Types Of Adoption

Considering the types of adoption

Where do you start if you want to adopt? You may want to begin by asking yourself some very basic (but important) questions about adoption: do you wish to adopt in the United States or are you considering adopting a child from another country? Will you try to save money and adopt largely on your own or will you consider working with an adoption agency? Can you see yourself adopting a child from the foster care system? In your mind, you may already have a clear idea of how you'd like your adoption journey to proceed. And that is admirable. But keep in mind that the choices you make - and your willingness to be flexible with your plans - could have a direct impact on the amount of money you spend and the length of time you will wait for your adoption.

One of the first decisions you will make when starting the adoption process is deciding which type of adoption to pursue. While there are many different paths to adopting, there are two main types of adoption: Domestic (adopting from within the United States) or International (adopting from another country.)

Paths to domestic adoption include:

  • Independent adoption
  • Licensed private agency adoption
  • Facilitator adoption
  • Public agency adoption

Paths to international adoption include:

  • Hague Convention country adoption
  • Non-Hague Convention country adoption

Domestic Independent Adoption

Independent adoption (also known as private adoption) usually involves adopting newborn babies. In independent adoption, hopeful adoptive families will work directly with an adoption attorney. Families will often do their own networking (searching for and connecting with an expectant woman who is considering adoption). Rarely, some adoption attorneys will also offer these kinds of services.

In most domestic adoptions, the expectant mother (and sometimes the expectant father) will choose the parents for their baby. This connection - or match - between hopeful adoptive families and expectant mothers can be made in many different ways: online, through a referral from friends or family, church, newspaper ads, etc.

Expectant mothers can find and connect with families by reviewing a family's portfolio (also known as a parent profile), which is generally a 5 to 20 page book that shares information and photos about the family. Profiles can be shared by a hard copy print or PDF, online through profile websites, or as an advertisement in newspapers or magazines.

Prospective birth parents will need to legally relinquish their parental rights with the attorney’s guidance before placing their child with adoptive parents. Newborns are usually placed with the adoptive parents directly at the hospital.

Some states do not allow independent adoptions and every state has its own laws regarding adoption. To find an attorney who specializes in adoption, contact the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, an organization whose members are held to high standards of adoption law adherence and ethical practices.

Adoption attorneys can provide other services such as:

  • Preparing and reviewing legal documents
  • Filing and obtaining interstate compact approval (if adopting from another state)
  • Completing the adoption finalization process (obtaining adoption decree in court)
  • Finding resources to complete a home study
  • Locating resources to provide birth mother support (financial, emotional, etc.)

Domestic adoption with licensed private agencies

This path typically involves families working with a licensed adoption agency in order to adopt a child. Licensed agencies have much more oversight and are required to meet certain standards set by the state in which they are licensed.

The adoption agency provides the services to find and match a hopeful adoptive family with an expectant woman who is considering adoption. In most cases, the expectant mother (and sometimes also the expectant father) will choose the adoptive family for their baby.

Agencies are staffed with license social workers who are trained to work with both expectant parents and adoptive parents. Some states require that a baby is placed directly with an agency, taking temporary guardianship until a court proceeding allows the adoptive parents to take guardianship.

Agencies typically will provide other services such as:

  • Orientation meetings so families can understand the services provided by the agency
  • Home study completion
  • Screening of prospective birth parents to reduce risk of fraud or scam
  • Birth mother support (financial, emotional, etc.)

Domestic adoption with facilitators

Adoption facilitators are companies - or in some cases individuals - who work with adoptive families to find and match with expectant parents who are considering adoption. Some states will not allow adoptions through paid facilitators. Other states, such as California, regulate and/or license facilitators.

Facilitators cannot serve as a child placement agency and they cannot complete a home study. While they specialize in finding a match between adoptive families and birth parents, some facilitators will also handle other services such as:

  • Initial screening of birth parents
  • Arranging for the transfer of proof of pregnancy & medical releases/records
  • Providing written confirmation of future contact between the birth parents and the adoptive family
  • Offering referrals to attorneys and other adoption professionals, in order to help adoptive families complete their adoption

Public agency adoption

A public agency is a state or county government agency that has legal custody of children who are in foster care systems. These children live temporarily with families who provides for their physical, emotional, and social needs until they can be reunited with their biological family or a different family can permanently adopt them.

Thousands of children are currently waiting to be adopted since their biological parents have already had their parental rights terminated. While adopting infants from foster care is rare, about 40% of the children are six-years old or younger and the average age for waiting children is between 7 and 8.

AdoptUSKids.org has tips and resources as well as a database of children in the U.S. foster care system who are available to adopt.

International (sometimes called “Intercountry”) adoption

Adopting a child from another country usually involves the Hague Convention, which has more than 80 participating countries. These treaties were designed to promote the best interests of children, biological families, and adoptive families while preventing the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children. Certain countries are not part of the Hague Convention. So they may have different adoption requirements, depending on the laws in that country.

When a U.S. citizen wants to adopt a child from another country, he/she must have a home study completed by an accredited agency, as defined by the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act (UAA). The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) much approve all intercountry adoptions.

In 2012, 53% of children adopted internationally were under the age of 2, while 15% were 3 to 4 years old, and the remaining 32% were over 5 years old (statistics provided by Childwelfare.gov).