Domestic adoption involves adoptive parents and a child that are citizens and residents of the United States. The vast majority of adoptions in America are through Domestic Adoption. There are many ways to go about adopting domestically. (many of them are listed below) The benefits of adopting domestically are the likely hood of having full medical history and records of the adopted child, the opportunity to have a lot of history of his/her birthparents, the opportunity to know birthparents or the potential for future adoptees to find birthparents. It’s also a typically more inexpensive way to adopt vs. international just because you’re not traveling out of the country and usually have a lot more resources available to you here in the US. (for example… we had many friends who either lived in the Las Vegas area or knew of someone in the Las Vegas area or had access to accomidations available to us there… this rarely is the case when you travel to a completely different country) Many families when pursuing domestic adoption think that they are limited to their own state… or even city when looking for a child to call their own. While that happens often, it’s also good to think broadly and go nation wide! (this is really helpful when looking for a specific type of child… I’ll be writing more about that later in the month)
This would be adopting from any other country besides your own. This would also then be categorized as “transculture adoption”. To be really honest… International adoption wasn’t ever something I thought I would end up doing even though I had a huge heart for adoption. I think it seemed daunting and overwhelming to consider. However God changed my heart in a huge unexpected way!! (He’s really really good at that!) I always tell people… I don’t love my kids any more or less than the other but there is something about my heart when I look at Evie and Ezra and know where they have come from and what they have come through to become my children. It changes you. I think anytime you go overseas on a mission trip or travel it changes you… but when you have a part of that country sitting in your living room or sleeping in your arms… well, it’s incredible and you’re not left the same that you used to be. The need is abundant worldwide for families who will come and adopt their orphans so that they are orphans no more. And while I don’t want to glorify one type of adoption over the other as they all bring much glory to God, I do think that international adoption (specifically 3rd world adoption) is something that is extra close to the heart of God. You see… if we hadn’t adopted Zoe, I have no doubt that she would be just fine and thriving in her family. If we hadn’t adopted Evie or Ezra and provided care for them until we got there… well, I’m not so sure they would have been just as fine and perhaps wouldn’t have survived. Don’t hear me saying that I think everyone who wants to do the most godly thing will adopt internationally… I think God tunes a parents heart to hear that specific cry… I just want to challenge those of you considering it but are scared to know what a BIG God we have and that it’s one of the most incredible things you will ever be a part of…. it does cost a lot… but it’s priceless!!
For information on various countries requirements and if they are allowing adoptions by americans at this time see http://adoption.state.gov (you might have an adoption addiction if you spend hours perusing the various countries and reading the requirements and seeing which countries have recently opened to adoption…. not that I would know anything about that!)
A closed adoption is an adoption in which no identifying information about the birthfamily or the adoptive family is shared between the two. Additionally, there is no contact between birthparents and adoptive parents. The adoptive family usually receives non-identifying information about the child and the birthfamily before placement. In a closed adoption, after finalization, the records are sealed. Depending on local law and what paperwork was signed and filed at the finalization these records may or may not be available to the adopted child upon their 18th birthday. This used to be very common and almost the way most agencies did things. This is probably why you see a lot of grown ups on facebook looking for their birth parents… often not to find out more information about their birthparents but to find out more information about themselves! I think almost all of us have heard about or have known about a situation where the adoptive parents kept a child’s adoption a secret or didn’t really talk about it much in order to not upset the child or cause confusion or identity issues only to find out that it back fires once the child grows up and starts asking questions or worse finds out accidentally. If you’ve read my story yesterday… you’ll know that hardship, pain, loss and life that doesn’t happen as planned is not for one second out of the control of a loving BIG powerful sovereign God! He’s THE Redeemer of all things and what a beautiful thing to find redemption in than a life that is full of shadows and cracks and shame. So if you’re a parent who feels shame because of giving up a child many years ago and not knowing anything about him/her but yet everyday you think about that baby… God will comfort your heart and bring you joy and the wisdom to know what to do. If you’re scared because you don’t know how your adopted child will recieve the information which makes up his story of coming to your family… or you’re just scared to death of how to answer the questions that will undoubtably come your way, just know that perfect love casts out fear (john 4:18) and trust that God IS the answer to all things… He’s the exclamation point to each answered question. If a closed adoption is a part of your story…. then rest assured, God is there even in the mystery, He knows everything and He is the One who makes our identity complete.
