One thing you will learn as you begin your adoption journey is that there are so many decisions to make. One of the great things about adoption is that you have a number of options. Whether you want to adopt a newborn or an older child, from a different country or from right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. (or whatever country you live in), there is a way to make it happen.
Most people know what they want from the very beginning. Maybe you do too. Or maybe you’re not sure. Either way, I think it is a good idea to consider all of your options and look at the pros and cons of each. That’s why I decided to write this post breaking down the different types of adoption and the major decisions you will need to make. It’s important to make these decisions before you choose an adoption professional to work with, because you want to work with someone who is able to help you pursue the type of adoption you want.
(Note: This blog is focused on domestic newborn adoptions because that is what my wife and I are going through. Nonetheless, I want you to know your options and explore them as much as you can, so you can make the choice that is best for you.)
So without further ado, let’s take a look at your adoption options:
Newborn or Older Child?
One of the first decisions you need to make is whether you want to adopt a newborn or an older child.
The obvious advantage to adopting a newborn is that it’s the closest thing to actually having a baby. For many couples who long to have a baby, but struggle with infertility, this is the ideal choice. This is what my wife and I have chosen. Thankfully for us, there are many pregnant women out there who, for whatever reason, have made the decision not to parent their child and have decided to place their baby for adoption. They are looking for loving families to place their baby with, and you can be that family.
Of course, there are some disadvantages to newborn adoption. For one thing, it can be expensive. Agency and attorney fees can add up, and in some cases you may need to contribute to the medical expenses of the birthmother. You may also have to wait a long time to be matched with an expectant mother, and even if you are matched, there’s still a chance she may change her mind when the baby is born and decide to keep her baby. Despite the risks, newborn adoption is worth looking into for those who feel it is right for them.
Maybe you don’t want to adopt a newborn. Maybe you want to skip all the diaper changing, potty training, and terrible twos and adopt an older child; or maybe you just want to provide a loving home to an older child who needs one. If so, there are many older children living in foster homes and orphanages, both here and in other countries, who need loving homes and families. You may even be able to adopt a child from a state agency at little or no cost to you. Adopting internationally is far more expensive (more on this in a bit), but if you have the money and wish to pursue it, you definitely can.
However, before you pursue an older child adoption, make sure you are prepared for the challenges. Unlike an infant, older children have a past and, depending on their age and their situation, may come with some baggage. They may come from abusive or neglectful backgrounds and have many emotional scars as a result. You have to be prepared to handle this; it isn’t for everyone. In these cases, you have to be sure your motivation is truly to help the child rather than fulfill your own desire to have a child. All situations are different, but you need to be sure you know fully what the child’s situation is and what you are getting yourself into. But if you are willing to accept these challenges, you can do a wonderful thing for a child in need.
Domestic or International?
There are many children in the United States who need good homes, but there are also many children abroad who need a good home. Many people are drawn to international adoption because they see it as a way to do something good for a child in need while adding a little diversity to their family. The international adoption process is a little different from the domestic process, and there are certain things you need to consider before adopting from abroad.
For one thing, in an international adoption you probably won’t know anything about the child’s birth family, so it will be more of a closed adoption. (More on open and closed adoptions in just a bit.) This may be a plus for some, a minus for others. It is also unlikely that you will be able to adopt a newborn in an international adoption; the child will most likely be a few months to a few years old when you adopt him. The costs of international adoptions also tend to be higher than domestic adoptions because of the travel costs that are involved; you will have to travel to the country you are adopting from at least once or twice during the process. Finally, you have to be aware of the different rules and regulations in place in the country you are adopting from. If you pursue an international adoption, make sure you chose a reputable agency with a lot of experience in adopting from that country.
If you choose domestic, you will also want to decide if you want to adopt in state or out of state. Adopting from out of state may cost more due to travel costs and the requirement to have an attorney in both states. In-state adoptions are much simpler, but limits the number of potential birthmothers available. This may not be a problem if you live in a highly populated state like California, New York, or Texas, but if you live somewhere like Delaware, Wyoming, or Vermont, you could be in for a longer wait. So it really depends on where you live, how long you’re willing to wait, and how much you’re willing to spend.
My wife and I chose a domestic adoption because it was just easier for us, plus we want to adopt a newborn and have some degree of openness with the birth family. If these things are important to you, you may want to consider a domestic adoption.
