I’ve been privileged to have lots of people come to me with their questions about adoption. It’s a complicated topic, but I find the best place to start is to evaluate what kind of adoption is best for your family. In this post I want to go through the different types of adoption and what you should consider before making the next step. I tend to be a pretty black and white person, so I want to do this as as factually as possible, but of course we all realize we’re talking about the lives of your families and precious kids in need of homes so the emotions of the situation can be quite different than just a cold look at the facts.
So here’s my first question— what’s motivating you to adopt? That’s going to help you narrow down what path you should take next. Are you adopting because you have an infertility issue? Are you adopting because you want to have more children, but pregnancy is no longer an option? Are you adopting because you want to help a child in need? Your answers to these questions will help you figure out what direction you should go. You’ll also want to know what your priorities are: Are you looking for a healthy child? A young child? A legal certainty? A quick process? Something that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? A certain level of birthparent contact? List these things in order of priority for your family and then compare them with the list of pros and cons I have below and you may find what works best for you. After I go through them I’ll give you my thoughts about what type might be right for your family. Here are the three main types of adoption and their pros and cons.
Domestic Infant Adoption:
Pros— You can get a very young child, there’s potential for a relationship with the birthmother (an important source of medical information, history, and answers for your child as they get older), the child may have had prenatal care and will have access to medical care as soon as they are born.
Cons— This can be a very expensive process, most agencies have many couples waiting for just a few available babies, there’s a chance a birthmom may change her mind after the child is born, birthmoms generally pick the adoptive couple so there is no way to know how long you will wait or if you ever will be picked.
Pros— Once you’re approved you will eventually get a child, you will likely be making a huge difference in a child’s health/poverty/education situation, little or no birthparent involvement if you’re reticent about that, you may get to meet the child before the adoption is finalized.
Cons- It’s very expensive, it’s a lengthy process, there’s more paperwork (adoption plus immigration), the child may have issues that weren’t disclosed prior to the adoption, child may suffer effects from being institutionalized.
Pros— you get to know the child prior to adoption, it’s free, there will generally be extensive information available about their history, you have access to resources through your state if the child needs medical/counseling help, you can get young children if you’re willing to foster them prior to adoption, contact with biological parents may be possible.
Cons— there can be some legal risk until all rights are terminated/relinquished, kids may have issues from abuse/neglect, you have to be open to having some local HHS representatives in your life until things are finalized, biological parents may have issues that make contact with them unsafe or unwise.
So, what type of adoption is right for you? I like to think my ideal job would be as an “adoption matchmaker”. I’d love to help families find the right kind of adoption and the right child for them. There are guiding principles that have helped us in our decision making that I want to share with you, but I realize that God’s call for each family is unique.
If you are an infertile couple— pray about what God might be calling you to do with all your options open. For us international adoption was the right first step. While it wouldn’t seem like we would have the money, we didn’t have kids to support and we were both contributing to our income. We had been through a lot of heartbreak with infertility and didn’t want to add to it by exposing ourselves to the risk of a birthmom changing her mind or a lengthy wait to be matched. We needed the guarantee that if we just did the right paperwork, got approved, and paid the fees, we’d be parents. My one piece of wisdom would be to adopt a child who is younger than the amount of years you’ve been married (i.e. you’ve been married three years, so you don’t adopt a four year-old). I think it’s great for infertile couples who are adopting their first child to ask for the youngest child possible. Parenting and bonding are tough tasks and it makes it one step simpler if you’re starting with a very young child. You shouldn’t feel guilty for pursuing a baby.
If you are a couple with children already (or the couple capable of having kids but considering adoption first)— I think the couple who has already had the beautiful experience of bringing a child home from the hospital and nurturing them from their earliest days should consider pursuing something other than domestic infant adoption of a healthy child. There are so many couples waiting for that experience who don’t have the ability to make it happen on their own. If you have parenting experience, that is a gift you can give to the toddler waiting in an orphanage or the foster child who has been passed over. If your desire is to help a hurting child who needs a family, you won’t likely do that by doing a domestic infant adoption. That child has 100 waiting couples who are willing to adopt him, which is not true for the waiting international children and foster children. If you want another infant, and it’s possible for you to make one, please know there is NO guilt in that. I’d also encourage you to respect the birth order that already exists in your family and adopt a child younger than your youngest. The less disrupting of your family dynamics you can do, the easier the transition will be.
If you are a single person— there are children waiting for families where you might be the best fit. Some kids have experienced abuse and would be best served by growing up in a home with a gender of parent they feel safe with. A two parent home is great, but some kids may not have any home at all if a single person doesn’t step up and adopt them. Give it a lot of prayer, but know that there may be a child waiting for you in the foster care system or in an orphanage.
Have more questions or thoughts? Do share!