Open Adoption/Semi-Open Adoption
An open adoption (this option is and will always be near and dear to my heart) which the biological and adoptive families have access to varying degrees of each other’s personal information and have an option of contact. Open adoption is an innovation in adoption practice that began in the mid-1980s. In Open Adoption, the adoptive parents hold all the rights as the legal parents, yet the individuals of the biological and adoptive families may exercise the option to open the contact in varying forms: from just sending mail and/or photos, to face-to-face visits between birth and adoptive families. Many adoptions of older children and teens are at least partially open, since the children may know identifying or contact information about members of their birthfamilies, or may want to stay in touch with siblings placed separately. In an open adoption, an adopted child grows up knowing where he/she came from, his/her medical history, and that the decision to place him/her for adoption was made out of love.
I LOVE my childrens birthparents!! Having had two open adoption situations and hope to have three once everything is official with Abel’s adoption, I can’t say enough about how much of a blessing it is to know the birthparents of my children. I will be writing much more on this subject (mostly because it’s something I know more about and feel like it’s something I can shed some light on and give advice concerning) But friends… it might be mind boggling to think of loving a parent who willingly gave up their child for adoption or who gave birth to your son or daughter… I’m not sure if it’s just the miracle of God to expand our capacity to love in ways we never thought we could or would, but can happen and when it does it’s beautiful. More to come about this later this month.
And sometimes an open adoption doesn’t work out or flourish and have happy endings… and we will be talking about that too. We live in a very broken world but have a God who is the lifter of our heads and mighty to save.
This is probably the most common type of adoption. This is by far the option people tend to check into first when looking into starting an adoption. There are small agencies with just a few staff and there are Big agencies with a huge headquarters and perhaps even offices in various states. There are agencies for specific type of adoptions… some don’t do international, some do both domestic and international, some work with the foster system with legally free children ready to adopt, some only work with expectant mothers and matching birthparents prior to a babys birth. Zoe’s birthmom was already with an agency and so when we heard about her we of course signed on with that agency as well. Abel was the same way… we found out about him and he came with an agency already. So when people ask me what agency should I recommend starting with, well, I’m often at a loss for recommendations. Not because we didn’t like our agencies but we had a specific experience that really just involved them after the fact of the baby being matched with us. I think a lot of the frustrations parents can have with agencies happen in the application, training and waiting stages. So because of that I always say to ask around to others they know who have used agencies to adopt and ask them what their experience was like.
I have several friends who have adopted through Bethany and CAS and they continue to be advocates for those agencies even after they adopted their child. To me that says a lot about the agency. I know with Bethany… and I’m sure many others, they are known for how they minister to the birthmothers… even those who choose to keep their baby, the agency is able to help them medically, emotionally, and even help provide the things they would need to care for a child or to access counseling and comfort through their grieving after placing a child for adoption. Kinda helps you feel better about the larger agency program fees and paperwork fees and ____fees and _____ fees and… To me, when I was looking at agencies when looking towards adopting a special needs child those fees put me in sticker shock! Some can be an upwards of $15,000, just for the agency fees. (of course this varies with the type of adoption and if you’re international or not) Smaller agencies tend to charge smaller fees which make sense because they have less overhead cost of running an agency as well as not having as many birthmother needs to care for. Bigger agencies however tend to have a greater public presence in their city thus access to a greater number of birthparents who are looking for adoptive families. They also will probably be contacted by smaller agencies when they run into special situations that their agency just isn’t able to provide for or handle themselves. The agency in Las Vegas did that with Abel, they knew Adoption Covenant in Lubbock was known for finding families for special needs kids and contacted them. But there is something special about having a smaller agency that will know you by name and family vs just being one in a large number of waiting families. It’s nice to be able to call up the office and talk to the head of the agency when you really need to talk to someone who makes the decisions. So… ask around… research what they do for birthparents…. find out their policies… meet with the agency people if possible or talk to them on the phone… then pick your agency. (Later this month I will be covering A LOT more about the specifics and tips in going about choosing an agency and when to commit to one.)
This option is often overlooked by potential adoptive parents because it overwhelms them to think about. But basically this is an adoption that an agency doesn’t facilitate. Kinda like buying/selling a home without a realtor. In private adoption, the birth parents relinquish their parental rights directly to the adoptive parents, instead of to an agency. Like other types of adoption, private adoption is governed by state laws.Private adoption is arranged through an intermediary such as a lawyer, physician, or other facilitator, rather than through a licensed adoption agency. So when we were adopting Jack (which was kind of Kinship Care to start out with but ended up being a Private adoption) We asked around about good adoption lawyers and called the lawyers and met with them and helped make the decisions about how to pursue parental rights terminations. (for us it was important that the birth parents fully desired to sign over rights to us… so we didn’t try to force it but prayed hard for them to grant that to us and through God’s working in his birthfather’s heart especially we were granted the rights to become Jack’s permanent parents) We have found that having the BEST adoption lawyer around is well worth the money because they are the Best and they KNOW adoption law in and out and most likely anything your case runs into he or she has dealt with before. And they know the judges in the area well and can navigate those waters easily. I was really impressed with both adoption lawyers we have had to hire!! Worth every penny!
