Sometimes, when people experience fertility problems, they become so set on restoring their fertility that they can overlook other options that will make them parents. Whether you and your partner have been told that you will never be able to have children; or if medical treatments, like in vitro fertilization, haven’t worked for you; or if you just don’t want to go the medical treatment route, adoption can be an excellent choice for all couples.
Closed vs. Open
When you begin to investigate your adoption options, you may come across the terms "open adoption" and "closed adoption" a fair amount. The basic difference between the two is that in an open adoption, the birth mother takes an active role in selecting the parents for her unborn child. She is also able to have an informal relationship with the adoptive parents and possibly her child. In a closed adoption, the selection of the adoptive parents is left to an adoption agency with most of the details of the adoption being kept secret. Nowadays, an open adoption is the more common route people go but it wasn’t always that way.
The process of closed adoption began during the Victorian era. Prior to this, birth mothers, who were often single, simply placed their child with a relative or someone who lived in their town. There were no legal rules or processes that the birth mother needed to follow; she simply heeded the advice of her family and her intuition. The introduction of closed adoptions into society spurred the creation of agencies, which assumed all forms of control over the process. Birth mothers no longer had any rights in the adoption process and, due to the societal values at the time, came to be seen as immoral.
During the 1940s and 1950s, closed adoptions were seen as the norm and laws were created to ensure that the details of adoptions were kept secret. However, by the 1960s and 1970s, societal values had begun to change and more women (and men) were demanding the right to be involved in the adoption process. Additionally, adults who had been adopted as children began to insist upon their right to their personal histories. In the following decades, the laws around adoption began to change to reflect society’s demands, thereby creating what is now viewed as open adoption.
A domestic adoption refers to adopting a child within your home country. In the United States, adoptive parents are allowed to adopt a child through an agency outside of their home state. However, adoption laws vary from state to state, therefore it is necessary to read up on the adoption laws in the state where you plan to adopt from. Additionally, on top of the state laws, you will also have to deal with federal laws regarding adoption. Having a lawyer or attorney work with you will help you make sense of the legal maze.
If you decide to do a domestic adoption, you will need to choose between a closed adoption process and an open adoption process. If you decide on an open adoption, then you will have a choice between using an agency or doing what is known as an independent adoption, which is when you locate the birth parents yourself. Even though this type of adoption is referred to as independent, an attorney usually oversees the process of adoption. In some cases, once you have found the birth parents, you may choose to approach an agency and do what is known as "identified adoption." The agency will then do a home study with you and help counsel the birth parents.
If you prefer to use an agency, then you have the option of working with a private agency or a public agency. In private agency adoptions, an open adoption process is usually encouraged. While adoptive parents have very little say in which specific child they would like to adopt, the birth parents are able to take an active role in finding the parents they feel is best suited for their child. In many cases, birth parents are able to form some type of a relationship with the adoptive parents and sometimes even have limited contact with their child in the coming years. However, this is something that is worked out between birth and adoptive parents and is not mandatory.
When you work with a public agency, social workers will pair you with a child. Birth parents are rarely involved in the decision and it is unlikely you will meet them. Because these agencies are run by the state, they offer you the most assurance and adhere to all the proper laws. Licensed private agencies also need to follow state laws and standards to keep their license.
Keep in mind, though, that regardless of the avenue you choose to take, you will likely encounter a lengthy wait. Agencies can give preference to certain individuals based on various criteria. For example, the agency prefers people with a specific religious leaning. Open adoptions, where the birth parents are able to pick the prospective adoptive parents, can result in unpredictable wait times – it could take a few months or a few years before someone picks you. Additionally, the cost for adoption can vary. In the U.S., you can expect to pay anywhere from nothing to $40,000, although $10,000 to $15,000 is the norm.
Once you have selected the means through which you would like to adopt, it is time to get the wheels turning in the adoption process. If you would like to work with an agency, you will need to fill out and submit an application form. Once the agency has accepted you as a client, you will have what is known as a home study, which is a series of meetings with a social worker. These meetings may occur in your home or at the social worker’s office. While the meetings can be nerve-racking for parents, since it is the social worker’s job to evaluate your ability as parents, they are necessary to make sure that the child will be welcomed into the proper, loving environment.
During the home study interviews, you will have to provide a variety of information and documentation, ranging from your household income to a health check. Many agencies also ask prospective adoptive parents for profiles and character references. As well, a criminal check and child abuse clearance is often standard procedure.
A home study generally takes a few months to complete. Once it is done, your next job is to wait. How long you wait can depend on the type of child you are looking to adopt. Newborns are the most in demand, especially healthy, Caucasian newborns. If you live in the United States, you can expect to wait at least a year for a Caucasian newborn but more realistically, two to five years. However, African-American newborns are usually available for adoption within six months. But you don’t need to limit yourself to newborns.
There are many, many older children available for adoption in the U.S. In adoption terms, an older child is one that is two-years-old or older. Additionally, there are siblings that need to be adopted together and children with special needs. All of these children are very special in their own unique way and should not be forgotten when you are looking to adopt.
International Adoption Options
After the Korean War in the 1950s, Americans became introduced to the concept of adopting children from outside of their home country. Since then, this type of adoption has slowly grown in popularity, experiencing a tremendous growth of almost 300% between 1993 (when 7,377 international children were adopted) and 2003 (when 21,616 international children were adopted).
There are many different and individual reasons why people decide to adopt a child outside of their home country. Some people choose this option because they believe they will have a shorter wait time to get a child. Others like that international adoption often allows more flexibility in the adoptive parents’ age limit. Some couples and individuals have racial or ethnic preferences or, conversely, have no racial or ethnic preference and would like to enjoy a diverse, international family.
However, international adoption also has some drawbacks. The costs associated with adopting the child as well as traveling to the country can be expensive. Organizing the correct documents for your home country as well as the country from which you plan to adopt can get to be confusing. You must also follow certain steps with international adoptions. Because the children are often living in orphanages, their current health can be of concern to prospective parents. Additionally, there is often limited information available as to their medical and family histories.
A Final Word
Adoption laws and regulations vary from country to country, state to state, province to province. Therefore, it is very important that you do some research as to just what is and isn’t allowed where you live. For example, in the United States, adoptive parents can often assume the rights of a child at birth. Yet, in Canada, the birth mother must wait nine days to sign the adoption papers after birth and has another 21 days to change her mind about the adoption.
Adoption can be an extremely rewarding experience for families having troubles conceiving. Consider opening your heart and home to a child who needs parents.
A struggle with infertility can lead a couple down some unexpected paths, like adoption. If you have a funny or inspiring story to share about your experience with adoption, whether it be domestic adoption or international adoption, then visit Pregnancy Stories. Post your adoption tale and offer support to others going through the adoption process.