Quick Comparison of Adoption Types

Adoption Comparison Chart; Comparing the three major types of adoption: international adoption, domestic infant adoption, and foster care adoption.

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Listen to this updated CreatingaFamily.org podcast, How to Adopt in 2023, for more detailed information about your options.

International Adoption Private Domestic Adoption Foster Care Adoption Embryo Donation*
Age of Child Youngest is usually 18 to 24 months old, but most are over the age of 5. Primarily newborns. Majority are 6+ years old; some younger children available for adoption, but often in sibling groups. Usually, if the child is not able to go home to their biological parents, the foster parents who they are living with are given first choice on adoption. A donated frozen embryo is transferred into the uterus of the intended mother and if it implants, she will become pregnant and carry to birth.
Current Health Information on Child Varies by country, but all countries give a current assessment on health and some are quite extensive. Complete Complete Limited health info is available on the embryo unless it was genetically tested. If tested, that info is available.
Prenatal Care and Habits of Birth Mother Prenatal care varies greatly by country; if child is relinquished rather than abandoned, birth mothers are usually asked about prenatal care and habits, but the information is not usually extensive. Prenatal care varies; birth mothers are asked about prenatal care and habits, but completeness of information depends upon her forthrightness. Varies greatly Since the intended mom is the one who is pregnant, she is in control of her care and habits.
Birth Family Medical History Very little with most countries. Usually detailed questionnaires are asked of expectant mother and father (if known). Completeness of information depends on their knowledge. Varies Some medical history on the donating parents will be known and shared with the receiving parents. More information may be available later if the donation is not anonymous.
Select Gender and Age? Usually yes, although adoption agencies may prohibit gender selection with first child. Usually shorter wait for boys. Usually no Yes, but few infants or toddlers are available that are not part of sibling group. If genetic testing was done on the embryos prior to being frozen it might be possible to know the gender. Age is not applicable.
Paperwork Lots In addition to the home study and agency/attorney paperwork, adoptive parents usually prepare a profile of themselves to be given to expectant parents. Minimal by comparison, although families must attend a 30-35 hour educational preparatory course. There are two general ways to find donated embryos: from an infertility clinic and from an adoption agency. The paperwork required is fairly minimal at infertility clinics. The paperwork required by adoption agencies is similar to private domestic adoption. Some legal paperwork is required for either method.
Possibility of Birth Parent Changing Mind In most countries there is little possibility by the time the child is referred. Varies by state. No state allows an expectant mom to fully relinquish her parental rights until after birth. States require that birth parent must wait from 1 to 15 days after birth to consent to the adoption.  States allow 0 to 180 days for birth parent to revoke their consent.  After that time period there is little risk. The goal of the foster system is family reunification when possible. When this is not in the best interest of the child, the state seeks to terminate parental rights.  Parents can contest the termination. There are children available whose parental rights have already been terminated. Legal paperwork establishing parental rights in the intended parents will have been completed before the embryo transfer.
Waiting Time Until Child Is Home 12 – 36 months depending on country and gender; time is usually predictable. A few countries, such as the China traditional adoption program, have significantly longer waits. Varies greatly depending on how appealing your biography is to expectant women; how much you can afford to spend on advertising and applying to different agencies/attorneys; and health, race and risk factors of the child you are willing to consider. Varies greatly depending on flexibility of parents, and the backlog of the caseworker.  You can have the child in your home while adoption is being finalized. Varies greatly depending on how many donated embryos the clinic or agency has, and how many families are looking for embryos. Many fertility clinics will only allow current patients access to their embryo donation program. Also depends on how open the receiving family is to issues, such as hair color, ethnicity, willingness to share some identifying information, the grade of the embryo, etc.
About 36% of embryo donation transfers resulted in a live birth. Pregnancy success rate after transfer depends mostly on the age of the woman whose egg was used to create the embryo. A significant number of donated embryos were created from donor eggs where the woman was usually in her 20s.
Openness/Contact After Adoption Usually not, although may be possible in some countries. Yes, with trend towards increased openness after adoption. Varies; often contact with birth siblings or extended family members is requested. Contact with the people who donated the embryo, or ability to contact them at some point in the future, is usually not possible when using a fertility clinic. It usually is possible if both parties agree when using an adoption agency.
Age of Parents 25 – 60; varies by country.  See the Adoption Comparison Charts for information on specific countries. Most states have no legal restrictions; agencies often have age requirements, while attorneys often do not. Even where agency or attorney have no requirement, parents over 40 or younger than 25 are selected less often by expectant parents considering adoption. No restrictions depending on what is in the best interest of the child. Most clinics have an upper age limit for the woman, but it is often in the 50s. Age limit for adoption agencies varies. A woman will likely need a statement from her doctor that she is healthy enough to withstand a pregnancy.
Marital Status Depends on the country. See the Adoption Comparison Charts for information on specific countries. Most states have no legal restrictions, but single applicants are selected less often by expectant parents considering adoption. No restrictions depending on needs of the child. Most clinics do not prohibit singles from receiving donated embryos. Agencies may have a marriage requirement, but most allow the donating couple to decide.
Sexual Orientation Depends on the country. See the Adoption Comparison Charts for information on specific countries. The laws vary by state. Some adoption agencies have a policy against it. Unless state law or agency policy prohibits, it is up to the expectant parents to choose. More information on our  LGBTQ Adoption page. The laws vary by state. Unless state law prohibit, the decision is suppose to be made on what is in the best interest of the child. More information on our LGBTQ Adoption page. Most clinics do not prohibit gay couples or singles from receiving donated embryos. Many agencies with embryo adoption programs have a religious orientation and do not allow, while some allow the donating couple to decide.
Travel Yes, for varying lengths of time.  See the Adoption Comparison Charts for information on specific countries. Yes, if child is born in another state. The adoption must be processed through the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children, which may require adoptive parents to spend up to a week in the state of birth, usually with the child in their care. Listen to the Creating a Family podcast on Adopting a Child from Another State for more information. Only if adopting a child in another state. (Listen to Adopting a Child from Another State for more information.) May be required. Some clinic will not transfer embryos created and frozen at another clinic, so travel may be required to the clinic where the embryos are frozen or created or stored. The National Embryo Donation Center requires the transfer to be done at their clinic in Tennessee.
Cost $25,000 – $60,000 (average $30,000 – $35,000) $15,000 – $60,000 (average $35,000 – $43,000) Minimal. Monthly adoption subsidies often available even after the adoption is complete. Listen to Foster Care Subsidies for more information. Varies depending on the services provided and travel requirements. $5,000 to $18,000
Predictability of Cost Fairly predictable Can vary greatly, but more predictable with agency adoption where adoptive parents are not responsible for birth mother medical costs or living expenses. Predictable Predictable for the transfer, but only about 35-40% of transfers result in a live birth; therefore, more than one attempt may be required.

*Embryo Donation is not a type of adoption, and thus does not fit perfectly within the parameters of this chart. Embryo donation does, however, share some similarities because it involves non-genetic parenting, and for that reason is sometimes called “Embryo Adoption” by adoption agencies that use the adoption model to facilitate transfer from the parents who created the embryos to the intended parents. It is an option that families considering adoption are increasingly considering; therefore, is included in this chart.

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Image credit: sean dreilinger