There are several different types of adoptions. The kind that works best for you will depend on your desires and circumstances. Not all of these kinds of adoption are mutually exclusive, and they may overlap. For example, you can have an open agency adoption.
Independent Adoptions (Private Adoptions)
Independent adoptions are when the birth mother, perhaps with the assistance of the birth father, personally picks the adoptive parents and places the child with them directly. These are also known as private adoptions. The adoptive parents may be friends, relatives, or someone else whom the birth parents already know. The vast majority of states allow private adoptions, although not all of them.
While the defining feature of private adoptions is the lack of agency involvement, sometimes agencies will be involved in small and discrete ways. In order to comply with legal requirements, often adoption agencies will need to get involved to do home studies and other screening.
Identified adoptions are similar to private adoptions, in that the birth parent(s) choose, or “identify,” the adoptive parent(s). The big difference between the two is that with identified adoptions, an agency takes a bigger role. Essentially, an identified adoption is the same as an agency adoption except that the birth parent(s) are in charge of deciding who adopts the child. The agency handles the administrative aspects of the adoption.
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Adoption agencies are public or private organizations that act as intermediaries in the adoption process. Instead of placing a child directly with the adoptive family, the birth mother will place the child with the agency. Then, the agency will select the adoptive parent(s). The birth family may or may not have a part in the selection process. Sometimes the birth mother may not even know who the adoptive parents are. The agency will also be responsible for the paperwork, screening, counseling, and other services related to the adoption.
Open adoptions are becoming more common as studies show better outcomes for all of the parties involved. Open adoptions are adoptions in which members of the birth family have some kind of knowledge, contact, or ongoing relationship with the adoptive parent(s). In open adoptions, the birth parent(s) will choose the adoptive parent(s), and there will be some kind of continuing contact planned. During the adoption process, the birth and adoptive families will make an agreement about what kind of continuing relationship will happen after the adoption. For example, some adoptive parents may agree to send a picture and letter once a year. Other adoptive parents may allow frequent visitation with the birth family. The agreement will depend on what makes the parties comfortable.
International adoptions are when adoptive parent(s) adopt a child who was born in a different country. International adoptions can be complicated because they involve both US law and the law of the country from which you are adopting. In addition, the adoptive parent(s) will need to be aware of US citizenship laws that will apply to the adopted child. There are also international laws, such as the Hague Convention, that govern the process with regard to ensuring that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Further, foreign countries may suddenly change their adoption laws during the process, which can cause additional stress or delays.
Facilitated adoptions are a controversial type of adoption. They are adoptions that use an unlicensed intermediary as a “matchmaker” between the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s). Some states absolutely prohibit facilitated adoptions, while other states heavily regulate the circumstances in which facilitators can operate. In most ways, facilitated adoptions are like private adoptions, but the birth parent(s) choose the adoptive parent(s) through advertising or a non-agency facilitator.
Foster Care Adoptions
Foster care adoptions are when a child is adopted from foster care, almost always by their foster parent(s). Sometimes the adoption is planned as soon as the child is placed with a family. Other times, the ultimate outcome may be unclear at the time of placement, but at some point the child becomes free for adoption, and the adoptive parent(s) decide to adopt them. Foster care adoptions necessarily involve social services because they are responsible for screening, certifying, and placing children in foster homes.