gets to spend with their child, etc) Many times when people are matched with someone making an adoption plan, they feel like the baby is theirs already, but really this is not so. And in many cases the E parents change their mind before or after birth (but before signing away their rights) and decide to keep their child. Hope that clarifies the abbreviation.

Posted by Happy Camper on May 05, 2016 at 5:21pm

I agree with mamma llama… Please research prenatal drug use. It sounds scary and I am no doctor, but these kids usually do well.I am a research fanatic.
I am currently a foster parent. My FD ( no family relation) age 7 1/2 has been in my home continuously for 2.8 years and currently we are heading towards reunification! But that is a different thread.
Would you adopt a sibling group? My friend adopted a group with 3 little ones through foster care.
I adopted internationally 20 years ago and back then if you were younger then 35 you had to expect a special need child. I was 34. They said she had vision problems. Not. She was 9 mos old. She didn’t need glasses until she was in 7 th grade!
So… I have a healthy FD, another daughter adopted internationally( perfect) , and my bio daughter in the middle . This beautiful girl suffers from a chronic health condition diagnosed at age 2 that requires weekly chemo. My point is you never know. This child was born healthy.
Reese rainbow and Rainbowkids are Two different sites.
Good luck:)

Posted by Amy03 on May 06, 2016 at 1:02am

I wanted to say thanks to everyone for the replies!  I will read in more depth later.

Posted by Mist on May 07, 2016 at 1:31am

My partner and I (also older-me 40s, her 50s) adopted 2 kids from Ethiopia 5.5 years ago. I adopted as single, and she co-parent adopted as soon as the kids were here. The older was supposedly 5 almost 6, but as it turned out he was nearly 9. I don’t know about other countries, but changing ages is not an uncommon thing in Ethiopian adoptions. We eventually got the correct age and went through changing it…doable, but TONS of paperwork. In any case, the other “bump” has been this: the paperwork on both kids indicated that the birth mom in one case and birth dad in the other were not involved. That simply was not the case. Birth Mom of one came to the care center as I returned from court and it became very clear very quickly that she intended to be very involved. Also, the idea of adoption is different there than here. It isn’t seen as secret or final or as if the birth family stops being family, it is seen as an extension of by many. In any case, while we have NO problem honoring the birth families wishes to remain involved, the problem is that now the fact that we are a same sex couple gets very complicated. Being LGBT is illegal in Ethiopia. It means that if we, or even just I, take the kids back to visit and they decide to share that they have 2 moms relationships get VERY difficult. I also don’t love the idea of asking them to lie or pretend, nor am I a closeted type person. We went in believing that the fact that we were two women would be something that we dealt with in our way in our home and figured that post-visits would be simple enough. As long as there are no outward displays of affection and you aren’t from there there doesn’t seem to be an issue. That didn’t account for the fact that visiting family who has one idea of your home situation while your reality is something different…that is complicated. To be honest, I didn’t care about not asking and not telling government officials. I don’t feel bad about that because I don’t believe in bigoted laws and policies. I do feel awful and a bit trapped about not being able to share the truth with my kids birth families. Part of me wants to do it, but part of me know that it will make it impossible for me to help them visit, etc., which they both want the opportunity to do. Upon returning from court that day (having officially adopted the kids at court) I realized that my life just got MUCH more complex. I’m not saying any of this to say that you shouldn’t adopt or that I wouldn’t do it again. It would have helped me to know about these surprises going in though, so that we could have thought through the ramifications on the front end.

Posted by spiraltri on Jul 16, 2017 at 3:19pm

Wow, thanks for sharing your story spiratri.  I’m sure that would be useful for others to know. 

At this point, I’m not considering international adoption anymore, since I really want to adopt an infant or toddler, so it seems like foster care would be best unless things change for any other countries. 

I hope things work out well in your relationship with your kids bio family.  I imagine it must not be easy to get to know them with the distance involved, although if they have cell phone communication, maybe easier.  It would be nice if the family would accept it somehow in spite of the lack of acceptance in their culture.

Posted by Mist on Jul 16, 2017 at 3:45pm

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