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International vs. Domestic Adoption

Before you begin the adoption process, consider carefully what kind of child you are interested in adopting. Are you looking for a specific age range? Does the child need to have the same skin color as you? Are you open to taking in a child with physical, mental, emotional, and/or behavioral challenges? Are you willing to adopt a group of two or more siblings? The answers to these questions may help you decide whether adopting domestically or internationally will best fulfill your needs.

Domestic and international adoptions may be completed either through an agency or independently, although the time, expense, and level of risk involved may vary significantly between the two adoption methods.

Domestic Adoptions

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway's report How Many Children Were Adopted in 2000 and 2001?, 127,407 children were adopted in the U.S in 2001. Eighty-five percent of those were domestic public, private, independent, kinship, and tribal adoptions.

Domestic Independent Adoptions

Independent adoptions are not legal in every state, so if you are interested in pursuing this method, check with your state's adoption specialist to find out if it is allowed. With an independent adoption, prospective parents must seek out, contact, and negotiate with the birth parent(s) directly, often with the assistance of an adoption attorney. To ensure your attorney is experienced in performing adoptions, choose one who is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, a national organization that promotes ethical practice. Even with independent adoptions, many couples use a licensed adoption agency to conduct the homestudy program and counsel the birth parent(s).

Many adoptive parents find birth mothers by advertising in newspapers and magazines (however, this is illegal in some states), and through online chat rooms and message boards. You can also enlist the services of a national adoption advertising consultant or send an introductory letter, photo, and adoption resume to crisis pregnancy centers, obstetricians, and friends.

Once you have located a birth mother and you have come to a mutual agreement about the terms of the adoption, you will usually be expected to pay for the mother's prenatal and delivery expenses, as well as her legal fees. State laws dictate which expenses you may pay - some will permit you to cover the birth mother's rent, food, utilities and counseling, while others prohibit paying anything but the prenatal and delivery expenses. In some states, it is the adopting parents' responsibility to also pay for counseling for the birth parent(s). Experts recommend setting aside at least $7,500 to cover these expenses.

Once the baby is born, the birth parent(s) sign over legal custody to the adoptive parents; however, until she has signed the papers, the birth mother can decide to keep the baby, which is one of the biggest risks associated with independent adoptions.

Domestic Agency Adoptions

Public agencies who handle adoptions are part of the state welfare or foster care system. Children awaiting adoption through a public agency are generally older, sibling groups, or children with special (physical or psychological) needs, and many are of color.

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