Usually independent adoptions involve infants who are healthy or believed to be healthy. They often do not include counseling for the birthparents or parent preparation for the adoptive parents, and are not legal in all states. Children adopted through private adoptions are not usually eligible for adoption assistance for special needs that may not have been noticeable at birth. Thus you’d probably want to use an agency when adopting a special needs child… Abel’s adoption agency has handled so much for us that we wouldn’t have had a clue how to handle on our own! Private adoptions can also be a lot less expensive than an agency adoption due to not having to pay the overall agency fees and pre-arranged costs for things like lawyers or transitional care. We were able to shop around for things like lawyers, homestudy providers, physicians, and in our case we didn’t end up having to pay for the mothers medical care (in a lot of private adoptions that’s usually something that adoptive parents will need to do.) .
The internet is invaluable when it comes to Private adoptions. It’s how you can get the word out you’re looking to adopt as well as research all the tons of questions and concerns you may have through the process.
You can adopt internationally on your own as well… apart from an agency. We technically adopted from the Congo independently. (but had incredible help and support and guidance from OFA (which no longer offers adoption assistance) and others who had gone before us in the adoption process over there. We did save money that way and possibly time… but there were many moments when we were up to our eyeballs in paperwork and research that we looked at each other and said that it might be worth the thousands of dollars that agencies charge to handle all that stuff for you! (and every country is different to if they allow independent adoptions) If you’re adoptive newbies… I wouldn’t attempt it, internationally.
Foster to Adopt Adoption
A special type of agency adoption is foster adoption. This is a form of adoption in which a child is placed into a home as a foster child, with the expectation that the child will become legally free and be adopted by the foster parents. This is referred to often as a low risk placement. (meaning there is a low risk of them going back to the home they were taken from) Also, children may be adopted directly from the foster care system without the period of fostering. In foster training you are taught that every foster child is “special needs” meaning that they will most always have specific and serious needs that will need to be met and cared for due to the fact that they have been neglected or abused or been in some type of situation that meant they didn’t have anyone to care for them as a child needs to be cared for. This type of adoption isn’t “adoption without the high cost” or “free adoption”. It’s hopefully a ministry that’s been put on a families heart and goes much deeper than the initial expense of adoption. Any type of adoption isn’t for the faint of heart or for someone who gives up easily or in it halfway…. but I feel like families who foster and foster to adopt are superstars! Ask them… they will tell you that unless God had sustained them through it, unless their heart beat passionately for the foster system children and seen their social workers as a ministry then they probably wouldn’t have made it through. But oh the reward and joys of a life lived in reckless abandon, giving away love to a child in need that might never be yours to keep… but you’re willing to trust God to carry you and this child through.
Special Needs Adoption
Again, a category I never truly thought an adoption of ours would fall into. We always talked about adopting a child with Down syndrome but it was kind of one of those things that we just couldn’t imagine the reality of… so it felt unattainable in a way and definitely felt like something that we might have felt capable of but not sure others would agree and allow us to adopt a child with special needs. Ya’ll, I STILL have dreams, desires, hopes and wishes that feel VERY unattainable… but God has shown me time after time that He is a HUGE dream fulfilling, miracle making, impossibility doing, for our good kind of God!!!!! Even as I type this I’m smiling because oh how I forget that and worry and wring my hands over things I have no control over. This series already has been strengthening my faith as I look back and see God’s faithfulness in our lives.
Anyway, Special needs adoption can be a variety of things. Obviously in a newborn/infant private/agency adoption special needs will most likely refer to a medical condition such as Down syndrome (Ds) , Cerebral Palsy (CP) , Spinal Bifida (SB) , Fetal Substance Exposure (FSE ) , Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). International Special Needs adoption can run the gamete of things from to all the things I mentioned above, to a child who is HIV+, to a clef pallet, to missing limbs (limb differences), to dwarfism, to a mole on the forehead, to a lazy eye, to malnutrition, to slow development, to many many other things. My sister who was adopted from China was born missing one of her eyes. (sounds freaky… really not) she was classified as special needs, but a prosthetic eye later she can do anything anybody else can… and for the most part, nobody can ever tell she is wearing a prosthetic eye, and even when she doesn’t she’s still beautiful. So… if you’re not one to think you could handle a special needs child, just make sure you don’t overlook something that might not be as serious just because you know you’re not at a place where you can take care of something that falls onto the more extreme side of special needs. Special Needs comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes! And I think the number one thing keeping families from realizing that they could parent a special needs child is a lack of education/knowledge regarding the issues I mentioned above…. well, that and fear & apathy.
