Adopting Out of Birth Order

charlotte gray quote

In the past, many professionals in the adoption field encouraged adoptive families to adopt within birth order. If a family had existing children, professional recommend those families adopt an infant or a child who was younger that their youngest child already in the home. Changing the birth order of children in families was discouraged because of the thought that it would have psychological effects on the children. However, as time has passed, more social workers and therapists started to switch their point of view on the topic. Today, it is now becoming more common for families to adopt children out of birth order, especially when dealing with foster care adoption and older child adoption. Many parents have successfully integrated older children into their home even if it means the altering the original birth order. For example a family with a 7 and 4 year old adopts a child who is 5. In many cases, how you prepare your existing children, your new adopted child, and yourselves is the key to making a smooth transition. Below are five tips to consider when you make the decision to adopt out of birth order.

Five Tips for Adopting Out of Birth Order:

1). Assign Responsibilities on the basis of ability not age – When adopting out of birth order  it is important as adoptive parents to treat each child as an individual, and assign responsibilities to the children on the basis of ability, rather than age. For example, if a younger sibling is cut out for a babysitting role, let that child take on the responsibly. Don’t feel obligated to give the oldest child that role just because of birth order. Chores are also a great way to assign responsibly to children without having to emphasize age order. Adoptive Families states that, “At the same time, parents have to be conscious of not over-burdening the more mature children in the family, and dispense privileges in the same manner as they do responsibilities.” Have a balance and evenly distributing chores and responsibility among your children is key.

2). Treat your children as individuals – It is important in any family for the children to develop their own interests and find their own hobbies. This will create individuality between siblings. When children in the family start to share hobbies it becomes easier for parents to begin to compare their ability. For example, if both siblings join a soccer team and one begins to excel, the other child could feel left out.  It is also important to remember this in academic situations.  “When older children are adopted, frequent moves in their past can mean academic skills  below the standard for their chronological age.  Comparisons between the academic achievements of children are always inappropriate, but in no case should a younger child be held up as an example to an older brother or sister.” –

3). Prepare your children – it is important to help your children understand what it means to not only adopt, but explain to them what it will be like having a sibling that is older or younger than them. If you plan to adopted an older child, it is important to make as smooth a transition with your existing children as possible. Preparing them for this transition will only ease the change in the family dynamic. You can involve your children and think of ways that each child can help their new sibling adapt, and feel like a member of your family. This could be involving the new child in group play dates or  do arts a craft projects together as a family.

4). Keep open lines of communication – prepare yourself for disputes between children. It is common for any child in a family to feel left out at times when a new sibling comes along, not matter what the birth order is. Communicating through the hard times will be a huge tool for you family in older child adoption, and will help you keep a strong bond in your new blended family.

5). Read books on sibling adoption – There are many resources and books available to educate not only adoptive parents, but siblings on adopting out of birth order. In many cases, stories of adopting siblings can assist them understand how their family is going to grow. Creating a Family has a great list of books about sibling adoption, that could help your family when adopting out of birth order!

While changing the birth order of your family through adoption can be challenging, it can also be very rewarding. With more children in the foster care system it is common for many families to follow through with older child adoption, which at times may disrupt the birth order of the family. When adopting out of birth order it is important for adoptive parents to educate themselves on the complications that could occur in the family, rivalries between siblings, and how to not let children feel left out. When adoptive parents learn all of the scenarios that occur when adopting out of birth order, they can teach and prepare their children for the adoption, which will allow a smoother transition of the new adoptive sibling into the family.

Back to School Tools for Adoptive Parents

The summer is coming to a close and that means it is time for the kids to head back to school. As a parent, you might be curious about ways to make sure your child’s classroom is an accepting environment for their adoption story and we wanted to give you some of the tools to ensure a safe and happy school year!

