10 Things You Should Do Before Adopting Internationally

Posted by Heather Sewell on June 04, 2013  /   Posted in Adoption
By: Linsdy Wallace

Today’s guest post comes from Lindsy Wallace. Lindsy and her husband, William, have been in the process of adopting internationally for four years. Yep, f-o-u-r years. They lead the orphan care ministry at Antioch Church in South Louisville, are foster parents, and are a Host Family for Safe Families for Children. The Wallaces are passionate about orphan care and encouraging and equipping the Church to care for the fatherless.

1. PRAY.

Should you choose to accept this calling on your life, you must be led by the Spirit. We are all commanded to care for the orphan. (James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8 – 9) We are not all called to adopt. Spend as much time as you need listening to the Lord for guidance. Don’t use this as an excuse to drag your feet. When He says go then go, but for now come before the Lord genuinely seeking His will for your family. 

A note to the wives: If your husband is not open to adoption DO NOT move forward. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200 for your agency application. You must be equally yoked in this decision. PRAY for your man and for his heart to be open to the Spirit. Adoption was the Lord’s idea; He alone can impart it on your husband’s heart.

2. Visit Loving Shepherd Ministries (LSM) and fill out their Adoption Assessment Form.

This will allow LSM to come alongside your family in support as you begin this daunting task. Based on the Adoption Assessment Form, LSM will make recommendations specific to your family regarding which countries’ laws and programs will work best with your family. 

Some countries have very strict health requirements, even taking into account adoptive parents’ body mass index! Others are less stringent. LSM will help you figure out which countries are a good match for you.

They will also provide a list of ethical agencies, home study providers in your area, and resources for fundraising. All of their adoption resources are FREE, and they receive no funding from adoption agencies, allowing LSM to be an objective voice to adoptive families.

3. Attend an Orphan Care Alliance Adoption and Foster Care Seminar.

These seminars are designed to provide you with practical first steps in your adoption journey. (They are also FREE.) You will have the opportunity to hear from experienced speakers on topics ranging from home studies, fundraising, special needs/waiting child adoption, transracial adoption, and more! 

In addition to the broad selection of breakout sessions, several adoption and home study agencies are present to answer your questions.

4. Know the facts.

According to UNICEF there are 163 million “orphans” in the world.* When we hear the word “orphan” most of us think of children without parents, but that is not what this means. Of those 163 million children, only 18.5 million are “double orphans” – children without both parents.* I say only because the other 89% have one living parent and likely extended family. These differentiations are important as we seek God honoring solutions for this people group.

Do you feel a little misled by the numbers we’ve all seen on t-shirts and read in well-meaning articles? I can relate. BUT this is good news! The vast majority of “orphans” HAVE families. They are vulnerable but not without a family. There is much to be done to support their entire family, but adoption is not for those children.

95% of all orphans are over the age of five, BUT the vast majority of children adopted into this country are under the age of five.* As you embark on this journey, ask God if He would have you adopt an older child, a sibling group, or a child with special needs. It is those children who are most in need of a family.

Now this is the part of our story where God has force fed me a giant slice of humble pie. We are adopting a healthy baby girl. That is without a doubt His will for our family. We wanted to adopt an older child and, twice, that door was closed to us. Please hear me say this, not everyone is called to adopt an older child. Don’t do something you are not called to do out of guilt or goodwill.

Pray earnestly about who God is asking you to welcome into your family and educate yourself about the type of children truly needing international adoption.

5. Choose an agency committed to ethical adoption practices AND community-based orphan care.

Community-based orphan care is rooted in prevention and relationship.  It focuses on existing assets and mobilizing the people to care for their own vulnerable children.

International adoption should always be the last resort for orphaned children. We must encourage and equip our brothers and sisters abroad to care for their own children – not because we are the “haves” and they are the “have-nots” but because they desire to care for their children in almost every situation. 

Your adoption agency should be committed to finding families for children, not finding children for families. There is a distinct difference between the two and, as adoptive families, we have a responsibility to put our money only into the hands of those committed to ethical adoptions.

6. Read The Connected Child, co-authored by Dr. Karyn Purvis.

I could write an entire post on this point alone but I know your head is already about to explode. Here’s what I think you need to know right now – Kids from hard places—their brains are different. 
There are six risk factors that put a child into this category: difficult pregnancy, difficult birth, early hospitalization, abuse, neglect, and trauma. If you are adopting a child, they may have at least one of these risk factors.

What could this look like practically? It could mean your child learned manipulation as a survival skill on the streets of Ethiopia and can’t unlearn it the minute they join your family. It could mean your five year old who never attached to a caregiver will not understand why he should not hug the mailman. It could mean your child who grew up in an institution will hide food in his pillowcase because he is fearful of being hungry. 

Empowered to Connect has dozens of free articles as well as audio and video presentations available on their website. I HIGHLY recommend you check them out.

7. Connect.

The adoption road is long and, depending on your circle, lonely. Reach out to families ahead of you in the process. (And when you get farther ahead, don’t forget to reach back!) Seek out families who have brought children home and befriend them. Get to know their families; ask them hard questions. (You know, the ones you are afraid to admit you are even thinking.) They thought them too and have made it to the other side. These families will be your biggest supporters. 

