Adoption Frequently Asked Questions

Adoption FAQs

Adoption FAQs


Q: What types of adoption are available, and how do we know what is the best type for us.
A: You have three basic options for adoption in the US: domestic infant adoption, foster care adoption, and international adoption. There is no one perfect fit for everyone, but usually people are drawn to one type over another because of the type/age of child that is available or the adoption process. A good place to get a feel for which option will be right for you in our Quick Comparison Chart for Adoption Types. This one-hour audio (Adoption Options: What Type of Adoption is Best for You?) goes into the factors mentioned in this chart in detail.
Q: What is the difference between using an adoption agency, an adoption attorney or an adoption facilitator to adopt a baby in the US?
A: Each state has different laws on who can help you adopt. In most states you can use either an adoption agency or an adoption attorney. Often agencies and attorneys differ on the services they provide, such as education for pre-adoptive parents, counseling both pre and post birth for the expectant woman/first mom, and post adoption services to the family and child. They may also differ on cost and waiting time and restrictions on who they will work with. (Average costs for adoptions through an adoption agency and adoption attorney.)

A facilitator is a person (or business) that finds expectant woman who may want to place their child for adoption. They seldom provide any other pre or post adoption services and are not legal in all states. If you go the attorney route, I strongly recommend that you use an attorney that specializes in adoption. To find one, check out these Creating a Family resources on adoption attorneys. If you go the adoption agency route, you can use our 3 step process for choosing an adoption agency. With international adoption you will need to use an adoption agency with a program in the country you are considering. With foster care adoption you will need to work with either your county child welfare agency/foster care agency or a private adoption agency with a contract with your state to find adoptive families for children in foster care.

Q: Should I use a for-profit adoption agency or a nonprofit adoption agency?
A: The truth is that there may not be a huge difference between for profit and nonprofit adoption agencies. The most important part is to evaluate each agency on its own merits. Creating a Family provides a 3 step process for choosing an adoption agency. The best agencies look more like a child welfare agency rather than a child finding agency.
Q: We are interested in adopting from foster care, but haven’t a clue where to begin.
A: Foster care adoption is a great way to build your family. You can adopt one of the 102,000 children whose parental rights have already been terminated and are waiting for a family, or you can adopt through the foster to adopt program in your county. You can work directly with the county child welfare/foster care agency or with a private agency that has a contract with your state to find adoptive families for foster children. Listen to a few of these one-hour audios below to explain these options in detail.

Q: We would like to do a domestic adoption, but don’t want anything to do with an open adoption.
A: Most infant adoptions in the US now have some degree of openness between the adoptive parents and the birth parents. In our experience many adoptive parents are fearful about open adoption, but in truth know very little about what is meant by openness. It is possible to adopt with very limited communication between the birth and adoptive families using the adoption attorney or agency as a go-between, but your wait for a child will likely be longer. Before you decide that this is what you want, we strongly encourage you to become educated on what we mean by open adoption and why it is good for kids and for adoptive and birth families.

Q: How would I find out about adopting from____________? (Fill your country of choice into the blank-- Bulgaria, Italy, Ghana.)
A: There are several ways to find basic information about adopting from a specific country. First, check the Creating a Family Adoption Country Charts for the top countries that send children for international adoption in the United States. We include information on the 25 factors we think parents should consider when choosing a country from which to adopt. If you want adoption information on a country that we don’t have a chart on (places few children to the US), the first place to look for information on the process and advisability of adopting is the US State Department web page on country specific adoption information. This is by far the most reliable and complete source of basic information. Pay particular attention to the section on the number of adoption to the US. If there are very few international adoptions to the US, you need to be aware that you are stepping off the well-trod path, and you should expect a bumpy road. If you have additional questions that aren’t answered by the US State Department country specific information, you can also contact the Consular Section at the US Embassy in that country. You can find contact information at the list of US Embassies.

I am often asked about adopting from a country that is not often associated with international adoption, such as a European country. There is a logical reason that most adoptions to the US come from only a few countries—availability of children in need of homes. Most developed countries (yes, I know that there are exceptions such as China and Korea) do not have a surplus of young children in need of homes. Women in developed countries often postpone child bearing, and infertility is increasingly becoming a problem. Domestic adoptions increase with infertility. Also, the social stigma against single motherhood is crumbling everywhere. In other words, the domestic adoption situation in most developed countries is remarkably similar to the US.