Back to School
Communicating with your Child’s Teacher

Write a letter to your child’s teacher

Your child’s teacher could greatly benefit from a brief explanation of your family’s background and this will give you an opportunity to make it be known that you are available as a resource for their classroom. You can even provide the teacher with the correct language to use when discussing adoption in the classroom setting. Children might ask questions and arming your child’s teacher with the right responses is invaluable.
Q: “Where are Julia’s real parents?”
A: “Julia’s real parents are the parents who are raising him, Matthew and Caroline, who pick him up from school each day. She also has birth parents who gave birth to her.”
Q: “Why didn’t Julia’s first family want her?”
A: “They probably wanted her very much but weren’t able take care of any baby at that time. Julia’s birth parents wanted her to have a family to love her and take care of her forever.”
Q: “Where is Julia from?”
A: “She’s from Pennsylvania. She was born in China, but now she’s a U.S. citizen, like you.”
Q: “Does she speak Chinese?”
A: “No. Julia came to the America when she was a baby. She was not speaking any language at the time just like most babies.

Educate the school’s faculty

While you are in letter writing mode, consider reaching out to the school principal or the parent-teacher association suggesting an adoption training session for staff. Some open adoption agencies, like Adoptions From The Heart, offer educational courses for families that could be attended by your child’s teacher or the school faculty.
Adoptive Families outlined five viral points for education professionals to understand (you can communicate these in your letter):

  •  Adoption is an open and natural topic in your family. Teachers should not be afraid to discuss it or to answer students’ questions.
  •  Children born in a different country are not experts on the language or culture of that country.
  • There are neither real families nor fake families. Adoptive parents are parents like any others.
  • Genetics can be taught without requiring students to trace their nuclear family’s roots.
  • Parents of all types will appreciate more inclusive versions of “star of the week,” as well as autobiographical timeline and family tree projects.

Navigating tough assignments with your child’s teacher

Like we mentioned above, more inclusive versions of classic school projects are better designed and you can discuss and present your child’s teacher with multiple options for the entire class, not just your child. Adoptive Families provided yet another great list of more inclusive projects that you can share with your child’s teacher:

  • Family Tree: Students can draw themselves on the trunk of a tree and someone whom they love on each branch, regardless of biological or adoptive relationships. Or they can place names of adoptive family members in the branches of a tree and birth family members in its roots. Using a house metaphor in lieu of a tree allows flexibility to incorporate all members of a child’s family.
  • Timeline: Instead of starting with their birth dates, children can cite memorable events from each calendar year they’ve been alive; older students can create a timeline that includes a national or world event from each year they have been alive.
  • Star of the Week: Request that students bring in photographs of themselves from a year or two ago, rather than baby photos.

Class Room Activities

Read or Donate an Adoption Storybook to the Classroom

Read an Adoption Storybook

Stories are a great way to introduce new topics to younger children. You can simply read to your child’s class during their regular story hour time or consider giving an adoption presentation which we will explain further. We review popular adoption books on this very blog, our most recent post has some great suggestions or feel free to bring your child’s favorite!

Give an adoption presentation

Give an Adoption Presentation

This is a creative way to explain adoption to your child’s classmates. Adoptive Families suggests you explain adoption in a general way, rather than tell your child’s particular story. Using dolls or other props will help non-adopted kids relate.
Here’s their simple, parent-tested presentation to use as a model:

  • Bring in one of your child’s dolls or stuffed animals. Tell everyone her name — Sandy, for example — and let each student hold her.
  • Ask the kids to help complete two lists on the blackboard: “What babies need” (bottles, food, clothes, hugs, and so on) and “What parents do” (feed, clothe, change, hug and kiss, and so on). If the kids don’t say “bring babies into the world,” add it to the parents’ list.
  • Tell them that Sandy’s birth parents brought her into the world, but that they realized they could not do all the other things parents do.
  • Tell them that Sandy’s forever parents wanted to do all those things for her, even though they didn’t bring her into this world.
  • Finish by explaining that Sandy has two sets of real parents — her real birth parents and her real forever family — and that she needs both to be who she is.
  • Don’t forget food! End your classroom presentation with a snack.

Staying Involved

Throughout the school year, you can make sure to keep adoption in the conversation. Here are some suggestions for you to explore!

  • Educate other parents who might want to talk to their children about adoption
  • Spearhead a community service project during National Adoption Month
  • Donate a packet of materials for educators at the school

Are there other ways that you stay involved in your child’s school? Let us know in the comments!

