View Full Version : International vs. Domestic Adoption

12-17-2004, 05:26 PM
Hi all! I'm posting as someone who has not looked into or considered adoption. I am genuinely curious about the dynamics and factors at work when someone chooses to adopt internationally or domestically. I have this impression, based on nothing of substance I can recall, that adopting domestically in the U.S. can present many more challenges and risks for the adopting party, and that can be a reason people look abroad. I'm sure there are cultural, ethnic and humanitarian factors at work too.

Those of you who have adopted, are adopting or are considering it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Is my vague, unsubstantiated notion - that if more people felt adopting domestically were feasible they would do so - accurate?

12-17-2004, 06:50 PM
Actually, the number of domestic adoptions annually continues to be higher that the total number of children adopted from all other countries combined. So, something must be okay about this route. As someone who has adopted domestically, there are a lot of myths. Let me try to go over a few of the most common:
1) Domestic adoption takes many years. It can for some people, but most people usually adopt within 1 year. I have known people who adopted within weeks of the decision, longest wait I know of is 2 years. It took us barely over a year from the time we decided to start the process. International can also sometimes take years and it involves much more paperwork.
2) Birthparents can come back later and get the child. Nope. Once paperwork is signed, birthparent rights are terminated forever. The only way a birthparent can ever legally attempt to "come back" for a child is if he/she can prove that they were forced or deceived to sign papers. After the whole "Baby Richard" thing a few years ago, adoption laws have become much tighter. Each state differs in when birthparent rights can be terminated....my state is 3 days after birth.
3) Birthparents in the US are either teenagers or drug abusers. Wrong. Most teenagers don't have the forsight to see how difficult raising a child can be and they are the population most likely to change their minds. It is estimated that 60% of birthmothers are 20 years or older. Most choose to place their child for adoption for reasons such as: unable to provide for a child right now, unable to take care of an additional child, want to continue their schooling/work progress, etc. Our son's birthmother wanted him to have 2 parents, a SAHM, and to not have to be struggling with her to make a living. And I always want her to never worry that he is healthy and loved (hence, open adoption).
We chose open adoption (and these are our personal reasons) mainly because we wanted our son to have a knowledge of his history, we wanted to have some medical information (we actually have extensive info....down to biological great-grandparents), and we wanted a newborn. Typically, in international adoptions, children are at least 6 months old and you have little to no information about their family history or medical background. We also know a few couples who weren't told everything about the child they were adopting internationally (some agencies honestly don't know, others just don't tell) and now face "problems" that they weren't ready to take on or that should have received early intervention. Yes, we had one adoption fail (birthmother changed her mind), but we aren't even hesitating to start another attempt at a second open adoption.
Okay....I rambled. Sorry, but I am very passionate about adoption education. Please don't hesitate to ask more questions.....it's the only way to learn!
~Connor's Mom~
http://lilypie.com/baby1/050204/1/0/1/-6/.png (http://lilypie.com)

12-18-2004, 02:00 PM
Actually, you hit on some myths about international adoption in your post so let me try to correct some of them because EVERY country handles adoptions differently. You simply cannot lump all international adoptions into a single category.

Guatemalan adoptions typically have babies home before 6 months of age. Most people we know have them home around 4 months or so.

Guatemalan adoptions also allow you to visit as often as you'd like during the adoption process. You typically have the baby with you full time in the hotel for 3-5 days.

Some agencies even allow the US adoptive parents to live in Guatemala and foster the child themselves. I know many people who have done this.

Guatemalan adoptions are typically referrals for newborns. The birthmother is *very* involved in the process. Immediately with the referral you know the birthmothers full name, her parents name, you ge a picture of her, copy of the baby's birth certificate, etc. Then after DNA is performed, you get another picture of birthmama and baby together. The birthmother has to sign off at 4 separate times with Guatemalan adoptions. She can change her mind all the way until the very end. We lost our first adoption referral because our birthmother could not complete the adoption. She did not want the child back; she was simply overwhelmed with how involved she had to be in the process.

Guatemalan adoptions give you A LOT of information about the birthmother and her reasons for making an adoption plan. You typically know if she has other children too. You know the child's real birth date and information about the child's birth. At the end of the adoption, you get a full report from the social worker in Guatemala.

Many adoptive parents remain in contact with the birthmothers in Guatemala.

