Many Americans seeking to adopt children are looking to orphanages in other countries. Last year, the U.S. State Department issued over 20,000 immigrant visas to adopted children moving to the U.S. In the largely unregulated world of international adoption, the path can be difficult, time consuming and expensive. Many families turn to adoption agencies to guide them through the complicated process. For producer Zorislav Baydyuk. VOA's Jim Bertel has more on one adoption agency located just outside of Chicago, in the Midwestern state of Illinois.
Andrew, shows off his trophies. "This is a World Series trophy. I play baseball."
Andrew Verr and his sister Natalie were adopted five years ago from Ukraine. Their adoptive mom is Krista Verr. "Oh, the kids are great. We can't imagine our lives without them."
Adopting children from overseas can be expensive and fraught with many bureaucratic roadblocks. Like many families, the Verr's turned to an adoption agency for help.
Dan Verr liked the approach of Susan Cain and her nonprofit Adoption Services Group. "When we found out that we can do it independently and we would go and travel to meet our children before we could decide, that appealed to us as well."
Adoption agency's like Cain's help prospective parents navigate the complicated adoption process including the extensive documentation and background checks.
"This paperwork will require parents to go see a doctor. Will require the families to get legal clearances from police, FBI, the state police and child abuse and [child] neglect tracking system. And once the family has undergone all of those reviews and a social worker has met with them at least two to three times. The social work agency or adoption agency [then] decides, 'yes or no this parent can adopt or not'."
On the other hand, Cain says, the background information and screening of children in many countries is often less extensive, making it difficult to get accurate health information. "These children, a lot of them are sick or they have not had enough food. Some of them have skin problems or rickets, anemia, blood problems (and) some of them are underweight."
Cain knows first hand the challenges of international adoption after adopting her two youngest daughters.
Grace is from Russia. Her sister Emma was adopted in Ukraine where doctors think she suffered from meningitis. Cain says Emma should fully recover but requires special help at school. "That means she gets help with language, her reading, gym, and help with learning to walk better."
Despite the obstacles, new parents' like Krista and Dan Verr say the rewards of international adoption are worth it. And for the children, it gives many of them a loving, nurturing environment for the first time in their young lives.