Domestic Adoption

Domestic Adoption Overview

A Definition

Adopting domestically from the USA can be done independently with an adoption attorney, through a private adoption agency, or through the public foster care system. Independent or private adoptions are least restrictive for birthparents and for adoptive parents, but the associated costs are generally much higher than the free or minimal-fee foster care adoptions. Foster care adoptions occur when children are placed in a foster home from parental abuse, neglect or abandonment, and then become available for adoption when parental rights are terminated. Foster parents may then be able to legally adopt the child or children they have been caring for, which prevents further emotional disruption.

The Process: Open Adoption

In most U.S. adoption Prospective adoptive parents must write a “Dear Birthmother” letter and must organize a personal portfolio about themselves, and what they have to offer to a child. The portfolio is then submitted to pregnant birthmothers, who make choices based on the information from hopeful adoptive parents. This is the foundational first step in a private adoption; depending on the degree of openness involved, an interview will follow and if a match occurs, plans will be made for the birth, relinquishment and continued birth parent involvement. An open adoption can operate on a wide spectrum, from one letter a year to the birthparents from the adoptive family, to shared adoptive / birth family vacations!

The Myths of Open Adoption

The myths of open adoption are often founded on fear-based stereotypes, rather than on real-life experiences. Most birthparents are not over-involved with the adoptive families; they have made a careful choice to place their child and are not driven to become intrusive or to “steal” their child back. An open adoption plan helps all members of the triad (birthparent, adoptive parent, adoptee) by offering understanding and lessening miscommunication, and by helping the child feel loved by all of the adults in his or her life.

Private Adoption

Foster Care*

Estimated Cost:
$10,000 to $40,000
How much does it cost to adopt?
Most adoptions from foster care are free (some minimal fees depending on the agency you use – often reimbursable).
Profile of Children:
Usually newborns, often taken home from the hospital.
Number of children adopted with Public Agency involvement has averaged 51,000/year 2000-2005. Median age 5.6 years.
Parent Ages:
No legal restrictions in most states, but most birth families select the family for their child, so parents who are younger than 25 or older than 45 may wait longer to be selected.
Currently, there are approximately 534,000 children in foster care in the United States. It’s estimated that 126,000 are eligible for adoption.
Family Status:
No regulation, but birthparents may be looking for a couple rather than a single parent, and a family with few or no other children.
Family Structure (2005):
Married Couple: 68%, 34,898
Unmarried Couple: 2%, 797
Single Female: 27%, 13,822
Single Male: 3%, 1,483
The adoptive family must satisfy the laws of the state where the baby is born before they can bring the child to a different state. May take just a day or several weeks.
Prospective foster/adoptive parents may be** single or married and must:

  • be at least 21 years of age, financially stable, and responsible mature adults
  • share information regarding background and lifestyle
  • agree to a home study which includes visits with all household members
A baby cannot be legally relinquished before it is born. Most experts advise prospective parents to be cautious in making an emotional commitment to a potential birthmother too early in her pregnancy.
How long does it take to adopt a child?
It usually takes about 12 months from the time a family first calls an adoption agency to the time when a child is placed with the family. Adoptions are usually finalized in court about 6 months after the child is placed with the family. These estimates can vary depending on where you live and your individual circumstances.

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families,Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau,
**Requirements vary from state to state but most adults can qualify to adopt.

Join one of these Online communities

Consult these websites for more information

Child Welfare Gateway
Resources on all aspects of domestic and inter-country adoption, including adoption from foster care. Includes information for prospective and adoptive parents; information about searching for birth relatives; and resources for professionals on recruiting adoptive families, preparing children and youth, supporting birth parents, and providing post-adoption services.
On Adoption

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

The National Foster Parent Association
The only national organization which strives to support foster parents, and remains a consistently strong voice on behalf of all children.

Fostering Families Magazine
Bimonthly foster care and adoption resource.