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Types of Adoption

There are four basic types of adoption: public agency adoption, domestic private agency adoption, international adoption, and independent adoption. Requirements, costs, and timing vary between and within the different types of adoption. To decide which type of adoption is best for you, think seriously about the type of child you would like to adopt (for example, an infant, an older child or group of siblings, a child from another country, a child who has special needs, etc.).

Public Agency Adoption

An adoption directed and supervised by a state or local Department of Human Services (or Social Services, or Human Resources, or Health and Welfare, or Child and Family Services, etc.)

Children Available

Children with special needs (kids who are harder to place due to emotional or physical disorders, age, race, membership in a sibling group, backgrounds); rarely infants.

Approximate Cost

From $0 to $1,500 (depending on the state, up to $1,500 of “nonrecurring” adoption costs for eligible special needs children may be reimbursed)

Who Can Adopt

Flexible eligibility requirements for adoptive parents; on a case-by-case basis, will consider single parents, parents over the age of 40, parents who have other children, parents with low incomes, etc.

How Long It Takes

Starts slowly, but for those who have an updated home study, placement can occur as soon as a few months after selecting a child.

Private Agency Adoption

An adoption directed and supervised by a privately funded, licensed adoption agency

Children Available

Sometimes handle special needs children; more commonly associated with younger children and infants

Approximate Cost

$6,000 to $25,000; lower for special needs children; some agencies have sliding fee scales

Who Can Adopt

Agencies may recruit parents based on race, religious affiliation, etc.; for infant adoptions, birth mother often chooses

How Long It Takes

A few months to a few years (sometimes longer for infant adoption)

International Adoption

Process of adopting a child who is not a U.S citizen, which may be accomplished privately through an attorney, or through an international adoption agency

Children Available

About 88 countries currently allow their children to be adopted by U.S. citizens—6 countries in Africa, 20 in Asia, 32 in Europe, and 30 in Latin America; ages range from infant to teens; health conditions vary; generally infants

Approximate Cost

$7,000 to $30,000 (varies by country; travel and travel-related expenses may be additional)

Who Can Adopt

Depends on agency and country requirements; some will accept single parents, most prospective parents are between 25 and 45 years old

How Long It Takes

Six months to several years depending on the child’s age and health, and the country’s political climate

Independent Adoption

An adoption initiated by prospective adopters and completed with help from an attorney or adoption counselor. Independent adoption is not legal in all states; also known as private adoption.

Children Available

Approximate Cost

$5,000 to $40,000 (includes prospective parents’ cost of finding a birth mother, certain birth mother expenses, and attorney’s fees)

Who Can Adopt

Birth mothers typically choose the adoptive parent — preferences tend to run toward younger, affluent, married couples

How Long It Takes

Variable; as long as it takes to find a birth mother who will see the process through to finalization

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