Additional Resources

August Book Reviews 2015


All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to

sophias broken crayonsSophia’s Broken Crayons: A Story of Surrogacy from a Young Child’s Perspective by Crystal Falk– A simplistic story to explain surrogacy to a young child.  The book is geared toward ages 2-6 and would be great to help children of surrogates understand why the baby isn’t staying with them and also to help the child that is born through surrogacy understand the process.  It doesn’t get into great detail it just talks about how one family shared their tummy to help another family just like the young girls friends share their crayons when hers are broken.

This book was published in conjunction with Surrogacy Together and while a great book the back of the book is filled with full names of names of surrogates, intended parents and donors, which I felt was a breach of confidentiality and was unnecessary for a story geared toward children. If they had just left the forward and the little blurb in the back about their organization I think it would have been much better. However the story itself is very good and could be used for anyone involved in a surrogacy situation. Price $2.99 (kindle) $13.49 (pb)

What is familyChildren Books: What is a family?: (Preschool Values book) – Picture Book for Early & Beginner Readers fiction (Balu Baldauf series 9) by Ruthz SB– This is a sweet book about BeBe who is trying to define family.  His friend poses different questions to him to get him to think harder about the question until BeBe realizes that defining family isn’t always so easy and there are many different types of families.  This book shows many different aspects of what being a family means.  In the end BeBe realizes that family means different things to different people and none of that is wrong.

The author has a beautiful note at the end of the book where she writes “A family is a collective consciousness – our first step towards understanding the supreme soul consciousness. Families make communities, communities make nations, nations make humanity…”, “…family is always our fundamental milestone.”

This is a great book to start talking about different types of families and looking at all the different types of families you may know. Price $2.99

SproutSprout: an adoption story by Megan Meredith – This is a beautifully illustrated story about a seedling that isn’t given the chance to grow, it is not taken care of and harmed until one day a stranger comes and takes it away, nurtures it and helps it to grow. For children who are removed from dangerous or harmful environments and placed in new homes this is a story of hope, of love and what can happen when you give a child the love support and care that he or she needs to grow. Without talking about what happened to a child in the past this story is not an in your face book, but a subtle story about what love and encouragement can help create.  Hopefully a child will see his or her own story in this one and while maybe not fully understanding that it relates to them at first it may spark hope inside them. I can see this as a book you would want to read again and again.  Amazon Price $2.99 (kindle)

Scholarships Available for Adopted and Fostered Students

College Scholarships for Adoptees and Fostered

Did you know that a recent study done at the University of Chicago found that only one-half of all adopted and foster students actually graduate from high school AND only six percent earn a college degree? Since adopted children often have faced tremendous hardships in their lives, such as abuse and neglect, many organizations have created scholarships for adopted students to help them overcome their tough past and create a brighter future for adoptees. Even though there could be a multiple amount of reasons why adoptees may not attend post-secondary education, a big part is the struggle of paying for school. That is why we wanted to provide some of the best scholarship opportunities and grants specifically for children who have been adopted not only from foster care but from birth as well.

Scholarships that are geared to Fostered and Adopted Children in SPECIFIC States

Foster and adopted children not only have access to general scholarship programs, but also those that are specifically designated for students who have been in the foster care system or recently adopted. Here are just a few of the scholarships we found interesting but are only available if you are attending the specific school addressed in the scholarship and/or a specific state.

1. Jack Pollack Sponsorship

  • School- Graduating from Lake Waccamaw Boys and Girls Home in North Carolina
  • Requirements- Students must plan to attend the University of North Carolina
  • Value of Scholarship– Each valued at approximately $7,200 annually (renewable for up to six semesters).
  • Link to Apply-

2. Armstrong Family Foundation Scholars Program

  • School – Arizona State University
  • Requirements- Must be a resident of Arizona and have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher
  • Value of Scholarship– up to $8,000
  • Link to Apply

3. Maine Tuition Waver Program for Foster/Adopted Children

  • School- Any school in Maine
  • Requirements- Students must be residents of Maine and a high school graduate (or have obtained a GED). Students currently enrolled in college are also eligible to apply.
  • Value of Scholarship- No more than 30 awards will be available annually. The amount varies, based on tuition and fees
  • Link to Apply-

Maine isn’t the only state to offer a tuition waver program. Florida, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia do as well. These states all have specific programs to support children adopted from foster care. College tuition waiver programs are the most supportive, but some states also have scholarship programs.

