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Types of adoption: Domestic, international, open and closed

Choosing to adopt a child is a huge decision. But the decision-making does not end there. There are actually several types of adoption programs that you can pursue based on what’s best for you and your lifestyle. Kelly Rourke, president of Building Arizona Families adoption agency, and Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, share their expertise about the various types of adoption, and the positive aspects as well as the challenges that come along with each program to help you determine the best type of adoption for your growing family!

Mother and adopted child

From domestic to international, open to closed – what is the right type of adoption for you? Check out the pros and cons of each type to help you make the decision as to what is best for your family.


Domestic adoption

Domestic adoption refers to the process of adopting a newborn from the birth mom within the United States. This can be done through an agency, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Parents seeking to adopt a child this way can actually “advertise” to find a pregnant woman who is planning to give her baby up for adoption and then they can bring in a lawyer to handle the logistics.


Pros: You get to bring a newborn baby into your life and, in some cases, you can even be present at the birth. There is limited travel involved, and you can meet the child’s mom and obtain greater medical records/background.


Cons: The negative aspects of this type of program include being at the mercy of the birth mom (who can change her mind at any point during the process and cannot sign away her rights until 72 hours after the birth of the child), and the huge amount of stress involved with this type since it is not necessarily a “sure thing.” According to Pertman, this type of adoption actually accounts for the smallest number of adoptions each year, and it can be very costly — upwards of $20,000.



Open vs. Closed adoptions

Within the domestic adoption program, there are open and closed scenarios. An open adoption includes visitation rights for the birth mom and correspondence via letters and pictures, but does not necessitate meeting.


If the birth mom does not want to meet the family or have any contact with the child after she signs away her rights 72 hours after she delivers the child, it is considered a “closed adoption”.



Interstate adoptions

Interstate adoption involves adopting a child four years or older from an agency in another state.


Pros: In this scenario, you can actually chose a child who you think would be a great fit for your family and you can meet the child before he/she comes into your home. The time line for the services is not very extensive (the average is six months to a year), and it is very low cost. In fact, most states subsidize nearly all the costs. In this case, you have the most control over the situation, and you can rest assured that the adoption will happen.


Cons: There are some challenges with this type as well, including the fact that the children that are in the system may have had an unstable childhood so there may be behavioral issues involved. The children are ages 4 and up, so if you want to adopt a baby, this is not the route for you.



International adoptions

International adoptions (from countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti and China) are a popular adoption choice and according to Rourke, and you can adopt a baby as young as four months.


Pros: Positive aspects of this program include no waiting to see if the birth mother will change her mind and no future contact with the birth family (since most of the children are in orphanages). But Rourke warns that you have no control over any aspect of this process.


Cons: International travel is involved, sometimes you have to live in the country for a few weeks, only a few agencies offer escort services, and oftentimes you have to re-adopt the child once you re-enter the U.S.


Pertman says that no matter which adoption program you chose, there is a lot of important work in “family building” once the child comes into your life. “Adoption is a lifelong process,” he says. Keep in mind that a foster child — whether from the U.S. or abroad — may have some emotional issues or special needs of some kind that need to be addressed. He encourages adoptive parents to be very open and honest with their children regarding where they came from and to keep them connected to people in their past and present.


Despite the varying choices to weigh, Rourke reminds, “whatever program a family chooses, it is a blessing — for that child and that family.”


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