Adoption is a pathway to parenthood that works for both single and married women. Adoption allows you to give the gift of a family to a child who might not otherwise have one. When you adopt a child, he legally becomes your child, and a new birth certificate is issued with your name as parent. Some women worry that adopting a child is not the same as having a biological child. Women who have adopted can tell you that you will love an adoptive child just as much as any other child in your family and biology doesn't make a bit of difference. Once that child is placed in your arms, she becomes yours. Adoption is simply another pathway to finding the child of your heart.
All adoptions require the adoptive parents to obtain a home study and criminal background check to be eligible to adopt. A home study is a written document prepared by a social worker that describes your situation, including the following:
Job and work commitments
Child-care arrangements you would make
Physical and mental health
Support system, including family and friends
Hobbies and interests
In addition to the home study document and various court forms, you'll be asked to provide several letters of recommendation from people in your life, such as clergy, friends, and neighbors. It can seem a little exhausting that you have to prove yourself to such an extent when other women can get pregnant without any approval from anyone, but the system is set up to protect children.
An open adoption is one in which the birth parents and adoptive parents have some contact with each other. In a closed adoption, information about the birth parents is kept private. Many people also think of an open adoption as being one in which the child is told about his or her birth parents.
All adoptions must be finalized with a court proceeding, and you should always use an attorney. Contact the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys for a referral (
When considering adoption, there are several types to choose from, including international, domestic public agency, domestic private agency, and independent adoption.
International adoption is the adoption of a child from a country outside the United States. The benefit of international adoption is that there are many children available. Because of the waiting periods, these children cannot be adopted as newborns.
The cost of an international adoption is somewhere between $10,000 and $40,000, about the same as a domestic adoption once you add in travel costs. (With most international adoptions, you must travel to your child's country of origin at least once.) When you do an international adoption, you almost always need to work through a U.S. agency that works with an agency in the foreign country. In some countries you are able to choose your child yourself, while other countries simply assign a child to you. There are often unplanned holdups and red tape involved in international adoptions, so it is important to work with an agency that will support you entirely and work through these snags with you. You'll want to be sure the agency provides you with an interpreter and a representative to help move things along while you are traveling.
It is essential that you retain an attorney who is experienced in handling international adoptions because completing the process is all about having the paperwork done correctly. To have the adoption recognized by the U.S. government, you will probably need to adopt your child in the country of origin and then repeat the procedure at home in your state. You will also need to complete immigration paperwork prior to bringing your child home, to obtain permission to bring him into the country.
When planning an international adoption, it is important that you find a pediatrician who specializes in international adoption so that he or she can evaluate the photos and medical records you receive of potential adoptive children. This allows you to make an informed choice about whether you want to adopt the child in question, who may have medical conditions common in certain developing countries.
When you do an international adoption, you often do not meet or receive any information about your child's birth parents and may not have any way of finding them when your child is older. However, many parents find that international adoption brings a whole new culture into their lives and allows them to explore their child's culture and incorporate it into the family. It is possible to raise your child as an American while celebrating and embracing his heritage.
Domestic Public Agency Adoption
A public adoption agency is one run by a state, and the children available for adoption are by and large children who were placed in foster care and have now been freed for adoption. The biological parents of these children had their parental rights terminated, and the children are placed in foster care until an adoptive family can be found for them. Many of these children are older and because of this, they can be hard to place. Additionally there are often sibling groups of children that need to be placed together, something few families are willing to do. The benefit of state agency adoption is that there is no shortage of children available; however, it is next to impossible to adopt a newborn this way. Public agency adoptions are the least expensive type of adoption, with costs averaging about $3,000.
You may be able to accept a child as a legal risk placement, which entails having him placed in your home before the adoption is officially completed so that you can immediately begin bonding with each other. Many public agency adoptive children have special needs, so it is important to obtain a full assessment and discuss financial assistance available for these children. You will also want to know about the child's exposure to, or use of, drugs or alcohol.
To find children available for adoption through state agencies, view their photos online through the state photo listings at
Another consideration in public agency adoption is that many of these children know who their biological parents are. An adoption may sever all legal ties to the biological parents, but it can't erase memories or change a child's attachment to a parent. Because of this, many courts allow adoptive and biological parents to create kinship agreements — written agreements that allow the child to continue to have contact with biological parents, siblings, and other relatives. These agreements are not usually legally binding, though, and are at the discretion of the adoptive parents.
Domestic Private Agency Adoption
Adoption through a private U.S. agency is what most people think of when they hear the word
A private agency adoption can cost up to $40,000. Get details about how the fee is broken down and what part is refundable if an adoption does not occur. The adoptive parents pay the birth mother's medical expenses. Be sure to inquire if you will be paying your birth mother's personal medical expenses or whether you will pay into a pool that covers expenses for all birth mothers. The pool is a gamble given that your birth mother's expenses could be higher or lower than the average.
Birth mothers contact agencies about placing their babies. Birth parents are then screened by the agency, which chooses only those who are sincere. The agency then selects an adoptive parent or parents, or the birth mother may make the selection. The agency handles all contact with the birth mother unless the parties agree to have personal contact. Counseling is required. You usually will meet the birth mother at least once (more if you have an open adoption arrangement), and you will have a complete medical history for your child.
In 1992, the last year for which adoption statistics have been gathered, the National Center for State Courts reported that 126,951 children were adopted in the United States. Over 1.5 million U.S. children have been adopted, 2 percent of all children.
In most states there is a waiting period (ranging from a few days to a few weeks) between the birth and when the birth parent's rights are formally revoked. This is the time period in which birth parents can change their minds, and this is what most adoptive parents worry about the most when considering adoption. The good news is that birth parents rarely change their minds. In the cases that get media attention, it is usually true that both the birth parents did not give legal and binding consent to the adoption.
An independent adoption occurs when you locate a birth mother yourself without the help of an agency. There are several ways to locate a birth mother. A popular way is to place ads in the newspaper, asking potential birth mothers to contact you. You can use word of mouth, asking people to spread the word. Some adoptive parents have business cards made up with their contact information so that can be passed along. Creating a Web site about yourself is another way to get the word out about your desire to adopt. There are many Web sites where you can register and place ads or notices. Another method is to work with an adoption attorney who has information about birth mothers seeking adoptive parents. Yet another method is to use an adoption facilitator, a professional who works to put birth parents in touch with adoptive parents.
The benefit of independent adoption is that you alone are in control. No agency makes decisions about you. You find a birth mother, and you decide if she is right for you. You also can adopt a newborn and create whatever kind of open adoption arrangement works for all involved.
As with private agency adoption, you always run the risk that the birth parents will change their minds. If you're on your own, you have no backup and no agency to find another baby for you right away. There are very specific laws about adoption governing everything from the types of ads you can place to the way contact is initiated to what expenses you are allowed to pay for. It is essential that you work with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.
Adoption facilitators are specifically permitted by law in only four states. Twenty-three states prohibit them. Other states have no laws either way. Because facilitators are not very well accepted, if you choose to use one, be certain to get references and have an attorney review all documents.
It is very important that you and the birth mother each see a counselor to help you deal with the emotions associated with adoption. It is a very difficult decision for the birth mother to make, and you want to be sure she is committed to it before you invest time and money.
It is possible to find a birth mother on your own and then hire an agency to see the adoption through. With this method, you make the important choice of birth mother yourself and then obtain professional help with the details of the adoption.