Adoption FAQ: “How does WACAP decide where to work?”


WACAP Information Specialist, Debbie

How does WACAP determine which countries to work with … and what’s involved in partnering with a new country on international adoption?

This is a question that I often hear as I talk with families who want to learn more about adoption.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Mary Moo, WACAP’s vice president of adoptions, about this question. Mary expanded not only on what guides our decisions, but also the upfront time, collaboration, and care that goes into establishing a new adoption program. This, of course, does not end once the program has been established: there’s ongoing communication, in-country visits, and attention given to ensure we support the children and our families according to the highest standards of service.

Please read on for Mary’s response to this frequently asked question.

close-up image of a globe, in antique shades and pastels, showing the equator near Indonesia

Why such a limited number of countries?
The world is full of children who live in institutional care, live on the streets or live in insecure and dangerous situations. No country has ended this age-old sadness. So, with so many children around the world who seem to be excellent candidates for adoption because of their apparent need for a family, why does WACAP only work in such a limited number of countries?

Difficult Realities
As many of you may know, doing adoption work correctly is hard work. First making sure that a child can’t stay or return to their birth family takes time and effort. In many countries, a majority of the organizations serving orphans and vulnerable children lack funding or systems and sometimes knowledge of best practices. Commonly circumstances surrounding children who could benefit from adoption are challenging due to the complicated nature of birth family situations, natural disasters and poverty. Furthermore, governments’ ability to see adoption as an ongoing, viable option for children can become clouded by domestic capacity challenges, foreign organizations’ pressure, or lack of funding, among other factors.

One Priority: Helping Children Ethically
Because of these difficult realities, finding countries that we can feel confident to work in is also difficult. That’s why — when we consider starting to work in a new country — the first priority for WACAP is identifying if we can be successful in helping children ethically.

While there are many countries that, unfortunately, have reputations for corruption, WACAP has found that finding the right colleagues makes all the difference. Finding organizations and people who are likeminded in their commitment to helping children in need of families is the key.

More than Paperwork and Processes: Finding Those Likeminded in Commitment
We find these likeminded organizations and people through friends, adoptive families, board members and other organizations. Commonly the process starts with exchanges of emails to get to know each other, the circumstances for children in need from that particular country, how the process works in both countries and exploring best practices that each agency feels strongly about. Increasingly, many foreign countries also require WACAP to become authorized or accredited by the foreign government. Trips are made to visit the organization, to talk with government departments responsible for adoption as well as meet with U.S. Embassy staff.

In the end, the decision to start working in a new country is based on collecting lots of information from different parties; our confidence in colleagues that we have identified in-country; the securing of necessary licensing; and the knowledge that the adoption process is functioning sufficiently to enable successful, ethical adoptions to happen.

Typically, this process takes at minimum a year, typically two, or sometimes three (as it did with Haiti) before we are able to welcome families to join us in helping children from a new country.

For Children
While it’s a lot of hard work, we know the smiles in the end make it all worthwhile.

About WACAP’s Vice President of Adoptions, Mary Moo: Mary has had the joy of bringing families and children together through international adoption since 1991. During these years she has coordinated adoptions in several countries including China, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Korea, and Romania. Her career in adoption has been supported by immediate and extended family who are also members of the adoption triad.


WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents) is one of the largest and most experienced international nonprofit adoption and child assistance agencies in the United States. Since 1976, we’ve placed over 10,000 children with loving adoptive parents and provided food, medical care and education to more than 200,000 children around the world.
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