Why Working in International Adoption Means Frequent Travel


As an agency offering international adoptions in various countries such as Bulgaria, Congo, Honduras, Nicaragua, Samoa, and Ukraine, MLJ Adoptions, Inc. believes it is essential to stay current on changes to laws and processes in that country. To do so, it is a necessity that the agency’s staff travels to the country not only to establish the program but to stay current on procedures, current on changes to laws, and to maintain the program. MLJ’s program directors are required to visit the countries in which we have programs once or twice a year. We must ensure that the staff in country are well versed not only in their own laws, but in US federal visa laws as well.

Many may find this globe-trotting as an exciting opportunity to travel and see exotic locales. Yes, some locations are beautiful and exotic, but others, not so much so. Additionally, travel becomes a sacrifice as it is exhausting and a lot of time is spent away from family, friends and our regular routines. Not only is it a sacrifice for our team members, but also a sacrifice for the family they leave behind. Travel to some locations means numerous hours on long flights, hours at airports, plane changes, and schlepping luggage half way around the world. Once there, you may be staying in substandard lodging, you may be in a city half way around the world where the electricity surges, resulting in black outs, no air conditioning and no internet connection. No air conditioning while in a country close to the equator means you will be uncomfortable and hot and you will wish you were back home with your family and in your own bed. Some locations are so removed from modern medicine it requires many immunizations and medications to take while there to ward off diseases like Malaria, Yellow Fever, and Meningitis. I tell my friends and family that I have been immunized for everything remotely possible that could make me ill. If the world ends tomorrow, I will be one of the only survivors.

Why do we do all this? We travel because of the children in need in these countries, because of the children whose faces and expressions are etched in our memory. We do this for the child who approaches you and asks, “When will you find me a family?” We do it to ensure the program is running as smoothly as possible for adoptive parents and as quickly as possible for the children waiting for a family.

What do we do when we arrive? Our days are filled with meetings with staff, visiting orphanages, meetings with government officials, meetings with the US embassy, meetings with foster families, and visiting with referred children. Time is spent on how to improve the process, reviewing new requirements and possible changes. We meet with people who could make the process smoother and more timely for adoptive families.

When prospective adoptive parents are interviewing MLJ Adoptions as a possible agency, one of first questions often asked is, “Have you traveled to this country?” If an agency has not, it seems it would be difficult to maintain an ethical and smooth running program. Yes, MLJ travels to all of our countries, not just once but consistently. We have to for the benefit of the orphaned children and for the families wanting to adopt.

Photo Credit: Dani Sardà i Lizaran

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptionsā€™ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.