Domestic vs. International Adoption
What is domestic adoption?
Domestic adoption is the process through which a couple or individual legally becomes the parent(s) of a child within their own country. There are a few different ways this can happen — including adoption through foster care and kinship adoption, but because those are less “planned,” this article will mainly refer to domestic infant adoptions.
There are two types of domestic adoption: open adoption and closed adoption. In a closed adoption, the records of the biological family are kept sealed, the adopting family usually knows little about them, and no direct contact is maintained. In an open adoption, which is becoming increasingly common in the United States, the biological parents are directly involved in choosing who to place their child with and keeping in contact afterward.
What is international adoption?
International adoption, also referred to as intercountry adoption, is the process through which a couple or individual legally becomes the parent(s) of a child from another nation and brings them back to their country to live with them.
International children awaiting adoption are often in foster care, orphanages, or group homes and were commonly abandoned or orphaned. Most countries will have first tried to adopt them locally before opening their file for international adoption.
Pros Of Domestic Adoption
1. Requirements aren’t as strict as in international adoption
Depending on the country, there may be limitations on the adopting parents’ age, the age difference between them and the child they’re seeking to adopt, how many children are already in the home, marital status and previous history of divorce, and the family’s annual income. Many countries don’t allow LGBTQ parents to adopt and some countries are still not open to domestic partners or single parents adopting.
With domestic infant adoptions, the birth parents choose who they think will be the best fit for their baby and are less likely to have cultural biases against single parents, younger/older parents, and LGBTQ parents.
2. More complete medical history available
With international adoption, many of the children have been orphaned or abandoned, so little is known about their birth family’s medical history. The resources and medical care available to assess a child’s medical issues might also not be up to par.
When adopting a baby domestically, you are often matched with the expecting mother during her pregnancy. You should receive doctor appointment updates and might even be able to attend appointments with the mother if she is willing. Some adoptive parents are also invited to be in the delivery room when the baby is born, which is really special.
Adopting domestically makes open adoptions possible and communication with biological family easier, so you can gain ongoing medical information about the first parents and their families as things develop with your child.
3. Greater ability to maintain relationships with biological family
A lot of adoptees struggle with identity issues, wondering about their birth parents and the reason for their adoption. They want to know they were loved and wanted, understand why they were given up for adoption, and know more about what characteristics they get from their biological family.
With open adoptions children can have a relationship with their biological family and more information about their past. Relationships might be disappointing or painful, but at least they have greater access to answers about their life story. And often those relationships are very fulfilling and rewarding.
4. More likely to be able to adopt a baby
If your preference is to adopt an infant, you are probably better off trying to adopt domestically. Most international adoptions are of children who are a bit older because their country tries to adopt them locally first. Infants are rarely available, but if you are willing to adopt a child with special needs there are some older babies and toddlers awaiting adoption.
Cons Of Domestic Adoption
1. Worry about “failed adoptions” and adoption scams
In international adoption, children have generally been orphaned or abandoned, so biological parents aren’t really in the picture. But with domestic infant adoptions, birth mothers are given a set amount of time to change their mind about their adoption plan and decide to keep their baby to parent themselves. While this decision should be celebrated, it can still be heartbreaking to start loving a baby and imagining forever, only to have that disrupted.
Unfortunately, adoption scams also exist and expecting mothers, or woman who have completely fabricated a pregnancy, may have promised their baby to multiple parents. These parents unknowingly are all helping the woman with “living expenses,” until the scam is realized. Again, there is a painful sense of loss when hopeful parents have something like this happen.
2. Having to wait to be chosen
With international adoption, prospective parents are presented with the files of the children to consider. But in domestic infant adoptions, prospective parents create a profile to share with expecting mothers who then choose who they want to adopt their baby. While Americans tend to be more forward thinking and accepting of “less traditional” situations, some parents still feel their chances of being chosen are lower than others.
3. Having to promote yourself and your desire to adopt
Putting together and promoting your family’s profile and desire to adopt can feel like your entire story is out there for anyone to view and judge. Some people might feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable with knowing how to go about this.
4. Less predictable travel
Traveling domestically is certainly cheaper than having to travel internationally for weeks at a time, but there is less predictability if adopting a newborn because you often don’t know exactly when the baby is coming. You might not have to travel very far at all, or you might be adopting a baby from another state or even the other side of the country. Either way, you’ll need flexibility to leave on short notice.
No matter what kind of adoption you decide to pursue, there will be challenges, not only logistically but mentally and emotionally, because adoption is rooted in loss. However, adoption can also be incredibly beautiful and rewarding. It can provide a loving home and stable situation for children who might not have otherwise had one, and bless parents longing for children with their own to love and care for.
Though bittersweet, some of the bitter can be removed by educating yourself, doing your research, talking to adoptive parents and adoptees, and being fully prepared with realistic expectations. The more you understand about adoption, the more you can empathize with what birth parents and families might be feeling, as well as your adopted child, and sensitively navigate difficult situations.
This article was written exclusively for Love What Matters by Elizabeth Grow. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.
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