Adoptions can be divided into three main categories: domestic adoption from foster care, domestic infant adoption or international adoption.
Currently, approximately 127,000 children and youth are in US foster care awaiting adoption into a permanent family. Because their birth family was unable to provide a safe home for them, their rights were terminated, leaving these kids as legal orphans. They are currently in the custody of the state, and case workers are consistently recruiting new adoptive families
These kids tend to be older, have siblings in care and are ethnic minorities. In addition, many struggle with emotional, mental or physical challenges. Adoption from foster care should be completed through a licensed agency and generally costs less than $500 (if anything at all).
In a domestic infant adoption, a birth mother makes an intentional adoption plan for the baby. Often this involves working directly with a licensed placing agency that will facilitate the adoption between the birth mother and the adoptive parents. Agencies licensed to do this often have many potential adoptive families, and the birth mother frequently has some level of input on who the adoptive family should be.
Domestic infant adoption can be relatively expensive, and it can involve a lengthy waiting period, particularly for families that are very specific about the child they're waiting for. However, for families only considering infant adoption, this tends to be the best option. Families should research the agency they desire to work with to be sure it is reputable.
International adoptions involve adopting children from another country. Not all countries are open to adoption by US citizens, and not all agencies are licensed to facilitate adoptions from all countries. Because it involves two federal governments, families must meet the adoption requirements for each country.
Before starting down this path, take the time to research agencies and ask question in order to identify those agencies best qualified and experienced to complete the adoption. International adoption is also typically expensive, and the wait can be lengthy. It's also important to understand that a country reserves the right to deny an adoption or close adoption proceedings abruptly if they deem it necessary or appropriate regardless of the number of families currently in the process.
One thing to consider when looking into adoption is open versus closed. In a closed adoption, the birth and adoptive families have no contact with one another and don't even know each other's identities. Levels of open adoption can range from contact only before and at the birth of the baby, letters and pictures sent through the agency or other third party, or ongoing direct contact between the birth and adoptive families.
It's always important to evaluate the needs of the child when determining how open an adoption should be. In some situations, it may not be healthy for a child to maintain contact with birth family if, for example, they will be a negative influence on the child or will not respect the rights of the adoptive parents.
A new option available to parents, and one that is especially attractive to infertile couples, is "embryo adoption." Couples who are attempting pregnancy by in vitro fertilization often create more zygotes than are used, which are subsequently frozen for storage. The genetic parents may choose to place these zygotes for "adoption," making them available to another couple for pregnancy through an embryo adoption agency. They are then implanted via in vitro fertilization into the adoptive mother, making her also the legal birth mother — able to experience pregnancy, childbirth and nursing.