Adoption Types, Costs, Timeline

Our favorite resources for general adoption and foster care information are run by the U.S. government.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services runs the Child Welfare Information Gateway. In their own words:

provides access to information and resources to help protect children and strengthen families. Visit often for the latest on a wide range of topics from prevention to permanency, including child welfare, child abuse and neglect, foster care, and adoption

The U.S. State Department is a good source for information on intercountry adoption. And to stay on top of changes, read their adoption alerts page. They don't have an RSS Feed or an email alert system for their updates so you have to read their website.


Domestic Adoption

There are several different types of domestic adoptions. Adoption agencies vary in the types of adoptions that they handle, so make sure that you do your homework on each of the potential agencies before signing any papers with anyone.

Click on the links below to learn more about domestic adoption:

Foster Care Adoption

There are two types of adoption through the foster care system, foster to adopt, where you become a foster parent whom receives children that social workers feel will not be reunified with their biological families, with the option of moving forward to adopt the child, or receiving another foster placement, or straight adoption through the foster care system.

Straight adoption through the foster care system is different than the foster to adopt process.  Unlike the foster to adopt process, straight adoption allows for the potential parents to browse through photolistings of children in the system, and pick out the ones that they feel would be a potential match with their family.  Of course social workers have the final say on whether or not the child and the family will mesh nicely, but in this type of adoption through foster care parents have a little more control over what child comes their way.  It also allows for potential adoptive parents to make a profile, which can be viewed by potential birth mothers as she makes an adoption plan for her unborn child.

If your mind still isn’t made up on which option is best for you, financial reasons are often the deciding factor for many families.  Doing the foster to adopt option is almost free.  There are some basic fees associated with the process, such as paying for background checks and doctors visits, but the process itself is free.  Straight adoption through the foster care system is on the lower end of cost in the adoption world, but is usually still a few thousand dollars, due to the extensive work social workers must do to complete the adoption homestudy report, with the actual cost varying widely between individual agencies.

Just about anyone can become a foster parent, regardless of age, race, religion, or martial status, although some states do have provisions in place to prevent gays and lesbians from fostering or adopting through the foster system.

Both types of adoption require completing a set of parenting classes through the agency.  It is during these classes that social workers teach potential adoptive parents about both the joys and the pitfalls in adopting through the foster care system, as well as how to adequately care for a child whom has been removed from his or her biological family.

They both also require the same set of documents to be presented to the agency, such as birth certificates of the potential adoptive parents, marriage certificates, high school diplomas, current physical from the doctor stating you are in good heath, and autobiographies, to name a few.  Fingerprinting for both state and federal background checks are required as well.   There is no cause for alarm if you happen to have a slight bump on your record, or in your past, they are not looking for perfect people, but they are looking for people whom have learned from the mistakes of their past and are not habitual offenders.

Adoption is a lengthy process, and foster care adoption is no exception.  The parenting classes alone can take three months to complete, and an adoption itself cannot be finalized until the child has been in your care for six months to one year, depending on your state’s adoption laws.

Most, if not all children in the foster care system have some level of special needs, be it physical, emotional, intellectual, or are a member of a minority or sibling group.  They have experienced great loss and trauma in their young lives, and are going to have behaviors and issues as a direct result.  Parents are going to have to be patient and understanding when it comes to dealing with a child that has suffered from physical abuse, neglect, drug use, sexual abuse, and so on, as well as be diligent when it comes to finding and fighting for the resources that their child needs in order to heal and move forward.

Things To Keep In Mind

  • Some adoptions through the foster care system are open adoptions, with some level of contact between the child and birth family members.  Is this something that you will be able to handle?
  • Love alone simply cannot, and will not ‘fix’ a child.  Are you prepared to handle extreme behaviors from your child as he or she learns what it is like to live with a functioning and healthy family? 
  • Can you accept both these extreme behaviors, as well as the child if it is learned that the child does not have the capacity to function on a more normal level?
  • The foster to adopt process involves a level of uncertainty.  Children that a social worker thought would have no chance of going home to their biological families may end up being reunified.  Are you prepared to handle the uncertainty and loss if this were to happen to you?
  • Children in the system often have siblings.  Would you be willing to take in more children than you initially desired in order to keep a sibling group together?  If not, would you be able to handle splitting up a sibling groups chance to be raised together as a family?


Adoption Subsidy

When a person or family adopts a special needs child, older child, or sibling group from the U.S. foster care system, most may request an adoption subsidy. The definition of older child, special needs, and eligible sibling group varies from state to state while the federal government sets Title IVe definition. In some states, a three year old in foster care is automatically eligible for subsidy while in other states a single child must be at least six. Some states consider a sibling group of two children automatically eligible for support subsidy, while other states only consider larger sibling groups. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and a child with real physical special needs is usually eligible regardless of age. Children who fall under Title IVe receive part of their subsidy from the federal government. They also qualify for ongoing Medicaid coverage until their eighteenth birthday.

Support subsidies vary widely from state to state. The support is paid to the adoptive parent by the placing state. If you live in California and your child is coming from the Wisconsin foster care system, Wisconsin will send a monthly support subsidy check to you in California. Wisconsin will also be responsible for ICPC paperwork and Medicaid eligibility. California must provide the Medicaid coverage to an eligible child through the Interstate agreement. This is true for any child adopted from foster care in the United States. A Medicaid card from Michigan would not do you any good in Missouri. Therefore, the states have this agreement. An adoptive parent can move anywhere in the United states and continue to receive their support subsidy from the issuing state, and get Medicaid coverage for the eligible child from the new state of residence. 

Adoption subsidy eligibility is based solely on the child and has nothing to do with the adoptive parent’s income or need for assistance. It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment, mobile home, or a mansion. If the child meets the criteria, the family is eligible to receive it. The lowest support subsidy I know of comes from Oregon at $240 a month, while New York is among the highest. Most states negotiate rates with the adoptive parents depending on the severity of the child. Texas does not negotiate; their rate firmly stays midway between five and six hundred. That may explain why they have so many special needs children on their site waiting to be adopted. Then there are those of you with internationally adopted special needs children who receive no monetary support, medical support, or ongoing services for a child with the same behaviors, physical conditions, or worse. 

I am not saying that parents adopt children for the money but be realistic. If you can adopt a five year old child who has asthma and needs counseling at $540 a month, would you adopt a quadriplegic autistic child at the same rate? Even if you wanted to, the cost to provide nursing care, respite care, a handicap van, and special services would make it financially impossible for most families. Some states discontinue adoption subsidy on the child’s eighteenth birthday, others continue until the child graduates from high school, or 19, which ever comes first. I recently heard about a state that is continuing coverage until 21 as long as the child is enrolled in continuing education. If you are curious about the adoption subsidy rate for a specific state visit the NACAC website.






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    Photo Credit: by Yomanimus





    Kinship Adoption

    Kinship adoption is when a relative, either biological or a relative by marriage, such as step relatives, adopts a child.  This process can be streamlined, similar to the stepparent adoption process, however because adoption laws vary from state to state, so will the kinship adoption process.

    How much does it cost?
    If your state requires a home study for a kinship adoption, then you will have to find an agency, or a private social worker that specializes in home studies to help you complete your adoption.  Legal fees are going to start around $1000 and work their way up from there, depending on what factors are involved in the adoption situation.