Most countries have older children who have been removed from their parents and are in need of homes, but only a very few allow these children to be placed outside of their country. If you are considering older children, don’t forget that the US has plenty of foster children in need of homes.

Q: We have been presented with a potential adoption match or referral, but are concerned about some risk factors such as mental health issues in the birth family and prenatal exposure to alcohol and drugs. How do we assess the risk?
A: Adoption is for life and you need to make certain that you are the right family to parent this child. The two most common risk factors of concern for pre adoptive families when presented with a referral in international adoption or a birth mother match in domestic adoption are exposure to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy or a history of mental illness in the birth family. You need to carefully assess the risk to the child and the potential impacts (both short and long term). We have done a number of Creating a Family shows with top experts to help you assess the potential risks.

Q: I want to adopt a toddler that is ready for adoption from foster care. Unfortunately all local public agencies in my state and nearby states have either a waiting list, or no children in this age group. What other resources are available?
A: There are two basic ways to adopt from foster care. You can adopt a child who is currently available for adoption because his parents’ rights have already been terminated. There are about 102,000 children in this boat, about evenly divided between black and white, and boys and girls. Their average age is 8.6 years, but about 30% are under five, but many of these younger kids are part of a sibling group.

The second way to adopt from the foster care system is through what is often called the foster-adopt program. Different states call it different things, but it is usually a variation on that label. Most of the younger children that are adopted from foster care are placed through the foster-adopt system. In this program, you first go through the training to become a foster parent (usually a 30-35 hour training course is required). The child that is placed in your home is not legally free for adoption (meaning that the parental rights have not yet been terminated) and may not become legally free for adoption since the goal is to reunite birth families where possible, or place children with extended family. The child will be available for you to adopt only when these options are not available. Family reunification is an option for only about 50% of the kids in foster care. Some case workers have a feel for which children will become available for adoption and they try to place these kids in foster-adopt home, but there are no guarantees and many caseworkers say that they have no way or predicting which families will heal and which won’t.

Keep in mind that most states not only place foster children for adoption from the county department of social services, many also have contracts with private adoption agencies to find homes for these children. To increase your odds of finding a child, it helps to check with both public and private agencies. Also, you do not have to adopt a child from your state or region. Most agencies try to keep children in the foster-adopt program nearby because parental rights are not yet terminated, but children who are currently free for adoption can be placed across state line. You can check out some photolistings of children currently waiting for adoption at our Waiting Child section.

