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International vs. Domestic Adoption

You may adopt a "waiting child" - or as a child in the welfare and foster care systems is known - by taking in a child who has already been (or will shortly be) legally released for adoption, accepting the placement of a child who may still be reunited with his or her birth parent(s), or becoming a foster parent to the child and then proceeding with the adoption.

Private agencies may be associated with a particular religion and may focus on placing children with parents of that faith, although many are open to people of all faiths. These so-called sectarian agencies may receive partial funding from their associated religious group so they may charge prospective adoptive parents less than other agencies. Agencies who are not affiliated with any religious group, or nonsectarian agencies, may also receive a portion of their funding from charitable organizations (such as the United Way) and offer their services at a discount.

With a private agency, the birth parents relinquish their parental rights to the agency before being matched with prospective adoptive parents. The wait for a child through a private agency may be a bit longer than with a public agency and you may not have an opportunity to meet the birth parents face to face.

If you choose a private or public adoption agency, you will have to complete an application for adoption and, upon approval, begin a homestudy. The homestudy usually takes approximately two months to complete. You will also have to submit to a physical exam, background check, and fingerprinting, as well as extensive interviews to determine your ability to care for a child, as well as get an idea for what kind of child you are interested in adopting.

The agency will handle the search for a prospective child, but you can help the process along by participating in the search process, reviewing photolisting books, online message boards and chats, and keeping your personal parent profile current.

Once a prospective child has been located, learn all you can about the child before making your decision. Find out his or her family history, that of the birth parents, and about his or her health. The agency will most likely encourage or require you to meet the prospective child and get to know him or her before proceeding with the adoption.

Once you have been approved to adopt a child, he or she will be placed with you and you will assume temporary legal custody for a few months. During this adjustment period, which can last from several months up to a year, your agency will monitor the placement with frequent phone calls and visits. If all goes well, at the end of the monitoring period the agency will recommend to the court that the adoption be approved.

The agency and case worker will help you to fill out an adoption petition, which is the legal request to adopt the child. You will then attend a finalization hearing in front of a judge, who will grant you permanent, legal custody of the child. Rarely, the child's birth parents may also attend the hearing, but only if their parental rights have not yet been terminated or if the adoption is open or cooperative.

The cost of a domestic adoption can range from just a few hundred dollars to cover court costs if you use a public agency, up to $30,000 if you use a private agency; however, the average is between $15,000 and $20,000. Independent adoptions can range from $8,000 to $30,000 or more.

A domestic adoption can take as little as a few weeks or up to several years to process, depending on many factors.

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