Deciding to adopt is often one of the most exciting moments in a couple's or individual's life. But once the excitement wears off, you come face-to-face with the reality of just how complicated the adoption process can be. Every state handles adoption differently and determining how to proceed with your adoption can be frustratingly opaque.
To that end, it's helpful to know about the different types of adoption (private, domestic, international, etc.) and what the various adoption processes involve. The more you know, the easier it will be to make a choice that fits your needs and enables you to have a wonderful adoption experience.
Open Versus Closed Adoption
Before we move into some of the more common types of adoption, it's essential to understand the difference between closed and open adoption.
In a closed adoption, the adoptive parents and biological parents have no relationship with one another. Typically, closed adoptions occur when a child's biological mother surrenders the child to an agency or foster home, and requests not to be involved in the child's life after surrendering the child. After this occurs, a court seals all documents about the child's biological parents, preventing them from being publicly accessible. Sometimes, the adoptive child gains the right to access these records upon turning 18.
In a semi-closed or partially closed adoption, the biological parents have limited decision making over their child's adoption. Typically, this means that the biological parents screen profiles of prospective adoptive parents before allowing any potential adoptive parents to meet with their child. These profiles contain information about the adoptive parents' beliefs, but do not contain any personally identifying information (names, addresses, etc.). The biological parents may also meet with the adoptive parents in person throughout the adoption process. However, both parties cease contact once the adoption is finalized.
Open adoption. In an open adoption, the biological parents can maintain contact with the adoptive parents, even after the adoption is finalized. Biological parents in open adoptions typically have greater decision making in the screening of prospective adoptive parents and may even be able to veto adoptive parents entirely. In some open adoptions, the biological parents play an active role in the adoptee's life post-adoption. In other open adoptions, the biological parents remain hands-off and only interact with the adoptee at the request of the child or adoptive parents.
For years, closed adoption was the most common kind of adoption. However, in recent years, semi-open and open adoptions are becoming more and more popular. Semi-open and open adoptions have several benefits, such as:
- Access to a child’s medical records. Many medical conditions are genetic. Since biological parents remain in contact with the adoptive parents in open adoptions, the adoptive parents can request medical information from them. This can be incredibly useful in caring for children.
- Allowing the child to access their heritage more easily. At some point, most adoptive children want to try and find their biological parents, or at the very least, know who their biological parents are/were. A semi-open or open adoption makes finding the biological parents easier, which can allow an adoptive child to resolve questions they may have about their heritage or why they were put up for adoption.
- Providing the child with a valuable cultural resource. Just like many children want to know about their heritage, many also want to learn more about their origin culture. This is especially prevalent in international adoptions, where the adoptee can be from a different country than their adoptive parents. If the adoptive child has access to their parents, their parents can tell them about their culture, or introduce them to a cultural heritage group.
Ultimately, whether you want to choose a closed or open adoption is a choice only you can make. But understanding the benefits of an open adoption can help you make a choice that safeguards the best interests of your future adoptive child.
Private, Domestic, and International Adoption—the "Big Three"
There are three overwhelmingly popular types of adoption: private domestic adoption, domestic foster care adoption, and international adoption. Depending on the relationship you wish to have with your adoptee, and how you want to approach the adoption process, one of these options will probably suit your needs more than the others.
In a domestic foster care adoption, you work with your state's foster care system and adopt a child from within that system. This means you might adopt a child whose biological parents voluntarily surrendered them, or a child who was removed from their biological parents by the court (as a result of circumstances or actions such as abuse, violence, neglect, etc.).
Foster care adoption is a multi-step process. Typically, it begins by meeting with the staff of a foster care home in your area and completing various mandatory evaluations to establish your fitness as an adoptive parent.
If you complete the evaluations successfully and move on with the adoption process, you will go through training. In Texas, prospective adoptive parents must complete a 35-hour competency-based training program called Parent Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE) administered by Child Protective Services (CPS) to continue with the adoption.
In addition to the training, adoption professionals will come to your house and evaluate your home, known as a home study. Throughout this process, you will be matched with a prospective adoptee. Once all steps are completed successfully, you can work with an attorney to finalize the adoption.
In most foster care adoptions, the adoptee is either a toddler, young child, or a pre-teen or teenager. Very few infants are part of foster care adoptions, so if you want to adopt a baby, you should look towards private adoption instead. It's also important to recognize that many foster care adoptees have experienced some sort of familial trauma in their lives which will require extra patience and heart.
In a private domestic adoption, you work with an adoption agency to adopt a child. Most private domestic adoptions are open adoptions in which the agency matches the adoptive parent with a biological parent. Many private adoptions are also infant adoptions, in which a biological parent gives up a child as soon as they are born.
The steps for completing a private domestic adoption are typically the same as those for completing a foster care adoption. However, instead of working with state adoption or foster care professionals, you work with professionals from an adoption agency in most private adoptions.
A private domestic adoption may be the right choice for you if you want to adopt an infant or have more control over the adoption process.
In an international adoption, you'll work with an adoption agency and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to conduct the adoption. The USCIS conducts various evaluations, such as a background check, home study, and citizenship test, to ensure that you're eligible for adoption. Once they verify your eligibility, you’ll work with an international adoption agency to match with and adopt a child.
It's important to keep in mind that different countries have different adoption requirements. For example, some countries prohibit same-sex couples’ adoption. It's imperative to understand the restrictions of various countries before pursuing an international adoption.
Due to the logistics involved (flights to visit with the child, visas, the difficulty of obtaining medical records, etc.), international adoptions are more complicated and drawn-out than any other type of adoption. They're also more expensive.
Like foster care adoptions, it's important to keep in mind that many international adoptees suffer from trauma. It's also crucial to evaluate how your adoptee's culture might affect your parenting, especially if you're adopting an older child. However, international adoption might be a great choice if you want to adopt a child from a different culture or someone in need of a home.
We hope that this blog has helped you decide how to pursue your adoption. At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we have over 110 years of combined experience helping Texas families navigate the adoption process.
To learn more or arrange a consultation with our firm, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.