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Adoption Travel Creates International Ambassadors

You will have many unique experiences when you travel abroad for your adoption, including culture shock, new foods and a very different environment. One novel experience for first time adoptive parents is that you also represent future adoptive families when you travel internationally to bring home your child.

By Jean Nelson-Erichsen and Heino R. Erichsen

This is the moment youíve been waiting for. If youíre feeling happy and frightened at the same time, itís to be expected. Youíre about to become a parent in the midst of a whirlwind of activity.

Your adoption experience in a foreign country is uniquely your own. If you have never spent much time in a foreign country before, the food, customs, and language can give you a first-rate case of culture shock. The average stay for adopters is two weeks, just long enough to reach a peak in exasperation, frustration, anger, and shock. No one has ever died of it, but recovery requires several months. After a year back home, almost everyone has fully recovered and wants to make the trip again - either to adopt more children or to visit.

Adopters traveling to foreign countries become unofficial ambassadors for the United States, especially for the U.S. adopters who come after them. Adopters who wish to make and leave a favorable impression do their homework first - a study of the host country's language, culture, and etiquette. While orphans are usually from the lower classes, social workers, directors, lawyers, and liaisons are from the privileged classes. Proper social form and behavior are important to them. Most North Americans are in a hurry to return home. This is understandable. What is not understandable is rude and pushy behavior, which, incidentally, does not get the family home any faster. Most delays occur during the court procedure. The court cannot be rushed, no matter what part of the world you are in. Be accessible, responsive, and cooperative to avoid further delays.

Several excellent travel books explain how we should behave in foreign countries as well as 1,001 things every traveler should know. New editions are published each year. The language barrier appears to present the greatest obstacle to bridging the gap between the two cultures. Books, tapes, records, and hand-held computers are available to assist or help you learn most of the major languages. In most cases, a representative associated with your U.S. agency will meet you abroad and stay with your group, but the more you know, the more independent you will be when you arrive at your destination. Consult the Internet for more information.

As you prepare for your adoption trip, learn the travel requirements and procedures in the foreign country, too. After sending your dossier, gather your travel documents together; then you will be ready to travel when your referral comes.


Jean Nelson-Erichsen and Heino R. Erichsen are the authors of How to Adopt Internationally, a hands-on manual loaded with practical information for families who seek to complete an international adoption. The Erichsens are the founders of the Los Ninos International Adoption Center in Texas and the parents of four children adopted from South America. This excerpt is reprinted from How to Adopt Internationally by permission of the publisher. For more information, read our book review or contact Mesa House Publishing by phone at 888-306-0060 (toll-free).
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