Most children adopted from Guatemala live in private foster care until they come home.

You typically get monthly updates with pictures, medical report, and video about your child when adopting from Guatemala.

These are some of the reasons many people choose Guatemala. It is also a lot cheaper to travel to Guatemala, and more adoptive parents speak Spanish than Chinese, for example, so some of us feel a connection to hispanic culture.

But, Guatemalan adoptions have their faults. They are not government run or standardized like Chinese adoptions, for example. This means that *every* adoption is handled as a private adoption, similar to how a domestic adoption would be handled in the US. The complication is that you are dealing with the processes and guidelines of two countries in order to achieve this. This results in widely variable timeframes and other just seemingly random delays. You can also lose a referral after accepting it because the birthmother is involved until the very end. Believe me when I say that there is nothing more tragic than losing a child who you have bonded with, visited, and loved as your own.

Domestic adoptions typically require you to present yourselves to potential birthmothers, which was not something we were comfortable doing. We are fairly non-mainstream and didn't think we would be very good at marketing ourselves. While I think we could have eventually found a good match with a birthmother, I think our unique-ness would have meant that we waited a lot longer than usual for a domestic referral.

It also was not important to us to have a child who looked like us or who shared the same heritage. That is something that all adoptive parents must consider because it is something you will need to address your entire life. We will forever be a mixed race/heritage family, and we will have a lot to learn along the way.

The reasons why there are so many children available for adoption in other countries vary considerably. For Chinese adoptions, there is an excellent book called "Lost Daughters of China" or something close to that. We really only considered China and Guatemala so those are the programs I am most familiar with.

Hope this gives a little insight!


12-18-2004, 04:43 PM
I have to admit that I enjoy learning more about other types of adoptions on this and the other forums that I belong to. We did look into international adoption and you are so right in that every country handles adoption differently, including the birthparent involvement, history provided, and care of the child until placement. I have always heard (and from what you write supports it) that Guatemala is exceptional in their handling of adoptions.
I have to add, though, that domestic adoption is less restrictive than people think (as far as who gets chosen when). Some places still don't do "matches" and it is true that every potential adoptive parent will find their "match". I think a lot of it has to do with how willing you are to consider different situations. African-American and biracial infants are usually faster to adopt (average in many states is about 3 months). But if you only want a Caucasian infant with no questionable medical history and prenatal care throughout the pregnancy, you might wait longer.
However, every potential adoptive parent will find their match, even if they don't see themselves as "perfect". That was a fear of ours and now we get how it is also one of the biggest myths. Birthparents do not go into looking for a match based on wealth, beauty, etc. They typically go for what feels comfortable or someone they can connect with. Our son's birthmother said that she chose us because we came across as "laid-back" and that we "didn't seem to be trying too hard to impress" in our profile. That's how we are in life and that's how we represented ourselves. I have seen single parents, same-sex couples, older couples, and even some people I think are a bit "quirky" all find a good fit and in relatively short periods of time.
~Connor's Mom~

12-18-2004, 10:31 PM
I agree with you. Like I said in my original post, I think that we would have eventually found a perfect match, but I do think it would have taken longer for us. It wasn't because of our wealth or beauty. I just am well aware that it would be harder for us to find a birthmother who connected with us. I know all people have their quirks, but just trust me when I say that we are a tad quirkier than normal. We are fairly far from mainstream. I can fake the mainstream vibes when I need to but I could never pull it off in a letter to a birthmom. We are who we are, and it would limit us I believe.

But the most important issue for us was that I completely felt uncomfortable with the letter to the birthmother and marketing that I felt you had to do with domestic. I don't think all domestic adoptions are that way, but I have many friends who adopted domestically and I just have flashbacks to their websites and letters to the birthmoms. It is just something that was totally beyond our comfort level.

That's what is so important for people to research so they understand how the different programs work.


12-19-2004, 04:06 AM
I can only speak to my thought process and what was important to me. Since we are experiencing secondary infertility I think that changes the dynamics a little. I've already done the "baby thing" and although I loved it, I wouldn't feel cheated in anyway if the child I adopted was over one. One reason people do choose domestic adoption is that often the child enters your care immediately after birth.

Money is certainly a consideration. Domestic adoption can be quit expensive with agency/facilitator fees and medical expenses for the birth mother. International adoption is exactly cheap, but there is a huge range of costs. Some agencies are very committed to finding homes for older children and really try to keep the costs affordable for families.

