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Choosing Between Domestic and International Adoption

After resolving to adopt a child, one of the first major decisions to make is whether to pursue domestic or international adoption. Each process is different and each comes with different legal concerns. Before you choose a path, you’ll have to answer some questions about how you envision your family, what your budget looks like, and how quickly you’re hoping to adopt.

Do you want to adopt a newborn or are you open to adopting an older infant or child?

With domestic adoption, families can adopt a newborn—sometimes closely coordinating with the birth mother during her pregnancy and even witnessing the baby’s arrival. That’s because stateside, birth mothers typically select the adoptive family from an agency profile. As soon as the baby is able to leave the hospital, he or she can come home with the adoptive family.

With international adoption, approved families are wait-listed until an eligible child, usually an older infant or toddler, is available to adopt. Typically, prospective parents can then review the child’s records and choose to move forward with the adoption or not. Children have very likely lived in group care for months or even years, but depending on the country and agency, you may be able to learn about their personality, likes, and dislikes before you meet in person.

What’s your time frame?

Once families choose to adopt, they are often eager to welcome a child home. Domestic and international adoptions both come unpredictable timelines, however—just in different ways. Domestically, because the birth mother chooses a family, adoptions can take fewer than 12 months, depending on how compelling the adoptive family’s profile is and how far along the birth mother’s pregnancy is. Families can, however, face disappointment if the birth mother chooses not to move forward with adoption.

Internationally, the timeline tends to follow a more predictable schedule after meeting the requirements of the child’s home country. If you choose to adopt from one of the many countries signed on to the Hague Adoption Convention, you’ll go through the Hague Process with oversight from the U.S. Department of State. Those who are open to adopting children with special needs or older children can sometimes speed up the process. However, international politics can sometimes disrupt plans. A country may abruptly end adoptions to the U.S., leaving families in limbo. Also, because international adoptions are subject to the rules of foreign countries, same-sex couples or individuals may unfortunately be unable to adopt from certain countries.

What’s your budget?

Domestic and international adoptions typically cost about the same amount (anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000), though the costs are distributed differently. Keep in mind that with international adoptions, you will not have any of the birth mother’s medical expenses involved though you will have international travel costs and immigration expenses.

Do you want to know your child’s birth family?

Domestically, most adoptions are open or semi-open, meaning that the adoptive family keeps in touch with the birth family (or updates the agency, which then passes on information to the birth parents). This can create a meaningful bond for the child, as well as reassure the birth parents that adoption was the right choice. Openness also means that adoptive families typically have a good sense of their child’s family medical history.

Internationally, it’s rare to know anything about the child’s family. Some families prefer this. Either way, once an adoption is finalized, the child’s birth parents do not have any legal rights whether the adoption is open or not.

Choosing adoption

Whether you choose domestic or international adoption, it’s important to work with professionals you trust. From a legal standpoint, you’ll want to protect your interests and parental rights. For international adoptions, you’ll have additional immigration issues to consider—like obtaining a travel visa and American citizenship for your child.

If you’d like to talk through your options, contact the Atlanta adoption attorneys at Bivek Brubaker & Prescott LLC to schedule a consultation. Call us at 404-793-6530 or at 866-527-2630 to make an appointment.

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