Last week’s two-parter on the BBC on international adoption, featuring previous Apprentice candidate Saira Khan, went some way to dispel the myths regarding adopting abroad caused by high-profile celebrity adoptive parents.  

In looking at the ease with which the families of  Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and of Madonna, seem to be extended, one could be forgiven for thinking that adopting from abroad is a matter of filling in a few forms and picking your baby from the local orphanage.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth for those in the UK wishing to adopt from overseas.

The first step for such prospective adopters is to undergo the normal process of being assessed by an adoption agency in the UK (normally their local social work department) as to their suitability to adopt. This assessment will be lengthy, thorough and intense, and sometimes quite intrusive.  Only once this process has been completed can the prospective adoptive parents register with an adoption agency in the country where they seek to adopt.  Often this means a further assessment of their suitability in the foreign country. Then the wait for a child begins.  

Even once placed with a child, there will be a complex administrative process to get through both in the foreign country and in terms of visas, immigration requirements, certificates and entry clearances before the child may be brought into the UK.  We saw from Saira Khan’s experience that she had to stay in Pakistan with her new baby daughter for a number of months before being able to bring her into the UK, with her husband and small son spending most of that time apart from her. 

Once the child is in the UK, the new family unit can finally begin to settle in together.  However, if the foreign adoption is not recognised automatically in the UK (this depends on which country is involved) the child must be with his or her new family in the UK for a year before an adoption action can be raised here. Only when this last step has been successfully completed, is the long process finally over.  

The reason adopters submit themselves to this arduous, emotional and lengthy process is of course clear: In Britain, the chances of approved adopters being placed with a baby is slim, while when adopting from certain countries abroad, the chances of  securing a baby are high.  If one was to ask Saira Khan and her husband whether the difficult process of adopting their baby daughter Amara was worthwhile, there could only be one answer.