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Adoption: Looking at the Options

More than 400,000 Children will spend time in foster care this year.

114,000 U.S. children are awaiting Adoption.

International Adoption

While international adoptions peaked in 2004, it has seen a steady and sharp decline since. In 2004, over 22,000 international adoptions were completed by Americans. That number fell to just a little over 7,000 in 2013. The blame for this decrease is not on the number of children available. In fact, according to CNN, the numbers of children in Chinese orphanages has risen 50% since 2004.  Rather, changing sentiment and new regulations in the top nations of adoption origin (specifically China and Russia) have made it increasingly more difficult for western families to adopt. To put it in perspective, in 2005, over 14,000 Chinese children were brought home to American adoptive families. That number in 2011 was just over 4,400. (You can read more about it here:

Despite the increasing difficulty facing families pursuing an international adoption, it is still a possibility, and there are some things you should know.

If you are considering international adoption, you will hear references made to The Hague Convention. This convention is a conglomerate of countries that agree to the rules and regulations governing international adoption set down in 1993. These countries work together to ensure adoptions take place in the best interest of both the child and the parents. Currently, there are 76 countries that participate.

In order to adopt internationally, you must file an application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The application process begins with filling out a form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country. A home study, fingerprints, and other supporting documents are also required. Current U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive families state that you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 25 years old (for unmarried applicants), pass criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and a home study must be accepted. The country you wish to adopt from will have its own regulations as well. For example, some countries permit single parent adoptions, while others only allow dual-parenting. In addition to meeting both the Federal government and the foreign government’s regulations, you will also have to meet the regulations required by your state of residence. It also has unique demands, such as passports for adoptive families and the adopted child, travel expenses, dossier authentication, and more

In terms of cost, international adoption is by far the most expensive option. Depending on the country you choose to adopt from, costs can range from $11,000 to over $50,000. The average cost for international adoption is $15,000 to $30,000, according to According to Adoptive Families Magazine, the average cost of adopting from China in 2013 was about $35,000. There are organizations that offer adoption grants to qualified families, and many employers also offer funds to employees that adopt. You may also qualify for a Federal Adoption Tax Credit.

The average time frame for an international adoption is 12-18 months, but this can vary widely depending on the country you are adopting from. I have heard of some international adoptions taking as long as three years to complete.

The pros of international adoption are that, with over 6.6 million children available for adoption internationally, you are able to be very specific as far as age, ethnicity, sex, background, etc.  All children available for international adoption are legally free and there is no chance that a birthmother will change her mind. International adoption is the option that gives the adoptive parents the most control.

The cons mainly involve the cost and red tape involved. Adoption costs continue to rise as many countries are making it more difficult to adopt. Many families find that they are simply unable to commit such large sums of money to the adoption of a child. The sad fact is that many foreign countries view their orphans as commodities, rather than as children in need of a loving family. For this reason, many adoptive families find that some counties can be difficult to work with and can delay the adoption process or even halt it altogether.

Domestic Infant Adoption

Domestic Infant Adoption refers to the process in which a birth mother places her unborn baby up for adoption through an adoption agency. The agency then provides her with several profiles of prospective adoptive parents, from which the mother will choose several couples to interview. After the interview process, she will select a couple to adopt her child. That couple will then be involved with the remainder of her pregnancy, and is usually present when the child is born.

To begin this process, a couple should select a reputable adoption agency which will inform them of the necessary paperwork and procedures. Each agency will have different requirements and regulations, with some standard ones relevant to each agency. The couple will usually create a “presentation packet” or family storybook with pictures of the family, their home, friends, and lifestyle. They will also be asked to create a biography detailing their relationship, reasons for adoption, and why they believe they would make the ideal family for the mother’s unborn child. You will also have to comply with the adoption regulations of your state of residence.

Domestic Infant Adoptions cost a little less than International Adoptions. According to Adoptive Family Magazine, the average cost of Domestic Infant Adoption in 2013 was $39,996 through an Agency and $34,093 independently. Again, there are adoption grants available, as well as employer assistance and the possibility of qualifying for the Federal Adoption Tax Credit.

The average timeframe for a D.I.A. is between 12-24 months. This can be much less, or much more depending on how much money the perspective adoptive parents are willing to invest in “advertising”. Some agencies have a mandatory waiting period—the time before they will even allow couples to be presented to birth mothers-- of about 12 months, with some even being as high as 18 or 24 months. The length of time (after the mandatory waiting period) really depends on how long it takes a couple to be chosen by a birth mother.

The biggest pro of Domestic Infant Adoption is that a couple has the chance to bond with their child from the moment it is born. Couples, especially the mother, relish the opportunity to be involved from the very beginning of their child’s life (sometimes, even pre-natal). Also, more information about biological parents is available to the adoptive couple than is usually available with international adoptions.

