Your Top 5 Questions Answered

A Q&A with Holt Adoption Advisor Caitlin Howe.

When families first inquire about adoption, they are often overwhelmed by the amount of information that is out there. It is my pleasure to help families get down to the basics and provide clarity so that they are able to move forward confidently in their adoption process. To give you a head start, here are answers to the top 5 questions that families ask when they first call in.

1. How do I choose a country program?

Not all families begin the process knowing which country they hope to adopt from, so if you fall into this category, know that you are not alone. Each program has unique facets to consider, such as the timeframe from application to placement or the care children receive in country. I also like to encourage families to explore what cultural resources are available in their hometowns that can provide a link for an adoptee to their birth culture. But well before choosing a country program, first make sure that you qualify for international adoption. All countries establish their own eligibility requirements, and age, marriage length, family size, medical conditions, income and even body mass index can come into play. I encourage families to visit our parent eligibility webpage — — and take a look at the differences between each country. Comparing your family with the requirements listed can help initially determine where you might fit. Not all requirements are cut and dry, however, so please contact Holt directly before applying if you have any questions!

2. What does Holt mean by “special needs”?

The definition of “special needs” can vary from agency to agency so it’s a good clarification to make. Because all international adoptees will need extra support to transition to a new country and culture, we consider that all children have some form of special need. But most often, when we refer to “special needs,” we are talking about factors that make it more difficult to find the right family for a child who is waiting. These include factors like being older in age, part of a sibling group or having medical or developmental needs. Children waiting for families have a broad spectrum of health and developmental needs, and often these needs are minor, correctable or treatable needs that will not require intensive lifelong treatment.

At the beginning of the process, we encourage all families to research and assess what health needs they might be open to. On the adoption application, we also ask all families to acknowledge that their child will likely have at least some minor special needs. But saying yes to special needs does not mean that you are agreeing to any and all medical needs. This is an initial acknowledgement that you recognize that the child you are matched with will require unique care, and may need some medical and professional support.

3. Do I need to have a homestudy before applying?

Families have the option of completing a homestudy before or after they apply to Holt. If you live in a state where Holt has a branch office, our staff will initiate the homestudy process after you apply. If you live outside of a branch state, you will choose from among Holt’s national network of supervised providers to complete your homestudy. Our Hague accreditation mandates that we only work with agencies that we have a supervisory relationship with. Not all agencies, however, will work for all country programs as our China and Korea programs require certain accreditation for the homestudy that other countries do not. To learn if you live in a Holt branch state or see a list of the agencies we work with, visit

4. Who are the kids in greatest need of adoption?

When it comes to the children that have the greatest need for adoption, we find that it is more challenging to place boys, children 5 and older, and children with significant special needs. Not all families feel capable of parenting older children or children with involved special needs. It is also a persistent myth that more girls need families than boys. In truth, just as many boys need families as girls, and because the vast majority of families request a girl, boys end up waiting much longer for a family. All children — regardless of history, health, gender or age — deserve a permanent, loving family and we hope to continue to increase awareness and provide this for children all over the world.

5. How long is the process? How can I make the process go faster?

The average timeframe from application to placement for international adoption is 2-3 years. Some agencies list the timeframe from paperwork submission to the time that they are matched with a child, but Holt lists the average time for the entire process. If a shorter timeline is a priority for your family, we do have programs that fall much closer to the two-year mark. There are parts of the process where families can help to determine the pace, such as by how efficiently you complete your homestudy. Greater openness to a variety of special needs can also reduce timeframes. Remember, however, that flexibility is important throughout the process and that time spent waiting is not wasted. The waiting period is a great time to prepare, research and find ways to engage with your child’s birth culture and learn more about the unique care that adoptees need.


We recognize that this can be a very overwhelming process. But we are here to help! We host monthly informational webinars that cover the basics of adoption and provide more information about Holt as an organization. For additional guidance and support, we can connect you with a mentor family that has already been through the process. Or you can reach me directly at and I can provide further resources and set up a time for a phone or video consultation. Looking forward to connecting with you!

Caitlin Howe • Adoption Advisor

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