In adoption from the foster system, the phrase “special needs” can apply to almost any child or youth. The term is used in State laws to indicate eligibility for Federal financial assistance, so it is a term that adoptive families hear often. Many people think “special needs” are medical, physical, or emotional disabilities, but within the foster care and child welfare systems, a child or youth with special needs has a factor or condition (uniquely defined by each State) that may involve any of the following:
- Ethnic or racial background
- Membership in a sibling group
- Medical, physical, or emotional disabilities
- Risk of physical, mental, or emotional disability based on birth family history
- Any condition that makes it more difficult to find an adoptive family
These classifications are what allow hard to place children available for financial/medical/educational assistance to their adoptive families as a way to come along side of them in raising these children who deserve families.
(also known as Interracial Adoption) refers to the act of placing a child of one racial or ethnic group with adoptive parents of another racial or ethnic group. Okay… in researching information about this, since 4 of my 5 children have one or both black birth parents, I found the history surrounding transracial adoption fascinating. Before World War II it was very rare for white couples to adopt a child of a different race and every effort was made in order to match a child with the skin color and religion of the adoptive family. Then in 1944 the Boys and Girls Aid Society took an interest in the increasing number of minority children waiting to be adopted which focused on children from Asian American, Native American, and African American heritage. Children of Asian and Native American heritage were most easily placed outside of their racial group while those of African Americans heritage proved more difficult. The campaign was called “Operation Brown Baby” and its objective was to find adoptive homes even if from a different race, the first candidate in this operation, Noah T, was a Chinese baby adopted into an all American family in 1947. Then during the civil rights movement, interracial adoptions in the United States increased dramatically. It was then that the National Association of Black Social Workers condemned interracial adoption citing that adoptees were at risk for developing a poor racial identity due to lack of contact with role models of the same race. So until the 1990s the placement of black children into non-black homes virtually came to a complete stop. But In 1994 the Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act was passed. It prohibits an agency that receives Federal assistance and is involved in foster care and adoptive placements from delaying or denying the placement of a child based on race, color, or national origin of the child or adoptive/foster parent. (source ) (source)
So, While that might seem boring information to some, I think that if you are pursuing a transracial adoption knowledge is so important and the history that surrounds those in your family will fascinate you. I know that I watch movies or documentaries about Africa, Hawaii and about the Civil Rights Movement in a completely different way than before I had children. Things break my heart in ways that it never could have before, things intrigue me that never would have caught my eye before, and I am way more aware when it comes to the media, public issues and political aspects and I can’t think about issues anymore just as a white woman in America. Here is a Post I wrote a few months ago when I was feeling the weight of raising sons and daughters who don’t look like me. And while yes, sometimes it is weighty… I think that having children of a different race in my family brings such beautiful diversity and brings a part of history into our lives that might otherwise go unappreciated or taken for granted. Many people will say, “Love is colorblind” and while I understand what they are meaning… I totally disagree. I think love celebrates uniqueness and diversity and sees the beauty in the differences. I want my family to look different. I want them to know what makes them special or unique. I want them to know that all of those things add such depth and beauty and meaning to our family as a whole.
This is a situation where kids who are being taken out of their parents care due to neglect or abuse would be placed with a relative or close family friend. In fact when taking a child out of a home the courts are required to consider a placement (even if it’s just temporary) with family or a relative. And they are required to ask the parents how to go about contacting relatives that the parents would want them to consider contacting for this option. The relatives who agree to take in a child would most likely be required to complete some sort of training put on by CPS and have CPS support through the process. I do think CPS is less involved/hands on than a typical foster home though…. I could be wrong on that. But this option is a great option in that the child has the option to stay with family or friends and ideally would already have a relationship with them. Obviously this has the foster side of things… where the child goes back to his/her original parents OR it’s not uncommon to find kids who have been legally adopted by an aunt, a step parent, even a grandparent! I think this is a beautiful picture of family stepping up and being true family.
Obviously there are many reasons why a relative/grandparent would step in to adopt a child they are related to, many never having been abused or neglected but just in need of family to step in and raise them. The section above is focused primarily on what the Foster system would term Kinship Care/Adoption.
An embryo adoption is a legal transaction. A family chooses to donate their frozen embryos to an adoptive couple, or donate them to an agency who matches embryos and adoptive couples, then the embryo(s) will be implanted into a womans uterus and she will have the opportunity to become pregnant. When the baby is born, he or she is legally the child of the adoptive couple. This is just recently gaining a lot more public attention and availability due to the rise in women choosing IVF treatments. We will be going deeper into issues such as IVF and how they relate to Adoption later this month.
This is day 3 & 4 of 31 days of Adoption. Visit this page to see all the posts in the series.