For me I think my preferred choice is international adoption for many reasons, including my ethical comfort level. My DH and I have agreed that if we adopt it will be from Ethiopia. We have no issues with a child of African heritage, my DH is half African-American. Ethiopia has 1.7 million orphans. I didn't want to feel like I was adopting a child away from a parent who simply couldn't take care of them for a lack of money, these kids are actually orphans. (I'm not saying this is always the case in international or domestic adoption, I just had a lot of personal issues with and it was a big decision factor for me.) There is no way the country can take care of all of them. Most African countries have a very strong culture of taking care of children and valuing them, which is why so few allow international adoption. Right now I'm trying to sort out whether to adopt a younger child now, or wait and adopt an older child later. Or do both.

Of an interesting note there was some discussion recently on the Yahoo African Adoption group about a trend in Europe to adopt bi-racial and African American babies from the US. (Just an interesting note on how domestic becomes international.)

I've known people to go the domestic adoption route and have a very good experience. And, as noted before, all the parents aren't drug addicted teenages. One couple adopted a child of Columbian Graduate students, the father was African-American and the mother was first generation Asian. They gave up the child because her parents would never accept the child. (Which is funny because a few years later this theme turned up on ER.) A friend of mine adopted her daughter from a single mom with two kids that was in the process of going back to school for social work. She felt that if she had another child she would have to drop out of school and in the end it wouldn't be good for any of her children. I have also met people to have adopted happy, healthy babies through the Department of Social Services in our state. These were babies whose parental rights were terminated at birth or early on due to past histories with other children.

I know one of the things I hear from people about adoption is that you "don't know what you are getting" when you adopt, such as the family background. Which is interesting, because if you have your own biological child you never know what "you can get" with that genetic dice roll. It's not like my family history looks that great on paper.

Anyways, those are my thougths.

12-19-2004, 11:58 AM
We choose adoption from China, primarily because DH wanted to adopt from China because that's his ancestry. I wanted to find the fastest possible route LOL (not China).

One thing I don't like about Chinese adoption is lack of birthparent contact. I don't know how much contact I would want, but I have to say that it breaks my heart that DS birthmom doesn't know that he's o.k., that he's loved, healthy, etc. I feel like she is a much greater part of my life/thoughts because she is uninvolved (due to Chinese laws). It's something to keep in mind when you start the adoption process, because I had no idea how deeply this would affect me. Now, obviously, I wouldn't have chosen a different route, because I wouldn't have DS then, but when he smiles, cries, says, "Love you momma," etc., I think of her - of her loss, her bravery, but mostly her never knowing. I imagine that's intolerable.

Oh the other hand, if we adopted again, I would probably go the same route, only because I would like for my children to have similar adoption backgrounds. Just a personal preference.

I would have shied away from domestic adoption because of the risk of being selected and then having the birthparent changing their mind. I have a friend (and someone on the boards - right?) that this happened to 3 times. I can't imagine - it would just be too painful.


12-19-2004, 10:31 PM
That is an interesting question and one I think almost all adoptive couples struggle with for a little while anyway. We went back and forth for a long time and finally decided on domestic adoption. Like the other posters said, there are an awful lot of myths about domestic adoption and particularly open adoption.

We really wanted an open adoption because it seemed to make the most sense for everyone and for a sense of closure. In our case, it didn't work out. We had three domestic adoptions fall through and it was probably the hardest thing we've ever been through. I know adoptions can fall through internationally as well, but I do think there is a higher chance of a domestic adoption falling through. We were told that the rate is about 50%.

We were planning on dually applying in the future to a new agency where we can apply to both their Guatemala program and their domestic program, but I really feel like domestic is not the best choice for us anymore. I think a lot depends on your personality. With the open adoption you do have contact with the bitrth parents and that can be hard. After awhile you can feel like you're being held to a higher standard that the birth parents couldn't meet but insist that you meet. After an adoption falls through, it's harder and harder to put your heart on the line (again, that's not exclusive to domestic adoption, but statistically more of a chance).