    What are the requirements to adopt?
    The main requirement for a kinship adoption is of course, that you are related to the child.  The parental rights of the biological parents of the child must be terminated before anyone can adopt the child.  If your state requires a home study, then you will have to complete that as well before you will be able to move forward with the adoption of your relative’s child.

    What is the process for adopting a child?
    If the child in question is in the state’s care, then the relatives wishing to adopt will have to become licensed foster parents before being able to adopt the child.  This involves taking parenting classes, and completing a home study.  If you do not reside in the same state as the child does, then extra paperwork and steps are involved in the adoption process, which will add on time to the length of the adoption process.  The length of time will vary from state to state, as some states work faster than others when it comes to adopting across state lines.

    How long does it take to adopt a child?
    Because relative adoptions tend to have a more streamlined process, the time to complete an adoption is often much less than that of other types of adoption. 

    How is this form of adoption different from other forms?
    Because kinship adoptions ‘keep it in the family’ they can become rather sticky.  Roles shift from mother, to aunt, from cousin to sibling, and so forth, which can be hard for some families to deal with.  Kinship adoptions have the potential to put a strain on extended family relationships, it is important to keep this in mind before doing a relative adoption, and try to work out any foreseen issues that may arise ahead of time as best as you can.  You will not be able to head off every issue, but it is a good idea to discuss potential issues before hand, and get as much of the family on the same page as possible.

    Private Domestic Adoption

    What is it?

    Private domestic adoption is the process of adopting a child in your own country of residence through the private sector versus adopting through the government (out of the foster care system). A person can adopt a child through an adoption agency or through some sort of adoption facilitator, such as an adoption attorney.

    How much does it cost?

    In the United States, the cost of a private domestic adoption varies widely. A less expensive private domestic adoption is generally under $10,000, while a more expensive private adoption can run over $30,000. The average cost for most private domestic adoptions falls somewhere in the middle.

    What are the requirements to adopt?

    In the United States, each state has its own specific laws that regulate the requirements for adopting in that state. The hopeful adoptive parents must undergo a screening process, which is called an adoption home study, before they are eligible to adopt a child. A social worker screens the hopeful adoptive parents and makes sure that they meet the state's requirements for adopting in that state.

    State laws vary widely about eligibility to adopt. States might restrict a person's ability to adopt based upon a variety of factors, such as age or criminal record.

    Particular adoption agencies might add additional restrictions. For example, some religious-based adoption agencies might require the adoptive parents to be a member of a church. Some adoption agencies might also restrict the profile of the hopeful adoptive parents with whom they are willing to work. For example, they might not facilitate adoptions into single parent or homosexual households, even if there is no state prohibition. 

    What types of children are available for adoption?

    In most cases, private domestic adoption focuses on placing infants for adoption. While there are exceptions, most domestic adoptions for older children are facilitated through the foster care system in the United States.

    Children of all races and gender are available for adoption, with the majority being Caucasian, African-American, or bi-racial.

    What is the process for adopting a child?

    The first step is to complete a home study with a social worker. This can be done through an adoption agency or through the state. If you are adopting through an adoption facilitator, such as an adoption attorney, your facilitator will tell you where to have your home study done.

    After your home study is completed, then your adoption agency or facilitator can match you with an expecting mother. Most adoption agencies or facilitators will ask you to put together a parent profile, which is a scrapbook that tells expecting mothers something about your life. The adoption agency or facilitator will present your parent profile, along with the parent profile of other waiting adoptive parents, to expecting mothers. The expecting mother will choose which profile she likes best. (In the case of a closed adoption, the adoption agency or facilitator might select the family that has been waiting the longest and bypass this step.)

    If you are adopting through an adoption attorney, you might be responsible for locating an expecting mother on your own.

    Matches most commonly happen late in the pregnancy. However, some matches are made earlier in the pregnancy while others do not happen until after the baby is born.

    After an expecting mother chooses you, you then might be invited to meet the expecting mother in person. This is an opportunity for you and the expecting mother to get to know each other and become more comfortable with the match. Also, if you plan to have an open or semi-open adoption, you might discuss the details during this meeting.

    After the baby is born, you will take physical custody of the baby. When you take custody varies by state as well as by adoption agency or facilitator. In some states, the placing mother has the legal right to choose to parent, even after signing voluntary termination of parental rights papers, for a period of time. For this reason, the baby might be placed into a foster situation through an agency until the birth mother's parental rights fully terminate.

    If you are adopting through a different state from your state of residence, then you will need to comply with Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) regulations. Your adoption agency or facilitator will walk you through the extra paperwork that will be required. Until you meet all ICPC requirements, the baby may not legally leave his birth state.

    After the baby is placed into your home, you will have post-placement visits by a social worker to make sure that the baby is doing well in your home. The number of post-placement visits that are required varies by state.

    After all legal requirements are met; your adoption attorney (often provided by the adoption agency in an agency adoption) will file a petition to adopt with the court. If all legal requirements have been met, then the judge will issue an adoption decree. This process is called finalization. After an adoption is finalized, then the child becomes your legal child.

    How long does it take to adopt a child?

    The home study process generally takes a couple of months to complete, although a home study can be fast-tracked or proceed at a slower pace. After the home study is completed, a hopeful adoptive parent can be matched with an expecting mother or infant in a matter of weeks, or the process can takes several years.

    After a child joins the home, the time period for finalizing the adoption (when a judge enters an order stating that your child is your legal child) varies depending upon which state you live in.

    Do the hopeful adoptive parents meet the expecting mother or birth mother?

    This depends upon the type of adoption you choose. Private domestic adoptions are broken down into three types:

    •    Open adoption – The birth mother and adoptive parents meet and exchange full identifying information. They often choose to continue contact after the baby's birth, either through pictures and letters or through visits.
    •    Semi-open adoption – The birth mother and adoptive parents might meet but do not exchange full identifying information. They often choose to exchange pictures and letters after the baby's birth but without any personal contact.
    •    Closed adoption – The birth mother and adoptive parents have no contact with one another.

    The trend is toward open and semi-open adoptions, with closed adoptions being much less common.

    How is this form of adoption different from other forms?

    Private domestic adoption is much more expensive than adopting out of the foster care system, which is free. The cost of private domestic adoption is generally less expensive than an international adoption.

    When adopting out of foster care or internationally, timelines for how long you will have to wait to adopt tend to be more specific because private domestic adoption can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years.

    Private domestic adoption is the most common way to adopt an infant. While a limited number of infants are available through foster care, the wait to adopt an infant is generally shorter through private domestic adoption.

    Levels of Openness in Private Domestic Adoption

    Years ago, most private domestic adoptions were closed adoptions, which means that the birth mother had no contact with the adoptive family that was parenting her birth child. As members of the adoption triad have spoken out about their issues with closed adoption, the trend in the United States has moved toward having more openness in private domestic adoptions.

    Private domestic adoptions generally fall under one of three categories:

    •    Closed adoption
    •    Open adoption
    •    Semi-open adoption

    This article defines each level of openness.

    There is no "right" or "wrong" level of openness in adoption. What matters is making sure that the needs of both the birth mother and the adoptive family are met. As long as all parties involved feel comfortable with the level of openness in an adoption, then an adoption can be viewed as "successful," no matter which level of openness is chosen.

    Closed Adoption

    A closed adoption is the traditional adoption with which most people are familiar. A woman places her newborn baby for adoption with an adoption agency or adoption facilitator without ever meeting the adoptive parents. In some cases, the birth mother did not even know the gender of her baby. The idea was that the birth mother would place the baby for adoption and then move on with her life as if the pregnancy had never happened.

    The problem was that many birth mothers could not just "move on" with their lives. They did not know who was raising their babies. They did not even know if the child was dead or alive. The birth mothers had no way to reassure themselves that they had made the best decision because they had no information about the adoptive family whatsoever.

    Adoptive families would adopt a baby that seemingly dropped out of the sky. The baby would often come without any medical history, so the adoptive parents could not provide the child's pediatrician with any health information about the child before the child joined the family. The adoptive parents could not answer questions about why the child was placed for adoption because the adoptive parents did not know themselves.

    Many adoptees who grew up in closed adoptions were frustrated by the lack of information about their pasts. Because of sealed adoption records, searching for their birth families was challenging and, in some cases, impossible. Adult adoptees would live their lives never knowing their medical history or their "roots." While some adoptees found a way to make peace with this lack of information, others lived their lives plagued by these unanswered questions.

    Closed adoptions are not very common today, although some do still take place. For example, if a baby is left at a safe haven location, then no information about the birth family is going to be available, so the adoption must be closed. In other cases, both the birth mother and the adoptive families choose to enter into a closed adoption. In most cases, the adoption facilitator, which might be an adoption agency or an adoption attorney, will request a medical history for both birth parents, even though the adoption is closed, so that the adoptive family will have this information.

    Open Adoption

    Open adoptions have become increasing popular in recent years. In an open adoption, there are no "secrets." The birth mother and adoptive family exchange full identifying information, so the adopted child grows up knowing his medical history and the answers to his questions, such as why he was placed for adoption.

    Some open adoptions are very successful, and the adopted child grows up with having one more person in his life who loves him. Other open adoptions are quite challenging, with the birth mother and adoptive parents struggling to define the birth mother's role in the child's life. As with any long-term relationship, lots of communication is the key to making an open adoption work.

    There are varying levels of openness in open adoption based upon how involved the birth mother is in the child's life. Here are some examples of levels of openness within an open adoption:


    The most open adoptions include regular visits with the birth mother. Visits might happen annually or several times a year, depending upon what works best for all involved. By the birth mother being active in the adopted child's life, the adopted child has access to the answers to all of his questions about his adoption, and the birth mother is able to maintain a relationship with her birth child.

    Telephone or Email Contact

    Some open adoptions do not include visits, but the birth mother stays in touch with the adoptive family through phone calls or through emails. This level of openness still provides the adopted child with answers to his questions and the birth mother with a connection to her birth child.

    Pictures and Letters

    The birth mother might choose not to have any personal contact but still request that the adoptive family send her periodic letters and pictures of the adopted child. This provides the birth mother with reassurance that her birth child is happy and loved. The birth mother might also choose to reciprocate with pictures and letters of her own.

    Contact on an "As-Needed" Basis Only

    Some birth mothers in open adoptions choose to step away from the adoptive family but keep the adoptive family current with her contact information in case she is ever needed. The birth mother welcomes contact from the adoptive family if questions arise but does not seek to be actively involved in the adoptive family's life.

    Different levels of openness within an open adoption work better for different relationships between adoptive families and birth mothers. Also, some open adoptions include more or less openness over time as the lives and needs of all parties involved change. Open communication is the key.

    Semi-Open Adoption

    Semi-open adoption is available for people who are not comfortable with either the extreme of a fully closed or a fully open adoption. A semi-open adoption attempts to provide the "best of both worlds."

    In a semi-open adoption, personal information is shared between the birth mother and the adoptive family through an intermediary, such as an adoption agency or adoption attorney. However, no identifying information is revealed. In this way, communication is established between the parties while still maintaining privacy on both ends.

    Adoptive families who adopt through a semi-open adoption frequently meet the birth mother at least one time, typically before the baby is born. However, this meeting is not required. If the parties do meet, they share their first names only and do not discuss personal information, such as where they live. They get to know each other within these boundaries and discuss how the semi-open adoption will work. A facilitator is usually present to guide these interviews.

    Adoptive families who adopt through a semi-open adoption typically receive a thorough medical history for both the birth mother's and birth father's families. They are also usually provided with basic information about why the birth mother chose to place the baby for adoption. In this way, the two biggest hurdles in closed adoptions are overcome.

    After the adoption, adoptive families in semi-open adoptions typically send pictures and letters to the birth mother through an intermediary, such as an adoption agency or adoption law attorney, on a regular basis. The adoptive family might be asked to send updates more frequently in the first year or two and then provide annual or semi-annual updates after that. The birth mother might choose to reciprocate with her own pictures and letters. However, many birth mothers choose to keep the communication one way.


    Stepparent Adoption


    What Is It?

    Stepparent adoption is the process in which the spouse of a custodial parent adopts that parent’s child from a previous relationship.  The child’s other biological parent may have passed away, never known about the child, or may have actively chosen to not be involved in the child’s life.

    How Long Does It Take To Complete?
    Stepparent adoptions are often the quickest types of adoptions to complete, as most states have a developed a streamlined process for performing a stepparent adoptions eliminating steps such as the homestudy and background check, since everyone involved has already been living and functioning as a nuclear family.  A non-contested stepparent adoption can take as little as a few months to complete, depending on how backlogged your local family court system is, where as a contested stepparent adoption can drag on for years. 

    What Is Involved In The Process?
    If still living, the non-custodial parent must give his or her consent to the adoption, willingly terminating their parental rights before it can take place, or the courts must decide that the non-custodial parent is unfit to parent the child in question, and terminates their parental rights involuntarily. 

    If the non-custodial parent cannot be located, than a public notice in the newspaper is required to run for a minimum of 30 days, stating the intent to perform a stepparent adoption.  If the non-custodial parent does not contact the court within the allotted time frame (which differs between counties) than the courts will act as though the non-custodial parent has willfully abandoned the child, and terminate their parental rights, allowing for the stepparent adoption to move forward.

    It is important to keep in mind that most states require that the stepparent and the custodial biological parent have been married for at least a year before they will proceed with a stepparent adoption, with the purpose being to ensure that both the marriage and the family relationships are stable, positive and will [hopefully] last.

    How Much Does It Cost?
    Because stepparent adoption timelines can vary between a few months and a few years depending on whether it is contested or not by the non-custodial parent, so too do the fees that are associated with it.  Fees tend to start at just under $1000 and work their way up from there.  Some lawyers charge a flat rate for a simple stepparent adoption, which would be one that is not contested, while others will work for hourly wages only.  Those daring enough to navigate the legal system on their own should call their local courthouse to inquire if they need a lawyer to perform a stepparent adoption, as some states have also knocked lawyers out of the mix as well in an even greater effort to streamline the adoption process.

    Intercountry Adoption

     Intercountry adoption is an adoption in which the child and the adoptive parents are citizens of two different countries.  Click below for more information about different types and aspects of intercountry adoption.

    Adopting From Cameroon

    The International Adoption brochure published by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site contains the following information. The competent authorities in Cameroon that have jurisdiction over the place of residence of a child for intercountry adoption are the Ministry of Social Affairs and the High Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance.) Sub Department of Child Protection (Sous Direction de la Sauvegarde de L'Enfant-SDSE) Telephone: 220-02-16.

    The eligibility requirements at the time the brochure was written are the following, consider that changes may have occurred. One parent must be at least 35 and married for at least 10 years, or over 40, and at least 15 years older than the child being adopted. Couples not meeting age requirements can confirm infertility through a medical certificate and request a waiver. Medical documentation must be provided ensuring that both parents are physically fit to care for a child. Both spouses must be in agreement about the adoption of the child. Bank statements, evidence of assets, pay slips, are required along with a homestudy to prove the couple is financially capable to parent a child. Consent of the birth parents, if living, witnessed by the court, a diplomatic mission, or by a public notary. If the parents are deceased, the orphanage director having custody over the child must sign consents releasing the child for adoption.

    The child must be in the physical custody of the adoptive parents for at least three months before the High Court will consider issuing a decree of adoption. This is a minimum period to allow the High Court's Public Prosecutor to review of the file. The brochure indicates that adoptive parents should expect administrative and judicial delays as well as insufficient or misplaced paperwork during the adoption process.

    Once the adoption decree has been approved the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé requires at least two weeks to complete the immigrant visa process. This time period includes the mandatory I-604 orphan investigation verifying that the child meets the U.S. immigration definition of "legal orphan."

    A social worker is assigned to follow the case and identify a child for adoption. The social worker will monitor the family during the foster care period. If the prospective adoptive parents hired a lawyer, then the lawyer is included in the process. The final report issued by the social worker ultimately determines if prospective adoptive parents can proceed to the High Court with the adoption.

    The High Court, under Cameroonian law must determine that four criteria have are met before an adoption decree can be issued.


    • 1) All consents have been obtained; these are irrevocable.
    • 2) The welfare of the child must be improved by adoption.
    • 3) No payment or reward has been received to adopt.
    • 4) The prospective adoptive parents are healthy.


    After consent of the High Court a final decree of adoption is issued and then a new Cameroonian birth certificate and Cameroonian passport must be obtained for the child, reflecting any name change. The Civil Status Registry Center issues Post-adoption birth certificates. The immigration office in the district where the child lives issues the Cameroonian passport. Passport requirements include several passport-size photographs, certified copies of birth certificates, adoptive parents' consent, fee, and a certified application form. Authentication of U.S. documents to be used abroad is currently under review.


    Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon

    2349 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W

    Washington, D.C. 20036

    Tel: (202) 265-8790

    Fax: (202) 387-3826



    Avenue Rosa Parks

    P.O. Box 817

    Yaoundé, Cameroon

    Tel: (237) 220-15-00


    U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé. The Embassy can be contacted by emailing, or by calling 237-220-16-03 during business hours.

    General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.


    Photo Credit: Julia Fuller



    Adopting From China

    If you are obese, single or poor, forget trying to adopt from China now. In May 2007, The People's Republic of China--the largest inter-country adoption destination for Americans--rolled out new rules that sharply limit the ranks of prospective adoptive parents. The rule changes have been perceived as an attempt to slow down international adoption and they seem to be doing just that: The wait now for a referral from China is believed now to be about three years, though some sources are predicting a wait of as much as five years for prospective parents.

    Mainland China is still the largest adoption destination for American parents, but it is sending far fewer orphans to America now than it once did. In 2007, U.S. adoptions from China fell to 5,453, down from 6,493 for 2006 and 7,906 for 2005, the high-water-mark for adoptions from China. Since 1991, some 58,906 Chinese orphans have been adopted by Americans, the overwhelming majority of them girls.

    According to Unicef, there are some 20 million orphans in China. This is largely due to family planning policies adopted by the Chinese government more than three decades ago that limited Chinese parents to one child, or two if the first is a girl or physically handicapped. This policy, combined with a traditional Chinese preference for boys, caused millions of girls to be placed in state care. Many regions of China no longer enforce the one-child policy, however.

    The Laws
    China's rules on adoption are set at the national level and despite China's own status as a developing nation they place great emphasis on the wealth of the prospective adoptive parents. The latter must have assets of at least $80,000 and an annual income equal to a minimum of $10,000 for each member of the household, including the child they are seeking to adopt. There are also now stiff requirements for parental health and marital status. But China also has some of the best-established rules for determining that a child is legally free for adoption and for caring for the children whose welfare it assumes.

    To operate in China, adoption agencies must be licensed by the China Center for Adoption Affairs, the central government adoption authority. A detailed account of the rules for Chinese adoptions can be found on the Web site of the CCAA.

    China is a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the international treaty that has been implemented by many countries around the world. Because the United States is also now a party to the convention, parents adopting from China must complete an I-800 rather than the I-600 document that has long been required of U.S. families in inter-country adoptions.

    Parental Health And Marital Status
    While many singles, including gay men and women, adopted from China in the past, only married couples may now adopt from the country. Married couples must be between the ages of 30 and 50 (55 for a special needs adoption), and have been married at least two years. China allows previously divorced people to adopt, but no more than two divorces are allowed.

    In 2007, China also cracked down on obese parents. To be eligible now, a prospective parent must have a body mass index of less than 40. China also bars prospective parents who are blind or have a hearing loss, as well as those with AIDS, or contagious of chronic diseases, including epilepsy. Like Russia, China casts a wary eye on parents who have a history of depression or a criminal record.

    How China Cares For Adoptable Children
    The CCAA identifies and approves children as eligible for adoption, and matches them with prospective adoptive parents. Most infant referrals now are for children between the ages of eight and 15 months. Chinese orphans are cared for in both orphanages (often referred to as welfare institutions) and small-group care settings that have a lower ratio of children to caregivers. China also is expanding its use of foster care.

    In April 2008, the CCAA announced changes that should speed up the adoption of older children and children with special needs. Where China once matched children with prospective parents on a case-by-case basis, the country will now release information on these waiting children to licensed agencies via a secure Web site.

    Time Frame For A China Adoption
    As with Russia, it now takes significantly longer to complete an adoption from China. Many agencies are advising parents that the wait could be as long as three years, with some sources predicting even longer waits.

    Travel Requirements For China
    Only one trip is required to complete an adoption from China, and at least one adoptive parent must make the trip. Parents generally spend about two weeks in China, including the time needed to complete the immigration visa for their child.

    Cost Of A China Adoption
    Adoptions from China have become more costly of late, thought they are still less expensive than some other countries. Plan on spending between $19,000 and $25,000 for one child. To encourage the adoption of older children, many agencies now have programs defraying the cost of these adoptions.

    Key Resources
    U.S. State Department profile

    U.S. Embassy in Beijing

    CIA Factbook profile

    World Health Organization profile

    U.S. Immigrant Visas Issued, by country


    Adopting From Ethiopia

    With delays in China and Russia, Ethiopia has been growing in prominence as an adoption destination. More than 3,200 children have been adopted from this African nation by American families, 1,255 of them in 2007 alone.

    As more and more U.S. adoption agencies seek to become licensed in Ethiopia, prospective American adoptive parents will be faced with choosing between those that have more established Ethiopia programs and those that are just beginning their work in the country. As with all inter-country adoptions, parents should thoroughly interview their agency choices and make sure they understand the scope of their operations and full-time staff in Ethiopia.

    The Laws
    Ethiopia's adoption authority is part of the Children and Youth Affairs Office of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. MOWA, as the latter is known, also accredits foreign adoption agencies to work in the country. While private adoptions are possible in Ethiopia, prospective adoptive parents are generally cautioned to work only with an accredited agency because of the need to prove that a child is legally free for adoption. In fact, the U.S. State Department openly warns that "Americans who enter into private adoptions that bypass the CYAO, or that follow local rather than international adoption procedures, will not be able to take the child out of Ethiopia, and will not be able to obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for the child."

    A detailed account of the rules for Ethiopian adoptions can be found on the U.S. State Department's Web site.

    Ethiopia is not a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the international treaty that has been implemented by many countries around the world. So even though the Convention became effective in the United States on April 1, 2008, there will be no changes to inter-country adoption procedures between the two countries.

    Parental Health And Marital Status
    Married couples are preferred in Ethiopian adoptions, although they must have been married for at least two years, and preferably five. Single people over the age of 25 are also considered. The U.S. State Department cautions that the Ethiopian government does not welcome openly gay or lesbian individuals or couples. The Ethiopian government does not bar older parents, but prefers that prospective adoptive parents are no more than 40 years older than the child they are looking to adopt.

    How Ethiopia Cares For Adoptable Children
    It has been estimated that Ethiopia, which has a population of 75 million, has 4.3 million orphans. They live in both government-run and private orphanages, some of which are so-called transitional homes operated by the adoption agencies licensed to work in Ethiopia. The country generally requires that children live in an orphanage for three months before they can be considered for adoption.

    Both boys and girls are available for adoption in Ethiopia, and adoption agencies report a strong need to place sibling groups.

    Time Frame For A Ethiopian Adoption
    Unlike the lengthy delays now facing families looking to adopt from China, Ethiopia's adoption process is fairly swift. Most adoptions are completed less than 24 months. Referrals from Ethiopia generally include not only a photo of the child, but also some medical history. This is in sharp contrast to countries like Russia, which is increasingly requiring prospective adoptive parents to travel "blind". Ethiopia, however, requires post-placement reports not only in the early months after the adoptive family returns home, but every year until the child turns 18.

    Travel Requirements For Ethiopia
    Only one trip is required for an adoption from Ethiopia, and it generally lasts just one week. Some agencies make it possible for parents to not travel and instead have their child escorted to the United States. This, however, can add $2,000 to $3,000 to the cost of an Ethiopian adoption.

    Cost Of A Ethiopian Adoption
    Ethiopian adoptions generally cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

    Key Resources
    U.S. State Department profile

    U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa

    CIA Factbook profile

    World Health Organization profile

    U.S. Immigrant Visas Issued, by country


    Adopting From India

    There are 1.1 billion people in India, and Unicef estimates that 1.2 million of them are orphans. But only 7,112 Indian orphans have been adopted by American families since 1990, and only twice in all those years has the number of children adopted topped 500 in any one year.

    The Laws
    Adoption in India is regulated by the Central Adoption Resource Agency. CARA's chief mission is to find homes for Indian orphans in India. In fact, foreigners cannot actually adopt Indian children in India: Instead, they are given guardianship of the children and then must legally adopt them back in their own countries. India does not permit the adoption of unrelated children at the same time, and believes that biological siblings should be adopted together whenever possible.

    There is no private adoption in India. Prospective foreign parents must work with what India calls an Enlisted Foreign Adoption Agency. There is a list of the 53 enlisted American agencies, and other information on adopting from India, on CARA's Web site.

    When a child is legally free for adoption, Indian authorities first have 30 days to make a domestic referral. If that period passes and no match is found, they have 10 days to issue a certificate declaring the child available to be adopted by foreign parents. Indian citizens, whether they live in India or abroad, have priority in an Indian adoption, followed by persons of Indian origin living abroad and then non-Indian foreigners.

    India is not, however, a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the international treaty that has been implemented by many countries around the world. So the adoption process for India will not change even though the Convention entered into force in the United States on April 1, 2008.

    Parental Health And Marital Status

    India allows both married couples and single women to adopt, but they cannot have more than three children already at home. Couples must be married for at least three years. Neither parent should be older than 55 and the couples' combined age must be no more than 90. There are no parental health restrictions.

    How India Cares For Adoptable Children

    Indian orphans are cared for in orphanages, in facilities that can vary greatly in resources, amenities, staffing and staff training. One very interesting aspect to India's attitude towards child welfare: Children over the age of six are asked for their consent to the adoption.

    Time Frame For An Indian Adoption

    Indian adoptions can be completed faster than just about any other country around these days. Prospective parents may have a referral in as little as one month after their homestudy is approved, and they can bring their child home in six to 10 months after their paperwork is accepted in India.

    Travel Requirements For Russia
    India is a one-trip country for adoptions, and only three to five days is spent in the country.

    Cost Of An Indian Adoption

    Plan on spending between $20,000 and $25,000 for one child, including homestudy, in-country fees and travel; airfare to India can be higher than to many other countries.

    Key Resources
    U.S. State Department profile

    CIA Factbook profile

    World Health Organization profile

    U.S. Immigrant Visas Issued, by country


    Adopting From Korea

    The Republic of Korea is where inter-country adoption began for most Americans. What Harry and Bertha Holt started in 1956 in the aftermath of the Korean War would lead to the adoption of tens of thousands of children born in what is commonly called South Korea. In the early years, the children were mainly those orphaned by the war or born to a Korean mother and a foreign soldier father. Korean officials estimated in 2002 that more than 150,000 Korean-born children had been adopted around the world since 1953, more than 99,000 of them by American families.

    For much of the last two decades, Korean adoptions by Americans held steady at about 1,700 per year. But adoptions by Americans from other countries were growing and, since 1994, Korea has been eclipsed by China, Russia and, more recently, Guatemala. In 2007, just 939 Korean children were adopted by Americans, bringing the total since 1990 to 27,299. Though Korea remains open for adoption, the strength of its economy combined with efforts to increase domestic adoption could mean that the number of children adopted by foreigners will continue to fall.

    The Laws

    There are no private adoptions in Korea: The country requires prospective adoptive parents to use an adoption agency authorized by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. There are only four such agencies: Eastern Social Welfare Society, Holt International Children's Services, Korea Social Service and Social Welfare Society. Many other U.S. adoption agencies have established relationships to Korea by working through these four primary agencies.

    The Republic of Korea is not, however, a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the international treaty that has been implemented by many countries around the world. So there has been no change in paperwork for a Korean adoption even though the Convention entered into force in the United States on April 1, 2008.

    Parental Health And Marital Status

    Only couples who have been married for at least three years are eligible to adopt from Korea. Both spouses must be between 25 and 42 when their homestudy is accepted by Korean adoption authorities and both parents must be under 45 when they get their referral. Other big differences with Korea: Parents must have a high school degree or its equivalent and must have no more than four children already, with at least 12 months between the youngest child in the family and the child being referred. Unlike China and Russia, the Korean government places no other restrictions on the prospective adoptive parents because of their health and Korea does not require a diagnosis of infertility.

    How Korea Cares For Adoptable Children

    Adoptable children in Korea have generally been relinquished at birth. Unlike the past, when many Korean-born children joined their foreign adoptive families as infants, Korea now requires that officials spent five months trying to place a child for domestic adoption before international adoption can be considered. Adoption officials say that most children now being adopted in Korea are 12 months old at the time of referral and travel to their new families--Korea programs still offer to escort children to their adoptive families--three to six months after referral.

    Most adoptable children in Korea are cared for by foster families. Some orphanages still exist, though the country seems to be moving everything to a foster care model. Orphanages--and residents for expectant single mothers--are affiliated with one of the four primary licensed agencies in Korea.

    Time Frame For A Korea Adoption

    It may seem a paradox, but as the number of Korean children referred for foreign adoption has fallen, the wait time for a referral has increased. Many agencies now report at least a 16-month wait for a boy and longer for a girl.

    Travel Requirements For Korea

    Korean adoptions are completed in a single trip, but prospective adoptive parents can also elect to have their Korea-born child escorted to the United States by the adoption agency. Choosing the travel option does not seem to shorten the time for referral.

    Cost Of A Korean Adoption

    Plan on spending about $20,000 to adopt from Korea, exclusive of travel or escort fees, which add about $2,500-$3,000 to the cost. Escort fees can be slightly more expensive than traveling.

    Key Resources
    U.S. State Department profile

    CIA Factbook profile

    World Health Organization profile

    U.S. Immigrant Visas Issued, by country


    Adopting From Russia

    Russia is a vast country with 11 time zones, almost twice as many administrative divisions as the United States has states and, according to Unicef, nearly 900,000 children in its orphanages. Not all of these children are without parents: Russia's orphanages are also used as foster care and respite settings for children of families in trouble.

    Almost since it opened to inter-country adoption in 1990, Russia has been a key destination for prospective adoptive parents, especially those from America. According to the U.S. State Department, 54,761 children born in Russia have been adopted by Americans since 1992. But the number of Russian children coming to the U.S. has fallen sharply in recent years as Russia implemented a series of reforms to improve the professionalism of adoption facilitators and the welfare of children in its orphanages: Just 2,310 Russian children were adopted by Americans in 2007, down from 5,865 in 2004. Though well-intentioned, Russia's changes also sharply increased the cost of an adoption.

    Russia also has been working to encourage domestic adoption. Monthly payments to adoptive families were doubled to 4,000 rubles per month ($166 at current exchange rates), and there is a one-time payment of 8,000 rubles for every completed domestic adoption. According to Russian officials, 7,742 Russian orphans were adopted by Russians in 2006.

    The Laws
    Russia's rules on adoption are set at the national level and they are fairly straightforward. But how these laws are interpreted at the local and regional level can very greatly. U.S. adoption agencies have sometimes complicated the situation by imposing additional requirements on adoptive parents rooted in the agency's view of adoption or its interpretation of Russian customs.

    A detailed account of the rules for Russian adoptions can be found on the Russian Ministry of Education's official Web site.

    To operate in Russia, a foreign adoption agency must be licensed by the Russian government. Accreditation rules have been tightened in recent years to include background checks on agency employees, a review of their fee structure and proof of complete compliance with Russia's rules on post-placement reports, among other things. The agency must also maintain a staffed office in Moscow. But while previous accreditations were valid only for one year, the new accreditations are permanent as long as the adoption agency is in compliance with Russian law.

    Russia has not yet ruled out independent adoptions. But legislation to this effect is gaining steam, and prospective adoptive parents are well-advised to deal only with a fully accredited agency. A current list of adoption agencies accredited by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation can be found on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

    Russia is not, however, a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the international treaty that has been implemented by many countries around the world. So even though the treaty became effective in the U.S. on April 1, 2008, the process for Americans adopting from Russia will not change.

    Parental Health And Marital Status
    Both married couples and single people may adopt from Russia. There are no minimum or maximum ages for prospective adoptive parents, although single parents must be at least 16 years older than the child they are seeking to adopt. Single men are not prohibited from adopting from Russia, but it may be difficult to find a region that will handle an adoption request by a single man.

    Treatment for depression is the single biggest parental health barrier to adopting in Russia; some regions will accept parents who have experienced depression as they coped with infertility, but others will not. Talk to your agency and social worker. Russia won't allow adoption by people with tuberculosis, alcoholism, or a history of substance abuse, as well as any health condition that leaves them unable to work.

    How Russia Cares For Adoptable Children
    Russian orphans are placed in baby homes until they are four years of age, then moved to orphanages for older children. These facilities vary greatly in resources, amenities, staffing and staff training across the country, though they have generally made significant strides since Russia first opened to adoption. Once orphans reach school age, which is seven in Russia, they generally attend classes in the nearest town school.

    Because of the length of time that children must spend on local and national registries prior to being declared available for adoption, it is not possible now to adopt a baby in Russia. To be eligible for adoption a child must first be registered for one month in a local databank for children without parental care, then spend one month on a regional databank, and finally six months on a national databank. Once they become eligible for adoption, these children are first presented to prospective Russian adoptive parents. Most children now being adopted by Americans are more than one year old.

    Time Frame For A Russian Adoption
    While Russian adoption once followed a predictable nine-month course, the re-writing of accreditation rules and their implementation threw Russian adoptions wildly off schedule in the last three years. With more than three dozen American adoption agencies now re-licensed to work in Russia, things are settling down, but prospective parents should plan on at least one year of paperwork.

    Travel Requirements For Russia
    All Russian adoptions require at least two trips by prospective parents. The first trip, about seven days long, is to meet the child and accept the referral. The second is for the court hearing finalizing the adoption. Parents should count on at least seven days for the second trip, but it may be longer. Russia mandates a 10-day waiting period after the court hearing for adoptive parents to take a child out of the region to Moscow to complete paperwork with the U.S. Embassy. Some regions waive the 10-day wait, but many now do not. What's more, some regions do not allow the adoptive parents to wait in the region during the 10-day period, forcing parents to return for a third trip. Because of tighter immigration reviews by the U.S., parents should also count on spending three days in Moscow getting their child's immigration visa.

    Cost Of A Russian Adoption
    As with many countries, Russian adoption have become much more costly in recent years. Plan on spending between $20,000 and $30,000 for one child. To encourage the adoption of older children, many agencies now have programs to lower the cost of these adoptions.

    Key Resources
    U.S. State Department profile

    U.S. Embassy in Moscow

    CIA Factbook profile

    World Health Organization profile

    U.S. Immigrant Visas Issued, by country


    Independent Intercountry Adoption

    What is it?

    Independent international adoption is when a family adopts without using an adoption agency from a country other then the country where they reside. The family may hire a lawyer, social worker, adoption facilitator and/or translator to complete their adoption. Sometimes they may attempt to complete all the adoption paper work themselves or use a missionary friend.

    Some complex combinations may be seen in independent international adoption. The wife may hold Australian and American citizenships. The husband may hold German citizenship. And the family lives in the UK. So the family struggles figuring out how to satisify adoption requirements and citizenship requirements for mulitple countries. It can be dificult finding an adoption agency who is willing and able to provide services. And this can led the family to independent adoption because they don't have any other choice.

    Another example of not having a choice is French or Irish families adopting from Ukraine. There aren't any adoption agencies who provide services for this type of adoption. So the family must independently adopt.

    Another common scenario with independent adoption is the American citizen was born in the other country. Or maybe their parents were born in the other country. They may speak Russian and feel comfortable in the other country's culture. So independent adoption seems like a natural choice.

    Americans may also independently adopt to save money and/or adopt multiple children. On the average, independent adoption is less expensive then agency adoption. And it is easier to adopt multiple children. Typically any restrictions against adopting multiple chidlren, at the same time, is restricted by adoption agencies rather then a country's adoption laws.

    Another scenario is that an expatriate family may actually live in the county they wish to adopt from. But they must satisfy multiple countries' adoption and immigration requirements. They may be Mormon missionaries in Iran and adopt from a local orphanage. They may be an American lawyer working in Ukraine.


    This form of adoption may also be called:

    • parent directed international adoption
    • self directed international adoption
    • indy international adoption
    • private intercountry adoption

    How much does it cost?

    It varies dramatic from country to country and specific circumstance. It can range from $10,000 to $50,000. Many families adopt multiple children which impact costs. The 3 largest costs are typically the faciliator's fee, airline tickets and the home study.

    If your state laws allow it, a home study can be completed by a private social worker. This can be significantly cheaper then a home study completed by an adoption agency. Home studies can be completed for $300 to $4,000. You can talk to state adoption employees to learn more about your state's laws.

    Here is an example of costs for an Ukrainian independent adoption that was completed in 2000. These costs cannot be compared the current costs. Too many processes have changed, but it may be helpful in understanding the expenses. 


    Type of Cost Cost Percentage of Total Cost
    Adoption Facilitator $3,500.00 29%
    Dossier Preparation Costs $2,483.07 20%
    Expediate Fees $1,230.00 10%
    Mail and Phone Costs $145.81 1%
    Transportation, Housing, Food Costs $3,831.69 32%
    US Immigration Costs $955.00 8%


    What are the requirements to adopt?

     The requirements vary wildly based on the citizenship of the adoptive parents, where they live and where they are adopting from. American families can only complete independent adoptions from countries that haven't implemented the Hague Adoption Treaty.

    The U.S. State Department's country adoption information and adoption news pages are the best place to start exploring the different requirements. The second best place to look for non-biased information is an American Embassy website.

    What types of children are available for adoption?

    Children are adopted independently from countries around the world, including the United States. These are infants, toddlers and teenagers.

    It isn't uncommon for families to adopt sibling groups or multiple children who are biologically unrelated. Sometimes families turn to independent international adoption specifically because they want to adopt multiple children. Independent adoption is typically a less expensive option.

    What is the process for adopting a child?

    Families need to invest time in researching and understanding local adoption laws, immigration rules as well as the other country's adoption laws and practices. Families can take up to a year in the research phrase. Sometimes this research can include a trip to the other country to verify facts personally.

    Once the family is an expert on the adoption requirements, they are better positioned to search for an adoption facilitator or lawyer. An adoption facilitator behaves more like a general contractor and is generally not responsible for actually locating a specific child.

    During the research phase the family is trying to answer questions like:

    • What are the dossier requirements? A dossier is just a collection of documents to prove adoption readiness to the other country. It always includes a home study.
    • What are the local home study laws? Some Americans can use a private social worker to complete their home study. But other states require an adoption agency to complete these home studies.
    • What are the immigration and citizenship requirements?
    • Have other families adopted from this country? What would they do differently if they were adopting again?
    • Have other families failed in their adoption attempt? What went wrong and how can that problem be avoided?
    • How long does it take to adopt a child?

    The order of events for the family may be:

    • research
    • hire lawyer or adoption facilitator
    • create dossier (do home study, medical reports, etc..)
    • start immigration paperwork. For Americans this is the I-600 or I-600A.
    • send dossier off to translator
    • dossier file in other country
    • family gets referral
    • family travels to country to adopt child
    • family returns home

    The adopting family is 100% responsible for their own education on post-institutionalized children. There are common behaviors that may be seen such as rocking and raging. The family may need to use different parenting styles to help their child heal. During the entire adoption process the family should be reading books and participating in adoption email lists.

    Do the hopeful adoptive parents meet the expecting mother or birth mother? 

    It is possible but isn't the most common scenario. The Taiwan infant adoption program is similar to American adoption. The birth mother will select the family based on their profile. A family may adopt from an Ukrainian orphanage and discover that grandmother visits the children regularly and wants an open adoption.

    There are more and more families who are attempting open international adoptions.

    How is this form of adoption different from other forms?

     Families will need to self-educate on all aspects of the adoption process. Independent international adoption isn't for everyone and requires an analytic mindset. Families may at first find themselves confused or overloaded with information. So families need to keep an eye on the details while understanding the overall process. Finding other families who are also independently adopting can be very helpful. Search blogs for independent adoption or independent international adoption to start your networking process.

    Adoption agencies exist for a reason. They do provide pre-adoption and post-adoption services that an independent family will need to provide for themselves.

    Independent international adoption is typically cheaper then agency adoptions.

    Intercountry Adoption Through An Agency



     What is it?
    Intercountry adoption is adoption through an adoption agency from a country other than your own, using the services of an agency as opposed to doing it yourself or with the help of a private lawyer.

     How much does it cost?
    Intercountry adoption costs vary dramatically from country to country, and whether or not you include travel expenses, the home study, etc in the overall cost. Most range from $15,000 to $40,000 to process one adoption, without travel costs, but this can change and does.

     What are the requirements to adopt?
    These vary from country to country. See our individual country list for this information.

     What types of children are available for adoption?
     Infants to teenagers, sibling groups and special needs children are available through intercountry adoption, but who may adopt whom, varies from country to country.

     What is the process for adopting a child?
    As in domestic adoptions, a home study must be completed. The requirements for a home study vary depending on your state and which country you are adopting from. There are long, detailed, and involved interviews with a social worker,  home visits, physicals with your family doctor, witness and character statements, a police report and fingerprinting from your local police station, as well as financial and work records.

    While you are working on your home study, you will also need to be collecting documents for the country’s dossier. A dossier is the collection of paperwork you will need for the country you are adopting from. For example, you often need newly issued birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce decrees.

    You will also have to be fingerprinted by your state’s immigration office so that you can obtain a “petition to adopt an orphan.” Often you will need more sworn affidavits, witness statements, financial statements, character references, job references, and physicals, depending on the country you are adopting from.

    Some countries demand all the documents to be notarized in the state the document was derived from, certified in that state government’s office, and authenticated in the embassy of the country you are adopting from. This is all before the documents are even sent to be translated in the country you are adopting from. Once again, this varies vastly from country to country.

    After your dossier reaches the country of destination, it will be processed there. Some countries will give you the referral of a child before you travel. Others will give you the referral after you have arrived in the country. If you are given a referral before you travel, you will receive updates on the child.

    For some countries you will have to make more than one trip before you bring your child home, while others will require just one. The length of time you must remain in the country also will vary, depending on the country you decide to adopt from.


     How long does it take to adopt a child?
    This is a very difficult question to answer and depends on the country that you are adopting from. Generally infant adoption and particularly infant girl adoption, takes longer while  a sibling group or a special needs child adoption can be expedited, of course depending on the country.  In the past, some countries such as Guatemala, facilitated adoptions as quickly as three to four months, while others, such as China, have taken up to two years, and this is all after your paperwork has been prepared and submitted.

    Time frames sometimes change on a month to month basis, often depending on how long you had to wait for the referral and how smoothly your paperwork goes through the process.


    Do the hopeful adoptive parents meet the expecting mother or birth mother?                 That varies from country to country and in some instances from case to case. If the child has been abandoned there is obviously no opportunity to meet her, unless you do an intensive search with the help of professionals. If the child has been relinquished, some agencies and some birth mothers will allow the adoptive parents to meet the birth mother, but it is rare.


    How is this form of adoption different from other forms?                                                     Most adoption processes are a huge leap of faith, but particularly intercountry adoption. Politics, intercountry relations and economics all play a part in the smooth processing of intercountry adoptions.


    You are going to be working with two countries simultaneously and that means preparing paperwork and being involved with two bureaucracies.  You may find it difficult to comprehend and accept the practices, systems and pace of other countries, often third world countries.


    For some adopting parents, the pickup trip is exhausting and a cultural shock, especially if you have not flown a lot or been exposed to cultures other than your own. Good agencies provide proficient in-country coordinators, but ultimately they can’t hold your hand 24 hours of the day.


