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 investigating the process.
International 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 that as of July 2014 (according to the Universal Accreditation Act), it is necessary for all U.S. citizens to use an approved adoption service provider (ASP) in order to adopt a child. This means it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to perform independent adoptions simply by hiring a Nicaraguan lawyer. (See our list of ASPs currently facilitating adoptions from 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. Also, as of June 2014 there are over 200 families waiting for children under 3. Please consider whether you can adopt an older child or one with special needs, as there are many of those children waiting for forever families.)
- 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 $15/hr or $75/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 unbelievably valuable 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.
Important Note: We are often asked about private adoptions in Nicaragua, such as where an adopting family wants to adopt a specific child in need that is not currently in the custody of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Family. We want to make clear that private adoptions are illegal in Nicaragua. An adoptive family is not legally allowed to adopt a child that a mother offers to them. In order for a child to be legally adopted, she must first be turned over to the Ministry of Family and taken through the legal process before you can adopt her. In addition, it is illegal to offer any payment (of any sort) to anyone in the adoption process, with the exception of legal fees, translation, doctor’s appointments, and what not. If you have specific questions about the process, please contact a Nicaraguan adoption lawyer.
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