But if you really really want to parent a newborn, domestic is pretty much the only route to go, although like Holli said, there are some countries where the babies are not much older than newborns. I definitely wouldn't mind avoiding the first three months in the future, although I think I would like the chance to parent a newborn once. Domestic is entirely feasible and much quicker than most people think, but there are things inherent to both processes that can be more or less difficult depending on your own personality. And it's true that the more open you are to different ethnicities or a "not perfect" child, the easier it is to get a match, but it's also true that if you hold out for your "perfect" child you should be able to get matched as well.

Thanks for the question, hope you get some good answers.

EDD 6/19/05

12-31-2004, 01:46 PM
I think in the end most people adopt where their child is. A silly statement I know but no matter what type of adoption someone does, there are pros and cons and myths and realities. There are probably as many different reasons why someone picks a country or type of adoption as there are people who adopt.

I love the fact that you for example are willing to ask a question (and put yourself out on a limb so to speak by saying okay I'm trying to figure this out because there are so many people that are so narrow minded they just help the myths grow (what I mean is those who aren't adopting and have no plans to and who aren't willing to ask questions) continue to add to the misinformation (for example someone who says to a person who adopts domestically well I guess your child's birthmother has a drug problem or asks why a person who adopts international didn't adopt domestically because there are more needy children here (as if it matters where a child is born a child in need of parents is a child in need of parents). In other words people without a clue in the world or a sensitive bone in their body but who think they know it all, only add to the misinformation. Which makes it harder for those who really want to know things to find out stuff because you have to wade through all the myths going on.

There are probably a thousand ways that things could be changed so more people would consider adoptions BUT it's still a leap of faith and a pretty huge one at that. Of course many things in life are a leap of faith (even getting pregnant or getting married) it's just that some things are so much a fabric of our life that they seem like less of a leap. You have to be ready to take the leap and if you aren't as much as you might say well I would adopt if x, y or z was different, sometimes that's not really wants standing in the way.

In many ways the biggest leap of faith is adopting an older child in the USA for the simple reason that because of the way our social services system works and the effort to keep "families" together for an older child to be cleared for adoption in the USA, something in their life pretty much had to suck big time and that child has to be able to take a leap of faith also which is harder for a child to do. But again there are plenty of children who are able to make that leap but of course more often then not we only hear about the ones who aren't. Just as we hear about potential birth mothers who decide to parent or children with attachment disorders. We rarely hear about the majority of things that go right.

In the end adoption is about love and parenting not just getting a child out of a less than ideal situation. You are commiting to someone for a lifetime come good or bad and while unfortunately some adoptions are disrupted (not sure that's the right word or not), most adoptions "work". So while more people might adopt if they were willing to educate themselves to get past the myths, sometimes I think that those who are ready to adopt are the ones who make the effort to education themselves and those who really aren't ready don't make the effort. I'm not sure I'm making any sense.

In the end so many people who adopt will tell you that somewhere along the way even if it's not immediate they can't imagine having a different child in their life that this child or children is "THEIR's" and in the end that's why they adopted from where they did because even if they had logical reasons to begin with, somewhere in the grand scheme of things something was pulling them towards their children

12-31-2004, 11:27 PM
Thank you everyone for your insightful posts. I have come to expect that when I post here.

FYI - here is the type of story, I think, that can lead to stereotyping. This seems to be the only kind of thing that hits the press re: domestic adoption.


01-01-2005, 11:36 PM
The key point to this article and the many mentions of the case on TV is that the boy was never legally adopted.....it was more like a foster-to-adopt. An example using our own adoption was that our son was born on a Wednesday, his birthmother signed papers letting us take him home on Friday, but she never legally signed over her rights until Monday (paperwork can't be done on a weekend, otherwise termination of rights can occur 72 hours after birth). If she had called her social worker on Sunday, we would have had no choice but to return him to her care. It's called "legal risk" - you're caring for the child, but understand that all parental rights have not been terminated. Until termination of rights occurred, we were foster parents. In Illinois, a biological father has up to 30 days after the birth to register as a putative father, meaning that it can take up to 30 days to terminate all paternal rights if the father is unknown or is unwilling to claim the child is his. Ever since the "Baby Richard" case, adoption laws in Illinois have become very straightforward and streamlined, making it one of the best states for adoptive parents. (Confused yet? :) ) Sadly, it does seem that the media doesn't give all of the story and just scares people away from considering domestic adoption (and, of course, making "all-knowers" of people who have zero contact with adoption but saw the story on TV).
~Connor's Mom~