Open or Closed?
Another important decision you need to make is how much openness you want in your adoption… that is, how much contact do you want to have with the birth family both before and after placement. At one end of the spectrum is the closed adoption, where the birthmother’s identity and the adoptive parents’ identity are kept secret from each other, and there is no contact between the parties during or after placement. At the other end of the spectrum is the open adoption, where the parents get to meet the birthmother and her family, and the child gets to have some kind of relationship with his birth family. There is also a middle ground, often known as “semi-open” adoptions, where there is some degree of openness, but with some boundaries. For example, you may agree to exchange pictures and letters with the birth family but not meet in person, or you may agree to meet in person once a year but not reveal your home address or contact information.
At one time, most adoptions were closed adoptions, due in part to social stigmas and misconceptions associated with adoption. However, times have changed, and so have people’s attitudes toward adoption. With more adoptees wanting to know about their biological families and more birthmothers wanting to know about the well being of their children, open adoption is now far more commonplace. Many agencies don’t even do closed adoptions anymore. While the idea of having contact with the birth family may make some adoptive parents uncomfortable at first, in most cases it turns out to be a very positive experience for all parties. The best thing about open or semi-open adoption is that there is more closure for both parties: the birthmother can see how well her child is doing, while the child has fewer questions about her biological family.
My wife and I have chosen to have an open or semi-open adoption. We just feel it’s best for our child to know from the beginning where he or she came from, and we want to avoid any unexpected surprises from the birth family down the road. You can still pursue a closed adoption if you truly feel this is best for you, but be prepared for questions from your child about his or her birth family and the potential for unexpected contact from the birth family in the future. I personally believe it is best to have these issues resolved from the very beginning, but the choice is yours.
Whichever you choose, make sure you take the wishes of the birthmother into account as well. Just because you want to have a fully open relationship with the birthmother doesn’t necessarily mean that she does. Try to work out an arrangement that you are both comfortable with.
Boy or Girl? (Or Does It Matter?)
The ability to choose between a boy or a girl is one of the advantages that adoption offers over having a child naturally. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, especially if you are adopting a newborn. For one thing, some adoption agencies may not allow you to choose a gender. Also, limiting yourself to one gender obviously can prolong your wait, since you cut your potential matches in half. Finally, gender predictions aren’t always 100% accurate, so even if you are matched with a mother who is thought to be expecting a boy, it could still turn out to be a girl.
Nonetheless, if you really have your heart set on a son or on a daughter, it is possible to specify that as a preference. Just be aware of the drawbacks. My wife and I would love to have a daughter, but we will not be the least bit disappointed if we have a son. Just remember that most parents don’t get to choose and are still happy with their children. Chances are you’ll be happy with whatever gender child you get as well.
Racial and Special Needs Considerations
Interracial adoptions have become more and more common over the years, and one question you will need to ask yourself is whether you are open to adopting a child of a different race or a biracial child. There are some people who believe that race should not matter, and that you should be open to adopting and loving a child regardless of their race. I don’t disagree with that, but I do think that adopting a child of a different race does come with certain challenges. I won’t go into all the details, but here is a good article I read recently that goes more in depth about the challenges of adopting and raising a child of a different race. It’s a very good idea to educate yourself before going into an interracial adoption.
The bottom line here is this: this is a very personal decision that should not be based on the opinions of others. Interracial adoption is a wonderful thing, but it’s not for everyone. You and your spouse need to be honest with yourselves about whether it is for you or not. If you are more comfortable adopting a child of the same race, that’s fine. If you are open to an interracial adoption and are prepared for the challenges, then by all means go for it.
The same thing holds true for children with disabilities or disorders, which come with their own set of challenges, depending on the child. It’s very important to prepare yourself for these challenges before jumping in. Again, you need to be honest with yourself about what you can handle.
So What Kind Of Adoption Is Right For You?
As you can see, there are a lot of important decisions that need to be made before starting the adoption process, and it’s very important that you discuss these decisions with your partner to make sure you are both on the same page. I also recommend you consult with an experienced adoption professional, who can help you navigate through the different options and determine which is the right choice for you.
I hope this helps you with the decision making process. Best of luck to you, and God bless!
Question: What are some of the decisions you had to make in your own adoption journey? Is there anything you think I left out? Sound off in the comments below!
Image credit: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo