After you have decided to adopt, the next step is to choose the right type of adoption for you.

There are three main categories of adoption: international adoption, private domestic adoption, and foster adoption. All three have their pros and cons.

International Adoption

Each country has its own requirements for adoptive parents. As of this writing, no country knowingly places children with homosexual parents, married or single.

In recent years, many countries have closed or slowed down adoptions due to ethical concerns. When countries close, families may find themselves unable to bring their children home, even when they had already received referrals.

The youngest children available are usually 12-18 months old. According to the CDC, in 2011, 55% of internationally adopted children were aged 1-4, and 30% were age 5+.

Some countries have residency requirements. Some require you to travel one or more times to visit children and bring them home. Some countries escort children.

The amount of background information about your child varies by country, and the background information may not be accurate. The wait time varies by country as well. You must wait from the time you fill out your paperwork until getting a referral, and then you must wait to bring your child home. The wait in most countries is over one year.

In most countries, you will not know the child’s birth parents. This doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t have to “deal with birth parents.” Even if they are unknown, your child will still have questions about his or her family of origin. In most countries, birth parents cannot change their minds about adoption.

The cost of international adoption ranges from $30,000 to $70,000.


If you go with an established program, the process is usually straightforward and organized.
You don’t have to market yourselves to expectant parents or fear that birth parents will change their minds.

You can be relatively certain that you will have a child within a predictable time frame.


A country may close before you get your referral or, worse, after you get your referral but before you bring your child home.

You will not have as much information about your child’s background as you would in domestic adoption.

Ethics concerns are very real. In some countries, families have been coerced or tricked into giving up their children.

Private Domestic Adoption

All in-country adoptions that are not through foster care are private. Agency adoptions happen through licensed agencies. If you use an attorney or facilitator, that’s a private independent adoption.

Most children placed privately are newborns. Almost all are infants. It is rare to find a toddler or older child available for private adoption.

Most private adoptions are open or semi-open—that is, the adoptive family and birth family have some contact. Usually, the expectant parents choose the adoptive parents, with the help of an adoption profile. The families may be matched during the expectant mother’s pregnancy and may choose to get to know one another.

In almost all states, termination of parental rights (TPR) cannot be signed until after the baby is born. There is usually a minimum time period between birth and when TPR can be signed. However, in any state, a new mother can take as long as she likes to sign TPR. The minimum time frame is not a deadline. It is possible for an expectant parent or new mother to change her mind before or after birth. Some states have a revocation period—a time between signing TPR and when TPR becomes binding—during which a new parent can change his or her mind about placing.

Every state has its own laws regarding who can adopt when TPR can be signed, whether there’s a revocation period, how much money can be spent on “birth mother expenses,” and so on. All states allow single parents and same-sex couples to adopt.

You can adopt from your own state or any other state. If you adopt from out-of-state, you must remain in that state with the baby until the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) paperwork is complete. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

As of this writing, the average wait time for a private domestic adoption is two to three years, but some adoptive parents are placed within a few months. The cost ranges from about $5,000 to $50,000, with the average cost being $20,000 to $30,000.


You will probably know your child’s birth family, which will be beneficial as your child grows older.

You can choose to work with adoption professionals anywhere in the US or right in your home town.

If it’s important that you have an infant who is your child from the start, private domestic adoption is the best way to achieve that goal.


A match can fall through if an expectant or new mother changes her mind. If you pay birth mother expenses, they’re usually nonrefundable.

There are people who scam prospective adoptive parents, and scams can be difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute.

Private domestic adoption is expensive and competitive.

Foster Adoption

Foster adoption is the adoption of a child who is in foster care in the United States. Laws vary from state to state and, sometimes, from county to county. In some counties, you can be licensed only to adopt. You will be able to accept only those children who are legally free for adoption. However, other counties will insist that you be licensed to foster and that you must accept children who are “legal risk,” not free for adoption. The goal of foster care is to reunify children with their biological families. In some counties, biology trumps all else, while in others, after a certain time, a foster family is considered “fictive kin.”

The requirements for each state are different. Sometimes you are limited to adopting a child in your own state or county, but interstate foster adoptions are becoming more accepted. Age requirements are much less stringent than in international or private domestic adoption.

When in foster care, the children are in the state’s custody. You may need to ask permission to do certain things for and with your child, ranging from getting a haircut to traveling out of state.

According to Children’s Rights Now, there are currently about 400,000 children in foster care. Most will go back to their biological families. There are about 104,000 “waiting children” who are legally free for adoption. Their average age is 9. Half have chronic medical problems, and about 80% have serious emotional problems. Half of children under age 5 in foster care have developmental delays. Most have been there for more than two years, and 10% have been there for more than five years.

Some counties have many babies and toddlers to place, but most counties do not. If babies and toddlers are available for adoption, they are usually as part of a sibling group.

It is possible to have open adoptions with some members of the biological family, and you will ultimately have access to a great deal of information about the children’s backgrounds and health histories. However, some foster adoptive parents have found that full disclosure doesn’t occur until late in the process.

The wait time varies and depends mostly on the children to whom you are open. Once you are placed with a pre-adoptive placement, the average time until finalization is one to three years.

Adoption from foster care is usually cost-free or close to it. Emotionally, however, the cost can be high. Many foster parents say that fostering is the hardest work they’ve ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding.


Adopting from foster care costs very little and is often free.

You can adopt an older child and get to know the child before you adopt.

You can usually be confident that these children truly need loving homes.


The child is in the custody of the state until finalization. Any child may be returned to the biological family.

If you are fostering with an eye on adoption, you must be willing to support reunification with biological family and to love these children as your own, even when they’re not.

Many foster children have suffered abuse, trauma, and/or neglect.


This has been a very brief introduction to all three types of adoption. Read some books, browse some blogs, and ask some questions in online forums.

Whenever anyone asks “Where do I start?” I always recommend the book “Is Adoption for You?” by Christine Adamec. This slim, friendly read contains basic information about all types of adoption. It asks you some tough questions, many of which will likely be on your home study. It’s a great starting place.



Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.