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This Is What Adoption Feels Like

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CONS: Dealing with state foster-care bureaucracies can be frustrating, and many children in foster care have special medical or physical needs. You can learn more about foster adoption at adoptuskids.org.

International adoption
More than 20,000 children a year are adopted by U.S. families from a wide range of countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. The foreign adoption landscape has undergone some significant changes lately. Though China has been Americans' top choice — 6,500 Chinese children came into U.S. homes in 2006 — that number is expected to drop, thanks to stricter regulations now in place there. (For instance, a couple must be married for five years to adopt from China if either partner has previously been divorced.) By contrast, Ethiopia is seeing an increase in adoptions, thanks in part to a relatively speedy process — sometimes just six months, following approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

PROS: You don't have to wait for the birth parents to "pick" you — your adoption follows a standard process established by the country you're adopting from. Many people feel more comfortable adopting internationally rather than risking the heartbreak of a failed match domestically. There are many countries that U.S. citizens adopt from, so if one country's policies or requirements don't work for you, another one's might.

CONS: The cost can be high, ranging from $7,000 to more than $30,000. A country's adoption relationship with the United States can also "close," temporarily or permanently, sometimes without much warning — as what happened with Vietnam, which closed adoptions to the United States between 2003 and 2005, and reopened in 2006.

Redbook Adoption Baby Portrait

Lydia Kirkham, 34, and her husband, Mike, 38, both legal professionals, live just outside Kansas City, MO. Their 2-year-old daughter, Addison, who loves to "play soccer," go on hikes, and feed her cat, was adopted at birth in a semi-open domestic adoption.

"Mike and I spent nearly five years trying to get pregnant — first on our own, then with a total of nine intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization cycles. It took a toll on me and my body, and it was so discouraging. It was the biggest relief when we decided to adopt.

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