National Scholarships Offered to Fostered and Adopted Students

National Scholarships AvailableStudents that are adopted are able to take full advantage of adopted scholarships. These scholarships are meant for students that were adopted, whether at birth or at any other point in life. A lot of these scholarships will ask you to talk about your experiences and feelings about being adopted. Please do not let this affect you from applying. We know how hard it can be to share your adoption experience but we encourage you to be bold and step out of your comfort zone.

1. Friends of Foster Children

  • Requirements- Foster care or ward court for at least 1 yr. by 18th b-day, Under age of 25 by March 31 of the year they apply,
  • Value of Sponsorship- Scholarships range in value from $5,000 to $10,000
  • How to ApplyContact: 800-950-4673,

2. NSORO Foundation

The NSORO foundation provides non-merit based academic scholarships to youth in foster care and to “aged-out” students.

  • Requirements- Graduating high school seniors as well as current undergraduate or trade school students may apply
  1. All applicants must show State documentation of foster care placement. Eligible applicants can be emancipated or “aged-out” from foster care.
  2. All applicants must show written acceptance and enrollment in a college, university or trade school.

3. Casey Family Scholarships

4. Fostering a Future Scholarship Award

Sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and Children’s Action Network

  • Requirements- Adopted from foster care at or after age of 13 and candidates under the age of the 21 must be currently pursing a college
  • Value of Sponsorship- Amount varies depending on college and circumstances
  • How to Apply- Call (310) 477-7611 or email

5. Gordon Evans Scholarship

Created by the NFPA, this scholarship is awarded each year to deserving birth, adoptive, and foster children of foster parents who are members of the national association in good standing.

  • Requirements- must be currently accepted or enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student at an accredited post-secondary U.S. institution.
  • Value of Sponsorship– $1,000 each of the five scholarships offered
  • How to Apply- Call (253) 683-4246 or email

6. John H. Chafee Education and Training Scholarship

A federally funded state administered initiative to provide financial support for transiting children from foster care to adulthood.

  • Requirements- Available to students from all 50 states who were in the foster care system through their 18th birthday or were adopted after age 16 from foster care. Qualified candidates must be -pursuing post-secondary education at an accredited U.S. school, be under the age of 23 years old, and demonstrate financial need.
  • Value of Sponsorship– up to $5,000 Annually
  • How to Apply- Contact (571) 203-0270 or email

A Positive Note to End on…

Future College GraduateAlways remember that you can do anything you put your mind to and there are so many scholarships available that money should never be an excuse on why you aren’t continuing your education. We also want you to remember that you are not underprivileged or different than any other child. There are many scholarships out there for students of a certain type, so start thinking of your own demographics. For example, there are scholarships for women, scholarships for single moms and dads, scholarships for students in the LGBT community and the list goes on. We know sometimes that scholarships could seem way to “categorized” but really they are just available to help you succeed in life. So please take advantage of all these amazing scholarships that are being offered. To find a full list for adopted/fostered students and other scholarships that might be available to you, please check out

How to Help Your Family Cope with Your Decision to Place your Child for Adoption

Making an adoption plan for your child is a very courageous, yet difficult decision. Expecting parents often describe a variety of emotions felt when placing their child for adoption. It is to experience feelings such as a sense of loss, grief, and even guilt. These feelings are all common even when you know that an adoption plan will provide a better life and future for not only their child, but for themselves as well. Many times, expecting parents not only have to find ways to cope during the adoption process, but assist their family members as well. It is common that family members will experience the same feelings, and will need help understanding and preparing for this decision as well. Families of the birth parents can feel the same sense of loss, grief, and guilt. Below are steps that families could benefit from and certain tools and steps to help your family adjust to your decision to place your child for adoption.