The age we live in allows for an incredible amount of people and information to be right at our fingertips. There is a Facebook or online group of some type for those interested in adoption from most—if not all—countries open to international adoption. Request to join. Read about the experiences of others. Seek out blogs of families adopting from the country you are interested in. Follow along and learn from them.

WARNING: Some of us are better at tempering our emotions than others. If you realize a certain group or blog is emotionally taxing and not encouraging for you, stop reading it. You don’t need to be dragged into someone else’s drama. Connect only to those who will be open and honest without bashing every agency that comes along or suggests no one ever adopt from such-and-such country.

8. Cultivate a strong theology of suffering.

Friends, contrary to what The Beatles said, love is not all you need. You can love your child to pieces, but it will not heal their hearts. It will not answer their questions about why their birth-mother was raped or why they were abandoned in a train station or why they didn’t have any food or why their younger sibling died from malaria in the orphanage. 

Love will not make their questions go away, and your love will not heal their hearts (which should be your ultimate goal). You must point them to the One who knitted them together and the only One who can heal them.

You must enter into their suffering. Your child’s painful past is now a part of your family history. Do not take this lightly. Do not try to love it away. 

Prepare yourselves now by reading Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper and contributors Joni Eareckson Tada, Steve Saint, Carl Ellis, David Powlison, Dustin Shramek, and Mark Talbot. Explore the many categories of God’s sovereignty as evidenced in his Word. Point your child to Christ, even in suffering, “to find the greatest confidence, deepest comfort, and sweetest fellowship they have ever known” Piper says in his book.

9. Be prepared for spiritual warfare.

1 Peter 5:8 says we should “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (NIV) Friends, if you open your heart and home to a child in need, our enemy will seek to devour you. I am not trying to be dramatic or scare you way from this journey. It is filled with blessings. I am speaking from experience here.

Your car will break down, your washing machine will overflow, one of your kids will break their arm… And that’s just the beginning. 

For us as Believers, adoption is not just the physical removal of a child from a dark and difficult life, it is an eternal redemption of their souls. If you bring a child into your family from a country drowning in idolatry, practicing the evil murder that is gendercide, or sinking under the heavy darkness of poverty and HIV/AIDS, you will be attacked. 

Before your family said Yes to that child, Satan most likely thought them to be his. He will fight for them, and we must be ready to fight back. We must put on the full armor of God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. ~ Ephesians 6:10 – 18 NIV

10. Be in your story.

This will be REALLY hard. It is so easy to compare our lives to others and growing your family through adoption is no exception. Your adoption process may go smoothly. You might sail through each step on your timeline on schedule.  But probably not. 

Probably you’ll get pregnant, then your husband will be diagnosed with cancer, then the country you want to adopt from will deem you unfit to parent, then the two children you try to adopt will be claimed by family and you’ll end of becoming foster parents and adopting a healthy baby girl from a country you didn’t even know existed. Oh wait, that’s our story.

Here’s what I really want you to know – You are not the author of your story. God is. He is writing your adoption story for you and for His glory. Just be in it. Live in it. Submit your story to Him. 

I believe adoption is one of the most sanctifying acts of love and worship and obedience any of us can experience. And the pre-adoption process is just the beginning. Don’t run from it. Don’t try to live someone else’s story. Live the one He is writing for you.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12 NIV)


Lindsy and William live in Kentucky with their four preschoolers and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a toddler from Africa. Lindsy blogs about orphan care and Jesus at word from the wallaces.


* Statistics on the number and age of orphans were sourced from the following articles: http://www.brandeis.edu/investigate/adoption/orphanstatistics.html




  1. jenny marrs June 4, 2013 10:35 pm Reply

    so well said, linsy! great post full of incredibly practical information and biblically sound advice. thanks for sharing this!

  2. Amber June 4, 2013 11:10 pm Reply

    Great post with so much practical information!!

  3. Melissa June 5, 2013 6:56 am Reply

    Actually, another one of the risk factors for kids from hard places is having more than one primary caregiver. That automatically places foster and adoptive kids in this category. Please don’t underestimate the difference in brain chemistry for kids from hard places.

  4. Abbe Murdock June 5, 2013 9:44 am Reply

    As the mother of 5 internationally adopted children, I can say that the decision to adopt is one that can never be taken lightly. Children, whether biological or adopted, are a life long commitment. They do not come with a store receipt, they are not returnable, they are not disposable! Just because your child reaches the chronological age of 18 or 21, they may not be suddenly prepared to face all of life’s challenges independently. They may either live at home or on their own. A strong faith and support system is essential. Thank you Lindsy for your insightful and passionate love for The Lord and your family. By the way, I neglected to mention, my children are 31,33, 35, 37 and 41 years old. Two of my children still live at home. No empty nest syndrome here! Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Lindsy Wallace June 10, 2013 6:50 am Reply

      Thanks for sharing Abbe! We are not at that phase in our parenting journey yet but I have heard from many experienced parents not to expect our children to be ready to leave at 18. They missed out on so much during the early years, they can still be making up for it as an “adult”.

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