Adoption wars: Domestic vs. International

Dawn Davenport


Adoption wars: Domestic vs. International

Adoption wars: Domestic vs. International

I get the question a lot about which form of adoption is best: international adoption or domestic.  International and domestic adoption appeal to different people for different reasons.  Neither is inherently better than the other, although one or the other may be better for you.  I hate the competition that sometimes surfaces between proponents of either domestic or international adoption, with each side attempting to scare prospective families away from the other choice.  Anytime a family finds a child and a child finds a family, regardless if that child is from Beijing or Boston, the world is a better place.

Private domestic adoption, domestic foster care adoption, and international adoption are completely different systems with different rules and requirements.  Each system appeals to different people and each system has different requirements that may exclude some potential parents.  For example, older parents or single parents are usually not chosen as readily by birth mothers/first mothers so they might opt for either foster care or international adoption.  Some families might not be able to handle the uncertainties of the foster-to-adopt program, while others might view this as the safest way to see if an older child fits well into the family.

In my experience, most people will instinctively feel more comfortable with one type of adoption depending on their priorities.
• The top priority for parents who are drawn to domestic private adoption is getting a child as young as possible with as much health information as possible.
• The top priority for parents who are drawn to the public foster care system is providing a home for a child who really needs them and the low cost.
• The top priorities for parents who are drawn to international adoption are the predictability of knowing that they will get a baby or toddler within a set period of time and a discomfort with the domestic adoption process (for example, the amount of time a birth parent has to revoke their consent to adopt or open adoption post placement).

But, here’s the real point of this post, we should support each other’s choices.  What works for you might not work for me.  The type of adoption that seems easy to you might not be easy for me.  The type of adoption that embraces you might reject me.  Somewhere out there, your child is waiting.   Try to be open to all possibilities.

Image credit: Mark H. Anbinder

06/05/2008 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 7 Comments

7 Responses to Adoption wars: Domestic vs. International

  1. Avatar Nicole says:

    Hello Dawn,

    I am a single woman in the beginning stages of thinking about adoption (though more like research as I’m sure it’s something I want to do) and your book is the first one I’ve read – so I wanted to stop by and say thank you so much for providing it – it’s been extremely helpful. (Especially all those charts and lists!)

    I was also excited to find you have a website with up-to-date changes in the requirements of countries. (Though sad to find out my top two are not exactly in my realm of possibility at the moment. Ukraine and Guatemala)

    Anyway – I’m giving myself at least three years, probably four, to soak up knowledge, to save money, and to establish a well-documented support system that tells any country I will be a fine mother to one of their children.

    That was long-winded, sorry – but I wanted to say thank you for taking the time to inform. I’ve learned so much the past couple of days as I read your book.

  2. Avatar Stacey Love says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks.

  3. Avatar Edie Gross says:

    One size doesn’t fit all. If only it did, life would be easier, but less interesting.

  4. Avatar Sam says:

    I really wanted to comment on the first person who commented. I think Dawn has addressed it already but it is still rattling in my brain. Adoption is forever. It is not just as long as things are sweet and pretty. While I do not like the choice of words, yes, you are “stuck” with the child that you adopt. Remember that if you opt to adopt a child this is your “own child” and not just a child that you are raising. If you give birth and it turns out that your child has behavioral, medical, or mental problems would you just give the child away? My guess is no. So why is that acceptable for an adopted child? You would need to seek the services to assist that child and not just give up on the child. I know that adoption disrupt occassionally and I will not judge those people but I want to encourage people who are just getting into the process to fully commit to doing whatever it takes for the child they are inviting into their lives. As an adult adoptee I am so glad that my parents never considered giving me back when things got tough. And as an adoptive mom I can not imagine giving up on my daughter. There are no promises with adoption, just like there are no promises with giving birth. You take what you get and you make it work however you can. If you can not make that committment then maybe adoption is not the right option for you.

  5. Avatar Dawn says:

    Congratulations on taking the beginning steps. Thanks for the compliments on the book and I’m glad it’s been useful. I too am sad about Ukraine and Guatemala, but I’m hopeful that both will be possibilities when you are ready. Good luck!


  6. Avatar Dawn says:

    I understand your confusion. When you’re at the very beginning it can all seem so complicated. You might want to listen to a couple of the “Creating a Family” shows that were aimed at folks just beginning the process. Check out the following shows: March 19, Nov. 21, Nov. 7, Oct. 12, Oct. 10. (click on radio bar at the top of this page).

    I don’t think your marketplace analogy is the best way to look at adoption because we are talking about children not commodities. While it is true that prospective adoptive parents can, and in my opinion should, consider the type of child they think would be fit in their family, as well as the type of adoption process they are most comfortable with, the cost, etc., in the end there are no guarantees because children can’t be categorized and slotted so easily.

    Cost differences exist based on a number of factors including the country from which you adopt (and I include the US as one of those countries) and special needs of the child which make it harder for an agency to find a family to parent this child.

    I understand you concern about the mental health of the child you adopt. I think many people share this concern. Parenting is a risk regardless on how that child joins your family, and adoption often increases that risk due to prenatal and postnatal environmental conditions, nutrition, genetics, etc. There are no guarantees and you’re right, that is scary, but there are things you can do to decrease the risk of adopting a child with significant health issues, including mental health issues. I talk about these extensively in two chapters of my book (Chapter 2 and Chapter 8). The same basic information applies to domestic adoption. Most libraries have a copy of the book, or you can buy from my home page.

    As the saying goes: adoption is for life. Once you adopt, this is your child, and the same laws apply as if this child had been born into your family. If adopting from the US foster care system, it is possible to have the child live with you for a while before the adoption is final. This is not possible with international adoptions, although some groups sponsor a summer hosting program where older children come to the US to stay with you for a specified period of time and then go back to their home country. You can then decide if they are a good fit for your family.

  7. Avatar Mona says:

    Forgive me. I’m just at the beginning stages of considering adoption.

    From what you have said, adoption is a market place with options at the discretion of the “shopper” – if you will. Not unlike selecting a car. Some look for economy and are comfortable with a pre-owned. Others are very style conscious and price is not object, while others might seek safety features. It’s all just a question of knowing what you want. there’s a smörgåsbord of choices, is that right?

    I have also been told that prices vary depending on ethnicity, age and health. Is that accurate to say?

    My biggest concern is this: what if it doesn’t work out? I have heard some horror stories of internationally adopted chidlren who suffer from a failure to attach and adjust? What does one do in such in a case. When are the adoptions “final” and does “final” mean you are – forgive me – “stuck” with a child who might be destructive…or just not be a “good fit”?

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