The Adoption Option: How It Works and What to Expect

Choosing a Path

In general, there are three broad categories of adoption: domestic adoption arranged independently or through an agency; international adoption; and domestic adoption through a public or social services agency. Which type of adoption works best depends on what you're looking for, says Carolyn Berger, an adoption coordinator with the American Infertility Association. "If you're looking for a Caucasian infant and you're kind of an entrepreneur type of person who doesn't need a lot of guidance, independent adoption might be good for you," she says. On the other hand, adoptive parents seeking more guidance may want to go through an agency, and those who want to help a disadvantaged or special needs child might find a social services adoption is their best bet.

Here is a quick overview of the different types of adoption:

Domestic adoption through a licensed private agency or independently: This method usually involves the adoption of an infant. Most states allow independent adoptions, in which the birth and adoptive parents find each other without the help of an agency. However, parents who choose to adopt this way typically contract a lawyer, facilitator or even an adoption agency to handle the legal aspects of the adoption. On the other hand, those using an agency for the entire adoption process pay a fee and then rely on the agency to connect them with potential birth mothers. Agencies often offer support, as well, including such services as running ads for the parents, offering counseling and connecting adoptive parents with others who have adopted.

International adoption: This is usually done with the help of an agency and typically involves a child who is already living in an orphanage. Russia, China, Korea, India and countries in Eastern Europe, Central America and South America are the sources of most foreign-born children adopted by Americans, according to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC), a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Most international agencies favor adoptive parents who will help a child understand and appreciate his or her native culture. Click here for more on international adoption.

Domestic adoption through a public agency: Adopting through a public agency often involves adopting a special needs or hard-to-place child and is the least expensive of the three methods. "This is one way someone can adopt relatively cheaply, but they have to be willing to take a child who may be older or have disabilities or health problems," says Berger. Federal and state funds may be available to help pay for the care of children with special needs. Counseling may also be available. Such adoptions are handled by the state social services agency. Click here for more on agency adoption.