Once you receive your ”official” referral by the sending country you are working with (and occasionally upon your “unofficial” referral prior to that), you will get a short, descriptive report on the child that is being referred to you. This is the referral information you will use to decide if this child is the right one for your family…and your family is the right one for the child. Since many of the Hopscotch families are not local to the Hopscotch office, most of the referral counseling will be via telephone or email rather than face to face. Generally, you have about two weeks to decide on an “official” referral, if you even need that long.
Sometimes the country will send several kinds of reports and observations, perhaps with photos and maybe even a video (rare but possible.) No country, program or individual case is ever alike and reports can be as different as fingerprints. Information varies from country to country and case to case and can be limited due to differences in medical terminology or evaluation standards. In some instances, there is no report until the family travels to meet their potential referral. That is why it is very important to take this into consideration when choosing a country program that is right for your family.
At Hopscotch, we will always do our best to obtain as much information as we can about your referral so that your decision to accept or decline can be as informed as possible. When certain information or testing is just not available, we will tell you that too. Hopscotch will also try to interpret the formal language of the referral into every day, practical language so that you can get a sense of what this information might possibly mean to the child and to your family, now and in the years to come. However, you should always seek professional medical resources for the definitive interpretation of the information provided to you by the sending country. This is where referral counseling comes into play.
We strongly encourage families to contract with an International Adoption Medical Specialist about the referral information, if it is provided in advance. If referral information is insufficient, or simply not available due to country restrictions, it is especially important to establish a contractual relationship with the IA Specialist prior to traveling to meet your referral. This will enable your IA Specialist to assist you in evaluating your referral while you are in country and before you officially commit to the child.
As stated before, Hopscotch will do everything we can to obtain as much information as possible on your referral to help with your questions, but we are always at the mercy of the sending country who may or may not be able to provide that additional information. Whenever possible, we will try to connect you to other Hopscotch families who have adopted children with similar information to the child you are considering.
Every so often, the situation arises where a more immediate decision is required. You are never pressured to accept a referral of a child if you are not comfortable with the child or the time frame. It is okay to say you choose to pass if there is not enough time or information to make a decision. A lot of families have anxieties or questions but still decide to take a “leap of faith” in accepting or declining a referral. There are no penalties for turning down a referral for appropriate reasons but, just like the timeframe to the first referral, the timeframe to another referral cannot be accurately predicted.
In an international adoption, a family has to be comfortable saying “no.” If you are uneasy about receiving limited to no referral medical information then international adoption may not be the right direction for your family. Hopscotch respects the laws and stipulations of every sending country but we also respect the enormity of the decision you are about to make.
Even when a family knows right away that this is the child for them they usually still have a lot of questions. Hopscotch will be available to you throughout your adoption journey. Even after the formal adoption of your child in the child’s country, Hopscotch will continue to be available to you.
After you finalize your adoption in country you will transition to post-adoption or post-placement counseling. Your home study worker, who is usually the one who will be completing the post-placement reports, will make a minimum of two at-home visits with you. Be honest in your family needs and any concerns you may have. Without your frank participation both during and after your adoption, Hopscotch cannot be the valuable resource your family may need.
I hope this gives you a broad outline of what is involved in referral counseling. If you have additional questions or concerns, please let us know. We are here to help.