pregnant woman with heart

6 Steps to helping your family adjusts to your decision to place your child for adoption:

  • Invite your parents to the adoption agency – Bringing your family members along with you to your adoption agency could give them a sense of feeling involved in your decision to place your baby. It would also give family members a chance to meet your social worker and would be an opportunity to ask questions that they may have which will aid in understanding the adoption process from a professional point of view.
  • Bring your parents to doctor appointments– Much like bringing your family members to an adoption agency, allowing family members to come along to doctor appointments could help them feel involved with the progress of your pregnancy and development of your baby.
  • Share your feelings- It is important not to shut off from family members. Include your family members in your feelings. They too may have similar feelings and can become a great support system for you. A great way to do this is by writing your family a letter that explains your thought out decision and feelings toward why you chose this adoption plan. At times it helps to share your goals and dreams and how these would not be achievable given your choice to parent your child.
  • Educate about open adoption- Open adoption allows birth parents and family members to stay involved with your child’s life. Educating your family members about open adoption could help them feel at ease. Your family will be better prepared to help you and understand your feelings if they feel prepared, informed, and educated. To read more about open adoption visit the AFTH Blog!
  • Find a local support group- There are many agencies, and even online groups, that offer support to birth parents and their families. These groups will offer the support that you and your family may need to cope and understand your decision to place. These groups are designed to help birth parents and their families come together to share similar feelings and experiences through their own adoption stories. A great resource is Here you can find what cities in the United States have birth parent support groups. Also, check with the agency that you are placing though. Many times, agencies will offer support groups as well.
  • Establish Rituals- According to, having rituals is a great way to not only include your family members with your adoption, but help them cope and understand even more why you made the decision to place. Birth parents may find it helpful to create a tradition that honors the child and the decision that was made. Birth parents also may choose to establish other ongoing or finite rituals, such as commemorating certain days or milestones in the child’s life, such as the child’s birthday or a high school graduation or writing a letter to the child. Including your family in these rituals is a great way to keep family members involved.

Unfortunately, sometimes when expecting parents make an adoption plan for their child, their family members are not on board with the decision. In these situations expecting parents may not receive the love and support needed to get through this difficult decision. This blog post will explore those situations and provide expecting parents, who are choosing adoption, with alternative ways to receive care and support during their adoption placement.

There are many tools available to help your family members adjust to and understand the decision of placing your child for adoption. When the adoption plan has been made, there are also many ways to keep you and your family members involved in your child’s life. With open adoption, you can send letter and even have visits at least one time per year. Reassuring your family members that they will still be involved with the child’s life may help them understand your adoption plan better. Like birth parents, family members will have to cope with the loss from the adoption as well. With the help from support groups, keeping family members involved, educating the family on open adoption, and keeping them involved with your own feelings will help them understand your decision to make an adoption plan for your child.

Birth Parents and Placing a Child for Adoption without Family Support

Deciding to place a child for adoption is not a decision that is made overnight. Birth parents are extremely strong individuals that sacrifice so much for their baby’s future, but just because they are strong it does not mean that they do not need support during the adoption process. Sometimes when a expecting mother shares her adoption plan with family members, she doesn’t receive love and support. This blog post will explore those situations and provide expecting mothers who are choosing adoption with other ways to receive care and support during their adoption placement.

Placing Without Support


When Family and Friends Don’t Understand Adoption

Telling your family you are pregnant can be an overwhelming task if you don’t feel you are prepared to parent. Will they support your decision to consider adoption? Will they want you to raise the baby on your own? Will they want to raise the baby? There are a lot of questions rumbling around in your head before having that conversation with your family and it is important to know you are not alone. There are great resources available online like this one that can help you figure out the best way to broach the topic with your family members. They might even benefit from online resources too. Pages like Adoptions From The Heart can provide family members with a wealth of information about adoption and how to be supportive through the process.

Comments from family and friends like, “I could never give up my child because I love them too much,” are extremely hurtful. It is important to remember the real reason you are considering adoption- you want what is best for your child because of how much you love them.

Sometimes it is helpful to understand why friends and family might be saying intentionally hurtful things or feeling uncertain with your adoption plan.

Why There Might Be a Lack of Support After Placement

Before and after placement, it can be hard for your family and friends to really relate to your thought process and what you are going through. Kacey Bailey a contributor for, outlined some reasons why they just might not be understanding you in one of her posts. Here is what she gathered from her own experiences:

1. They’re afraid to feel what you are feeling or what you’ve felt.

The first time I attended a group of birth mothers was when I was pregnant. I sat there, staring at these girls, terrified to be where they were in just a few short months. Pain was written in their eyes and I was literally afraid to feel that way. I had no words for them. I yearned to reach out and comfort these precious souls, yet was terrified to open myself up to them as they were doing for me. The reality of what birth moms have done for a child, to willingly allow another person (or persons) to stand in her shoes, is unimaginable. It seems unfair of birth moms to expect their friends and family to attempt empathy, especially when it’s so frightening to be that distressed.