    Older Parent Adoption

    You are older and want to adopt. Is it possible? Yes, through domestic and intercountry adoption.

    At one time it was very unusual for older parents (45 years of age and up) to adopt, except in the case of family adoptions where there was basically no choice in the matter. In the recent past it has become more common, but ultimately older parent adoption only makes up for a very small percentage of adoptions.

    Requirements for different countries vary, and often change frequently, so it is necessary to check with agencies about current requirements before making a decision. Additionally, there are many agencies that set an age limit lower than that of the country of adoption.

    If you are an older parent interested in adopting, here are some additional points for you to consider:

    1.    You don’t have to be superman or superwoman. What you don’t have in energy, you make up for in patience, understanding, and life experience.
    2.    You can be married, divorced, widowed, single or have other children.

    3.    You can do domestic as well as some intercountry adoption. Depending on just how old you are (50 often being the cutoff age) you may be able to adopt an infant; older than that you may be limited to an older, or a special needs child. Some older parents go the route of the foster-adopt program done in domestic adoptions.
    4.    Although some older parents may prefer to start with a young infant or toddler so they can enjoy the baby stage, it is wise to remember that this age is physically demanding. How flexible are you about having your daily routine changed, not getting a good night’s sleep for possibly years, and/or not being able to just get up and go when you have the desire?

    5.    Do you have older parents that you have to care for? If so, you might want to consider how you are going to balance having a child along with this demanding commitment. Children are a 24 hour committment and that doesn’t automatically end when they complete high school. More and more children are living at home long past college age.

    6.    Are you prepared to face the fact that the child you adopt may have special needs (physical, emotional, intellectual), often undetected until your child is older or begins attending school? This will add extra financial and emotional burdens to your life, and perhaps mean actively parenting longer than you anticipated.

    7.    Are you financially stable? As wonderful of a parent as you may be, the fact is that you will be gone from your child’s life when they are young. You want to be able to leave them financially stable.

    8.    Do you have a responsible and sincerely committed guardian in place? Do not assume that your older children, if you have any, will want to raise a child that you chose to adopt at an older age. When you do your home study they will want to know that you have a  guardian in place, but only you know their true level of commitment. This is a very serious and important consideration.

    9.    If you have decided to adopt, get yourself in the best physical shape you can. If you’ve been a couch potato for the last few years, you best get up and get moving. As patient and loving as you may be, no child wants to sit around the house all day while you rest in your favorite chair reading and watching TV.

    If you are adopting an infant or young child, start lifting weights to strengthen your arms. Begin a walking program. Be realistic - you don’t need to run marathons. But spend some time watching parents with young children and note just how much energy is expended caring for them.

    10.    Choose an agency that has a positive attitude towards older adopting parents. You will have enough naysayers questioning your hopefully well thought out decision to adopt  - your agency, lawyer and/or adoption facilitator need to be supportive.

    Links to Blogs on Older Adoptive Parenting

    Time to Shape Up

    Getting Your Paperwork in Order

    Running After A Toddler Won't Keep You Healthy

    Are the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause Raising Your Children

    Older Adoptive Parenting: Telling it Like it is



    Single Parent Adoption

    What is it?

    Divorced and never married men and women can adopt domestically, intercountry or from foster care. Single women completed 28% of U.S. foster care adoptions in 2005. Single men complete 3% of U.S foster care adoptions in 2005. There aren't any good estimates for how many singles adopt domestically or intercountry.

    Singles may or may not be homosexual. They may or may not be infertile. There is a great variety of life experiences. Many singles adopt when they are between the ages of 35 and 45 years of age.

    How much does it cost?

    Single parent adoption may be slightly cheaper because there is half the paperwork to complete. But many times an intercountry adoption isn't that much cheaper then a married couple adopting. This is because many singles take a friend or family member with them during the adoption trip for moral support. Also it is very handy to use this extra person to take pictures and document the trip.

    There is a pattern for single parents of adopting older or special needs children or small sibling groups. This can decrease the immediate cost of adoption. Foster care adoption is free. And adoption agencies often have reduced fees for special needs adoptions.

    What are the requirements to adopt?

    Some areas of the U.S. child protective system may not support single parent adoption. This typically comes into play if the single person is homosexual. And in a few places it goes beyond unsupportive. For example, homosexual singles aren't allowed to adopt from Florida foster care under state law.

    Intercountry adoptions have the most restrictions on single parents. Many countries will only accept single women and only if they aren't gay.

    Some adoption agencies will refuse to work with singles on private infant adoptions. They may state that birth mothers never select single parents.

    What types of children are available for adoption?

    According to 2005 data, foster children are around 7 years of age when adopted. This is the average age for the 50,000 children (approximate number) who were adopted from foster care.

    The majority of children adopted intercountry are 4 years or younger.

    What is the process for adopting a child?

    The adoption process for a single parent is typically identical to that of a married couple.

    Do the hopeful adoptive parents meet the expecting mother or birth mother?

    This greatly varies based on the type of adoption, but it is possible.

    How is this form of adoption different from other forms?

    Single parents are normally required to do more contingency planning during the home study process. The social worker may ask questions about support systems such as church and family. The single may be asked who will be the child's guardian.


    Adopting Alyosha: A Single Man Finds a Son in Russia (written by single father)

    Meeting Sophie: A Memoir of Adoption (written by single mother)

    Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption: On the Meaning of Family and the Politics of Neurological Difference (special needs adoption)

    Three Little Words: A Memoir (foster care adoption by adoptee)


    Adoption Data 2005
    Administration for Children and Families
    U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

    2007 Immigration Statistics
    Office of Immigration Statistics
    U.S. Homeland Security


    Why Choose Special Needs Adoption?

    Why do some families choose to adopt a special needs child, instead of a healthy newborn? Special needs adoptions are usually less expensive than healthy newborn or international adoptions. Many agencies of newborns discount or eliminate their fees when placing a child with known special needs. Adoptions from the state foster care system are usually free. If you have some out of pocket costs, you may be able to get reimbursement from the state placing the child. Some special needs adoptions offer incentives to adoptive families in the form of subsidies, Social Security income, and special tax deductions. While these additional incentives are usually part of state adoptions through foster care, other agencies are able to qualify children as well. One agency committed to special needs qualifying adoptions is Spence-Chapin.

    Older children, or sibling groups of three or more children, are automatically considered special needs when adopted from the foster care system, regardless of actual physical, emotional, or mental special needs. The actual definition of an older child varies slightly between states ranging from 3 years to 6 years.

    Adopting a child through the state foster care system can take longer than a private domestic adoption. Out of state placements can take up to a year to get ICPC so the child can be moved to your home. However, you may actually get a referral faster than with private adoption of a “normal” child. Typically, a special needs child must reside in your home for at least six months before the adoption can be finalized. Periodic visits from a foster care or adoption worker must occur during those months.

    When adopting through state foster care you may be eligible for ongoing services, free or reduced cost training to help you in your parenting your special needs child. Your special needs child may also be eligible for ongoing Medicaid coverage to cover all medical bills or co-pays until the child reaches eighteen.

    Statistics indicate that foster children who are adopted are more likely to succeed in society. Many are able to parent their children successfully, go to college, and maintain careers. Even a few years of parenting a teenage adoptee can forever change and influence the adoptee’s adult life.



    Photo Credit: Julia Fuller





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