Regardless of the particulars, I don’t know anyone who would approve of the actions of Tennessee mother, Terry Ann Hanson, who put her adopted son on a plane alone in the now infamous Russian adoption scandal that has damaged not only adoption practices between the U.S. and Russia, but got the whole of Europe wondering about more stringent adoption policies out of Russia.

“There has been great pressure recently on the Russian government to get its adoption policies right, and this latest case just made that even more so,” said Peter Selman, author of “Intercountry Adoption,” a visiting fellow at Newcastle University in England, told the New York Times.

The Case for International vs. Domestic Adoption

Why adopt children from other countries when there are children in need in the United States? It can be difficult to understand, especially for those of us who have no experience with the adoption process. According to Adoption.org, there are many advantages to international adoption:

  • more flexible upper age limits for adopting parents in many countries
  • no birth family involvement (generally)
  • racial or ethnic preferences
  • perception that it doesn't take as long as domestic
  • perception that children from orphanages are better-adjusted that children from foster care

However, as the recent scandal has highlighted, adopting internationally is not without its problems. It is difficult for prospective adoptive parents to determine the physical and mental health of children raised in orphanages other government run institutions. Logistically, there are many hoops to go through, to say nothing of the considerable costs of multiple international trips. And that’s just the parents’ perspective.

So with all the headache and complication, why do people do it?

Beyond the perceived benefits mentioned above, families can have very personal reasons for wanting to adopt internationally. While some parents may feel an emotional pull to help children from a certain country or region, others have more practical concerns in mind. According to Adopt International, Russian adoptions can offer short referral times for boys and sibling groups available.

Perusing the lists of benefits to adopting children from different countries, I’m cynical. But it is so easy for us who do not choose adoption to question the motives of those who do, especially when we hear news like the story of the recent return of the Russian adoptee. What we can all agree on — I hope — is that we need to support people who are willing to care for children who need a home, no matter where.