2. You’re an individual.
The story of how I became a birth mom isn’t too exciting, nor is it uncommon. Girl meets boy. Girl and Boy become friends. Girl and Boy have a one night stand. Boy leaves when Girl gets pregnant. While it’s so very basic, it’s also exceptionally complex. Allow me to be selfish while I say that what I experienced was different than what anyone else will ever know. My personality led me to where I needed to be, my thinking process is what guided me to my son’s parents, and my pain was felt in a way that nobody else will feel. I’m an individual. Take anybody else whose story lines up with mine in every manner, and we will have two different experiences. Birth moms should not expect someone who hasn’t experienced a similar situation to try to grasp the amount of hurt that is endured daily.

3. They wish they could help more.
I had many friends abandon me when I became pregnant. Others stood awkwardly at the sidelines. It’s been 5 years since placement and I know now that most of the reasoning behind it was simple. They wanted to offer me the world. They wanted to offer me food, a job, a place to stay, a way to provide for me. In my pride, I refused it all and they were left not knowing how to help. It’s one thing to tell them “just be there for me” when nobody knows what “there” is. They gave the advice they would have given to themselves and since they couldn’t do it all, some did nothing. Not out of spite, or anger, but rather out of fear. People fear what they don’t know. Let them know that you just need a shoulder to cry on. When that’s all they offer you, be appreciative.

4. Everyone handles grief in her own way.
Yes, there are the 5 stages of grief that we all experience after a loss. How we work through them are different. There was a fellow birth mom who dived into school just days after placement. I laid in my bed and cry for a few weeks, then stood up one day and went back to my life as well as I could. Some people may start up a new hobby while others will invest themselves into an old one. There are many ways to cope with loss, everybody is unique. Thus, there aren’t any people out there who know how I handled the loss of a child—nor how I’m handling it right now. My friends don’t know that my sudden outbreak of tears is actually a healthy release. It’s certainly not fair for me to expect them to know, that while my tears are a sign of frustration and longing, they’re also a sign that my healing process is an ongoing process.

5. Sometimes, they think you need to “get over it.”
I have been told to “move on” from this child more times than not. As I stand there, in tears, I see a friend roll her eyes and look away. It’s not as if my pain is interrupting her life. It’s more that her healing process is different from mine, and she doesn’t understand that. While there’s part of me who wants to cut those people out of my social group, there’s a smaller, smarter part of me that uses this as a teaching opportunity. I explain, and while explaining, I heal. Talking has always helped my mind to organize emotions. While she may scoff and respond with, “I just don’t understand why you can’t move on.” I just smile and say, “I don’t want to”. That child is my heart and soul. He is part of me in a way that he will never be part of somebody else. I hold him sacred in my heart and if I were to cut ties with his memories, I would lose part of who I have become.

A lot of what Kacey felt and still feels is not uncommon for birthparents. If your family or friends don’t understand, it is important to realize that sometimes…they just don’t understand and then to explore options for other types of support during your adoption journey.

Finding an External Support System

Birthmother Quote

When you place through an adoption agency, many will offer some sort of continued support for birth parents before, during and after placement. Taking advantage of these resources might not always feel natural or like something you want to do, but it has proven successful for so many birth parents. In a previous blog  we discussed the importance of support. One AFTH Birthmother remembered the feelings she had surrounding her first support group meeting:

“I didn’t want to go at all, but I knew deep down that I needed to go. I reluctantly RSVP’d. I dreaded it and looked forward to it at the same time, knowing it was out of my comfort zone. My feet and heart were heavy when I walked into my first meeting, which was only 2 months after I placed my daughter. I was a ball of nerves with a pocket full of tissues. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready to talk, but I thought hearing other stories could be helpful. I teared up as soon as I walked in the room and saw the other women who had done the same thing I did. It made adoption even more real for me, if that’s possible. It helped me realize that it affects many women from all walks of life and that I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.”

