Adoption choices include various combinations of independent, public
or private agency, domestic or international, open or closed adoptions.
Independent (private) adoption
An adoption that is arranged without an adoption agency is called
an independent adoption. Your first step toward an independent adoption is
learning whether it is legal in your state. If it is legal, learn the details
of your state's independent adoption law-state adoption laws vary
significantly. Your best resource for independent adoption information in your
state is an experienced adoption attorney.
To independently adopt, you must first find a birth mother who is
planning to place her baby for adoption. Depending on your state's laws, you
might be permitted to advertise in the paper, ask a local obstetrician or
pregnancy crisis center to pass your information on to prospective birth
mothers, or use a professional adoption facilitator or consultant.
After you develop a legal agreement with a birth mother and father
(if known, he must be included), you will pay for many of her expenses. It's
typical for adoptive parents to pay for a birth mother's health care and some
of her living expenses. Some experts suggest that you also pay for adoption
counseling for the birth parents, as well as separate legal counsel.
This type of agreement is more risky than an agency adoption
because it is not regulated by an adoption agency. In most states, a birth
mother is not legally required to pay you back if she decides to keep her baby
after the birth.
Identified adoption is a variation of
independent adoption. After finding a birth mother, you enlist an adoption
agency to handle the proceedings. The advantages of this arrangement are the
agency's counseling, home study, and legal support services for you and the
mother, and less financial risk for you.
Adoption between states
Adopting a child from another state is more complex than adopting
within your state. Both states' adoption laws must be followed carefully for
such an adoption to be finalized. You will need an adoption agency or attorney
to help you with the process.
There are many privately funded adoption agencies that can link you to infant and child adoptions locally, in
other states, and internationally. Your state's social services or health and
human services agency is the umbrella organization for publicly funded adoptions of children who live in your state. These children are
likely to be in foster care because of maltreatment or neglect. You can find
agency information on the online National Adoption Directory, provided by the
National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC). Look for nonprofit or
government-regulated adoption agencies.
Although the agency adoption process is long, it is designed to
protect the child's interests, as well as yours and the birth parents'. After
filling out extensive paperwork, expect to have an orientation process and a
home study. An agency social worker will examine your home life, emotional and
physical health, and financial stability. During this series of contacts, your
social worker will also advise you on preparations, adoption, adjustment, and
parenting issues. A home study can take a few months for an agency to
Depending on whether you plan to adopt an international or American
infant or child, you may wait months to years until you hear news of a child.
While an international adoption is likely to be finalized before you leave the
child's birth country, an American adoption is filed and finalized after you
have lived together, usually for at least 6 months. During this period, your
social worker will visit and keep in touch with you, ultimately writing a
recommendation to the court in support of the adoption. If you have adopted
internationally, you will also work with the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS).
Open and closed adoptions
If you are adopting within the United States, it is likely that you
will have the opportunity to maintain contact with your child's birth parents.
You will ideally negotiate an arrangement that works for them, you, and the
An open adoption agreement allows some level of communication
between the birth mother and your family. Adoptions can be open to varying
degrees, from only discussing medical history by phone or mail to regular
visitation. A semi-open adoption agreement permits only the exchange of first
names and correspondence through the adoption agency. Open adoption is
generally considered to be better for an adopted child.
Some birth parents prefer a closed adoption, which keeps all birth
parent and adoptive family information confidential.
Bets Davis, MFA
Sandy Jocoy, RN
Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
March 21, 2008
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 21, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this