Q: Can I adopt if I am on anti-depressants?
A: The use of anti-depressant medication is usually not a problem for domestic infant adoption or foster care adoption unless the underlying depression is not under control or your doctor believes that your depression will interfere with your ability to parent. International adoption is a different story. Each country has different requirements on what they want in a prospective adoptive parent for children from their country. A few countries restrict parents who are currently on anti-depressants and a few specify the number of years they would like parents to be off antidepressants before adopting. Many more countries have no specific requirement at all and address the issue on a case-by-case basis depending on what your doctor says about how your depression might interfere with your ability to parent. To learn more about each country’s requirements for adoptive parents, go to the Creating a Family Adoption Charts where we analyze the top countries for international adoption for 25 factors we think adoptive parents should consider when choosing a country.
Q: Can we be trying to conceive either with or without infertility treatment at the same time as we try to adopt?
A: All adoptions in the US require a home study and you will likely be asked about your conception plans during the homestudy and if you are currently in fertility treatment. Many adoption agencies and adoption attorneys specifically require that you not be actively trying to conceive or in fertility treatment, while others simply ask that you let them know if you get pregnant before the adoption is finalized. However, even though it may be possible to adopt while actively trying to get pregnant, it is not necessarily advisable. You need to seriously consider whether it is in your adopted child’s best interest for you to try to have another child within the first year or so of adopting. It takes time to adjust to parenting, working out the work/life/childcare balance, etc. This child deserves your undivided time and attention at the beginning. If you were successful in your conception plans you could end up with two kids very close in age. Some people can pull this off, but in my opinion, it takes lots of support, help, and money. If the thought of not conceiving a biological child within the next several years is too difficult, you may want to reconsider whether you should adopt at this time. Check out this blog for a more thorough response: Having Your Cake And Eating It Too? Continuing In Infertility Treatment While Applying To Adopt.
Q: We’re on the second part of our adoption application during which they’ll be running background checks. Thirteen years ago I was arrested for drunk in public. No handcuff arrest but I got a citation and had to go to court and do a couple hours of community service. As far as I can recall these were both expunged from my record shortly after their occurrence. Will my college-age indiscretions really prevent us from becoming parents?
A: The answer is to be totally up front with the social worker that is performing the home study. You are right that it is possible for “expunged” records to come back to haunt you. I have been told that this is particularly a problem if you were fingerprinted by the police, but in this computer age with everything on computer files, I predict it could be a problem even without fingerprints. It is highly unlikely that this arrest will pose a problem for you. It was 13 years ago, did not involve violence, and I assume is not part of a pattern of recurring behavior. Before your home study, spend some time thinking about what you learned from this “indiscretion”, and make sure to present this information when you bring it up with your social worker. Also, be prepared to answer some questions from your social worker on the place of alcohol in your life now. He/she will probably want to make sure that excessive drinking is not still a problem.
Q: Is it possible to adopt if you have been successfully treated for cancer?
A: The answer to this question depends on the type of adoption and your medical prognosis. First and foremost, you need to be healthy enough to parent this child with a low prognosis of a reoccurrence. An adoption home study will be required for all types of adoption and your health will be included and your doctor will be asked to give her medical opinion. Some countries for international adoption specifically prohibit adoptive parents that have been diagnosed with cancer, even if it has been successfully treated. To learn more about each country’s requirements for adoptive parents, go to the Creating a Family Adoption Charts where we analyze the top countries for international adoption for 25 factors we think adoptive parents should consider when choosing a country. We have a Creating a Family show on Adopting or Infertility Treatment after Cancer. You can listen on your phone, tablet, iPod, or computer.
Q: We have been told of a sister of a friend of a friend that is 6 months pregnant and considering adoption. What do we need to do and can we get it done it time.
A: Friends and family are a HUGE resource in spreading the word that you are interested in adopting and helping find an expectant mother who may be considering making an adoption plan for her child. First, you will likely need someone to help you work through the legal requirements necessary to finalize the adoption. You can work with an adoption agency or an adoption attorney. Creating a Family provides 3 step process for choosing an adoption agency and resources to help you find adoption attorneys. Regardless whether you choose an adoption attorney or adoption agency, make sure that they provide counseling to this expectant woman both before and after the adoption. This is the largest decision she will probably ever make, and she deserves information on all her options and support for whatever she chooses.

You will need an adoption home study. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney can suggest whom you can use. It will have to be done by an adoption agency or social worker in your state. Yes, it can be completed in 2-3 months. You need to be very clear with whomever you use to do the home study about the time frame and make certain they can give you that turnaround. If you’re starting to spread the word about adoption, it is a good idea to have your home study ready. The only downside is that they do expire. In most states they expire in 12 months, although they last a little longer in a few states. Renewing an adoption home study is usually less expensive and less time consuming. You and this prospective birth mother also must become educated on open adoption so you can decide on what degree of openness you both want and how to structure your future relationship. Creating a Family has tons of resources on open adoption to help educate you.

Q:In embryo donation (sometimes called embryo adoption), when deciding on the number of embryos that can safely be transferred, is it the age of the woman receiving the embryos that determines how many embryos can safely be transferred, or is it the age of the biological mother that determines this.
A: Assuming the health of the intended mom (the woman receiving the embryos) is not a factor, it is the age of the genetic mom that is used to determine the likelihood of successful implantation. In the case where the embryos were created through egg donation, it is the age of the egg donor. For more info on building your family through donor embryo, check out these one-hour audio interview with top experts:

Image credit: Noelle Lynn Photography LLC