Whether you need support before or after placement, there are options for everyone. Use links like this one to find support group meetings or counselors in your area. Birthmombuds  is another great online resource where you may find support. And if you get the courage and are brave enough, share your story. Often times, people don’t know who they can turn to for support and you might find other birthparents or others who have been touched by adoption who will then become your support.

Adoption Laws and Requirements: Domestic Adoption Compared to International Adoption

sunset skiesAdoptive families come in all shapes and sizes. There are single parents, couples, same-sex couples and domestic partners. Some families already have birth or adopted children and others might just be beginning to grow their family. Requirements for the adoptive parents differ from state to state and country to country depending on where you are adopting from. One of the first dilemmas families face is whether to pursue domestic adoption or international adoption. There are many factors adoptive parents must consider which includes the wait time, children available, cost and legal concerns. There are also lot of myths about these two different adoption processes in which we wanted to clear up in this blog along with provide statistics and hard facts about both so that families are able to make the best choice that is right for their own family.

 The Requirements Needed to Adopt Domestically


In order to even think about adopting, it is important to remember that there are a lot of requirements that you will need to pass before any adoption agency will take you on as a client.

Age – Prospective parent(s) must be of legal age (21 years old) or older If you are adopting for a private adoption agency. the agency may have an age cutoff but not always. Be sure to check with the agency you are considering working with.

Physical Health – Prospective parents need to be in stable medical condition. If there is a history of serious or current chronic illness, a doctor’s letter indicating physical stability, ability to parent and expectation to live to a child’s majority (which is the age of 16). If there is a history of substance abuse, proof of rehabilitation is needed.

Emotional Health – Prospective parents need to be in stable emotional health. If there is current or history of psychiatric illness, a statement indicating emotional stability is needed. If there was or is use of medication, a doctor’s statement of current emotional stability and ability to parent a child is needed.

Criminal History – As part of the adoption home study, state and FBI clearances will be conducted. Should there be an arrest history, dispositions and personal statements of the incident are required. Rehabilitation will be evaluated, if appropriate. There are certain criminal charges that can prevent someone from being eligible to adopt.

Child Abuse History – All household members over the age of 18 will be asked to do a child abuse clearance for every state in the U.S. where they have lived for the past 5 years. A “finding” on this clearance may prevent someone from adopting.

Marital History – Each adoption agency and U.S. state has their own requirements, including the number of previous marriages and length of current marriage. Depending on the state, singles, same-sex and domestic partners may also be eligible adopt.

Financial Security – There is no specific income requirement. The adoptive family’s income and assets will be assessed to ensure they have the resources to raise a child. Proof of medical insurance for the child is also needed.

Home Environment – The home must be a safe and secure environment for a child, inside and out. Some U.S. states have specific space and safety requirements.

Adoption and Parenting – As part of the adoption home study, most prospective parents are asked to complete Adoptive Parent Education, including but not limited to the lifelong implications of adoption on the child and the family, attachment and bonding, sharing adoption with the child and others, open adoption, and medical, emotional and academic developmental issues.

It is important to remember that even though this is domestic adoption, the same laws and rules don’t apply for all fifty states. If you would like to find more information about a certain state, check out this awesome website that will allow you browse every state individually.

 Adopting Internationally, the Rules and Process

Adopting Internationally

Intercountry adoptions are governed by both the laws of the child’s home country and the laws of the United States. When you are adopting international, you must comply with THREE different sets of laws: U.S. federal law, the laws of the child’s country of birth, and the laws of your U.S. state of residence.

Age – parent(s) must be of legal age (21 years old) or older, some countries may have higher minimum requirements. Age cutoffs are agency and country specific.  Adopting as an older parent in an intercountry adoption might lead to adopting an older child.

Medical Health –For all adoptions, a doctor’s letter indicating physically stability, ability to parent and expectation to live to a child’s majority are required.  Prospective parents need to be in stable medical condition. Individual countries have limitations on medical history and current health. Many restrict adoptions to those with a history of cancer.

Emotional Health – Prospective parents need to be in stable emotional health. If there is current or history of psychiatric illness, a statement indicating you are emotionally stable is needed.