One con involves the strict qualifications for adoptive families. Whether fair or unfair, limits are often times placed on such things as the couples’ age, income, marital status, etc. Some couples may find that they do not qualify with most—if not all—agencies. Another serious con to D.I.A., is the fact that the birth mother has the right to change her mind about putting her child up for adoption, and when this happens, it is usually within the final stages—just as the baby is about to be born, or even after. There are limitations on how long she has to change her mind, which vary by state. Some states give birth mothers 48 hours after the child is born to change her mind, while some states can give up to six months. This is a scary thought for any adoptive parent, and is why it is so important to choose a reputable agency who has extensive experience in caring for the birth mother’s emotional needs. Once a mother has signed over her rights to her child, and the given grace period has expired, she can never take it back. In addition to the birth-mother’s rights, birth-fathers may also be able to contest the adoption, though the rights for fathers are less generous than they are for mothers. Again, this varies by state. Your adoption agency will be able to tell you what the mandates are on these subjects for your state of residence.


Fost-Adopt refers to the adoption of children who are in the custody of the Department of Social Services. Children who enter DSS custody become foster children while the department works to iron-out the problems in their birth family. If it is determined that the child will not be able to return to their birth parents, DSS will terminate parental rights, and declare these children legally free for adoption. In order to adopt from DSS, you must attend specialized training and become a state-licensed foster family. Once licensed, a couple will be asked to specify the age, sex, race, and background of children they are willing to adopt.

To begin this process, a couple should contact their local DSS and tell them they are prospective adoptive parents. The couple will then be assigned a social worker with the department who will guide them through the paperwork and licensing procedures.

Adopting a child who is in the custody of DSS is usually done at little or no cost to the adoptive family. Most expenses are covered by agency who has custody of the child. Our own daughter, Isabella, was adopted through DSS, and all that came out of our pocket was $30, which was even refunded to us later. In addition, if you adopt through DSS you qualify for the Federal Adoption Tax Credit that was discussed before.

There are three “paths” that can be taken when adopting through DSS. The first path is fostering with the intent to adopt. In this case, a couple agrees to take a child into their home with the understanding that DSS is still attempting to rectify the birth family’s issues. This is a somewhat risky scenario, as chances are equally good that the child will be returned to his birth parents as that he will become legally free for adoption. The benefit to this option is that, especially in the case of younger children, the current foster family is usually the first choice for adoption, since they are already bonded. This option is the quickest way to receive a placement. I know a couple who chose this scenario, and they had an 18 month old placed with them within two months of receiving their foster license. They later adopted the child. In the case of younger children (namely, those under 2) DSS sets a timeframe of one year to determine whether the child will be returned to birth parents or free for adoption. This guideline was laid down as an attempt to keep children from “growing-up” in foster care while DSS and birthparents go back and forth with each other.

The second path is legal risk fostering. In this type of fostering, the foster family says that they will only accept children who are in the process of becoming legally free for adoption. In this case, DSS has determined that re-unification is not a possibility, and has taken steps to terminate parental rights. This process can be drawn out by several months if the birth parents are uncooperative. During that time, the child may be placed with the family who has been identified as potential adoptive parents.

The third path is adoption-only. This means that a couple is unwilling to receive any child who is not legally-free for adoption. This option will usually result in the longest wait times. As stated before, many children who become legally free are subsequently adopted by their foster family. DSS will still accept profiles on other families for these children, but the foster family is given first priority for obvious reasons. This was the option we choose when we adopted our daughter. As we had no other children, we decided that we would not be emotionally able to handle the risk of fostering to adopt. It was 18 months from the time we received our license to the time Isabella was placed with us. This option is ideal for those who are willing to adopt an older child (5 and up), as there are so many who are legally free, and awaiting adoptive parents right now.

The pros of Fost-Adopting are, number one, the affordability, and second, the speed at which a couple can receive a child into their home. In addition, there is only one agency to be dealt with—DSS—rather than two or three as is possible with International or Domestic Infant Adoptions. It should be noted, however, that some private agencies also offer fost-adopt programs. In this case, the agency would assign you their own social worker, and they would deal directly with DSS instead of you.

The cons would mainly involve the risks. With foster to adopt and legal risk fostering, there is the chance that you may end up with a broken heart. While you, and everyone else in the child’s life surely want the best for him, it is sometimes difficult to accept that you may not be the chosen option. Some fost-adopt families end up feeling like a yo-yo, caught in between birth parents and DSS. It is important for all foster families to remember that their number one responsibility in everything is to ensure that the child—who is the real victim—experiences true, unconditional love and support while he is with them—whether for only a few months, or forever.

Adoption is a big step in a couples’ life. It is one that you and your husband should discuss and explore thoroughly, determining which option is best for your family. It is important to remember, no matter which option you choose, that at the center of it all is a child who desperately needs to be loved, cherished, and protected—a child who was created by God to be nurtured, and who holds a special place in His heart.

This post first appeared on Fundamentally Flawed, please read the originial post: here

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Adoption: Looking at the Options


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