Since our move to Nicaragua in July of 2012, we’ve felt compelled to offer assistance to those families traveling here to adopt orphans. Sometimes that means welcoming them into our home, finding transportation, or helping with laundry, while other times it means offering a listening ear during times of frustration or sadness. [Note that we are in no way able to impact the adoption process itself. We are not adoption experts, lawyers, or in any way related to the judicial process. We are just here to offer community and help to those the government of Nicaragua allows to adopt.]
Families choosing to adopt are making a lifetime commitment to a child in need. The least we can do is help them through it while we are able.
Another way we are helping is just through the sharing of information. There is a lot of information available online, but sometimes two bits of hearsay seem to contradict each other. We’ve found the best way to learn about adoption in Nicaragua is to speak to those who have been through it before or are walking through it now.
What follows is a basic outline of the process, as well as links for more information. After you’ve read through this information, if you’re interested in learning more, we suggest joining the Nicaragua Adoption Facebook group to talk with others like you.
Adoption Process in Nicaragua
According to the U.S. State Department, the process for adopting a child from Nicaragua generally includes the following steps:
- Choose an Adoption Service Provider — This is someone who is licensed in the U.S. to perform your home study and follow up (post-adoption) yearly updates. Note you do not need to hire an agency to walk you through the process, although you can do so if you choose. Just be aware that you may pay double if not triple the cost by working through an agency (but some families choose to do so for peace of mind). Nicaragua actually prefers not to work with agencies, so if you do hire a U.S. agency, that agency will end up sub-contracting with a Nicaraguan lawyer to perform all of the Nicaragua-based tasks. Many adopting families find it is more cost effective and more efficient to simply hire one of those lawyers directly for legalizing the adoption in Nicaragua.
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): file an I-600A (this is valid for 18 months).
- Be matched with a child — This process can take a few days or weeks to a few months, depending on your desired age, gender, race, and so on. In addition, the child must be considered an orphan by U.S. immigration law and declared abandoned by Nicaragua’s court. (Note about the amount of time you wait to be matched: Generally speaking, the more specific you are in terms of the type of child you’re hoping to adopt — such as an infant girl — the longer you can expect to wait. If you are open to adopting a child with special needs, be sure to let your lawyer know right when you start the process, as those cases tend to run on a different — perhaps speedier — timeline.)
- Adopt the child in Nicaragua — After you have been matched with a child and s/he has been declared abandoned by the court, you will be asked to travel to Nicaragua to begin the in-country fostering period. You will spend the next 3-6 months in Nicaragua living with the child (in the home or apartment of your choice). While this time can be stressful since you are separated from the rest of your family and friends back home, it is an amazing time of bonding with your new child. During this time period, you will have three home visits from social workers who want to see how the new family is getting along. You and your lawyer will also work through the various steps necessary to legally adopt the child in Nicaragua.(Note about costs: The Ministry of the Family does not charge a fee for adoptions. Typical associated charges for the process will include personal legal fees and fees for obtaining notarized legal documents in Nicaragua, which generally range from $1,200 to $1,500 USD, plus translation (which can cost another $1,000 – $2,500 depending on the total number of pages being translated). You can also expect to spend up to $500 in medical expenses — such as for immunizations — before being able to enter the U.S., depending on the health of your child. Due to the required fostering period, also consider the cost of living abroad and the potential time away from work. For budgeting purposes, plan to spend $700-1200/month for a safe 2-4 bedroom furnished apartment with utilities, depending on the location. Car rentals cost approximately $25/day or $600/month, or you can hire a car and bilingual driver for $10/hr or $40-60/day. If you plan to eat “like an American,” expect to double your current food budget. Otherwise, you can eat “like a local” for about half.)
- Complete the process at the U.S. Embassy in Managua in order to bring the child back to the U.S. — After the court has made the adoption legal in Nicaragua, you’ll need to have the child seen by a doctor, plus file some paperwork (I-600 and an immigrant visa application, for example) to bring him or her with you back to the States. This last part of the process typically takes anywhere from 1-4 weeks, depending on the specific case.
If you’re considering adopting from Nicaragua, we definitely encourage you to keep researching and praying about your next steps. While the in-country fostering period may sound daunting, it is an unbelievable time for you to bond with your new son or daughter, away from all of the distractions of work and home. Every mom we’ve spoken with has said that despite its challenges, their time in Nicaragua was so worthwhile for the long-term success of the adoption. Don’t forget to join the Nicaragua Adoption Facebook group to learn more.