Criminal history – As part of the adoption home study, state and FBI clearances will be conducted. Should there be an arrest history, dispositions and personal statements of the incident will be needed. Rehabilitation, if appropriate, will be accessed. There are certain criminal charges that will prevent someone from adopting.

Child Abuse History – All household members over the age of 18 will be asked to do a child abuse clearance for every state in the U.S. and every country where they have lived for since the age of 18. A “finding” on this clearance may prevent you from adopting.

Marital History – Each country has their own requirements, including the number of previous marriages and length of current marriage. Some countries allow singles to adopt, however may limit the parent to adopting a child of the same gender. Unfortunately, the majority of international countries will not allow LGBT couples to adopt.

Financial Security – Some countries have specific income and asset requirements, which will be assessed as part of the adoption homestudy and documents for the dossier. Income and expenses must show the ability to meet a child’s needs.

Home Environment – The home must be a safe and secure environment for a child. Some U.S. states have specific space and safety requirements. In addition, some countries require proof of ownership.

Adoption and Parenting – As part of the adoption home study, prospective parents are asked to complete at least 10 hours of specific Adoptive Parent Education.

As you can see a lot of the requirements change depending on what country you are adopting from .That is why it is important to do your research on each country before deciding where you would like to adopt from. To see a breakdown of the rules and requirements in each country, you can go to

Important Areas to Consider as you Make the Decision Between a Domestic and International Adoption

Now that we talked about the requirements that need to be filled before choosing domestic or international adoption, we would like to go over the different factors that might help you and your family choose what option best fits your family.  Some of the more important questions to ask yourself are; How long do you want to wait? How much do you want to spend on your adoption? How important is it to adopt a newborn?  We would like to touch on the 5 most important topics that we think a family should think about before deciding between domestic and international adoption.

  1. Cost: Many mistakenly believe that international adoption costs far less than domestic adoption but that is very untrue. The different in cost between international and domestic adoption is one of the most common misconceptions. Both have them have similar costs typically ranging from $25,000-$50,000 but the costs are unique to each specific program and agency.
  • International Adoption Costs
    • Obtaining a Visa
    • Travel and hotel costs to a different country more than one time
  • Domestic Adoption Costs
    • Birth parent living expenses
    • Travel to different states depending on where the baby is born
  1. Waiting Time: The time it takes for an adoptive family to receive a child domestically or internationally depends on many factors. It is difficult to assess exact wait times for both adoption plans because it all depends on what agency you are working with and how open you are to various situations. For international adoption, the wait time depends on your families’ adoption plan as well as country-specific issues. For example, adopting a child from China may take more than four years while adopting a child from Russia can take less than a year.
  1. Child’s Age and Children Available: Because of all of travel and waiting you will have to do if you choose international adoption, it is very likely that you will be adopting an older infant, toddler or even a teenager, depending on the origin. According to the latest research by the National Council for Adoption, private domestic agency adoptions have risen steadily from 14,549 in 1982 to 20,254 in 2007 .While domestic adoption continues to grow, international adoption has decline significantly over the past several years.
  1. Medical Background: One of the biggest concerns when adopting internationally is that the medical background of the child is minimal. Social and medical histories will be provided on children whether you adopt domestically or internationally. Often within an international adoption, there is not much information even though the child is older because often the child has been abandoned and there is no information on his or her biological relatives. In a domestic adoption, you are often able to receive both an extensive social and medical history.
  2. Legal Concerns: A lot of the myths that we mentioned in the beginning of the blog come into play when speaking about legal concerns in adoption. This is why it is very important to research the unique legal issues involved in both adoption plans. For international adoption, each country has its own set of laws governing adoption that must be met. Some families have said one of their main reasons they chose international adoption is because they were concerned about openness and birthparents coming back to claim their child. The large majority of domestic adoptions are not revoked or disrupted and each state has their own set timeline on when the birth parents rights are terminated. It is important to research so you are fully aware of all the aspects when choosing your path to adoption.

As you can see there are many factors to consider and you may have a longer more personal list to explore. Remember whether choose either the international or domestic route, there are still additional choices within that path such as working with an agency or attorney or gender and age of child, etc. In addition to all the research and weighing the pros and cons, the decision ultimately comes down to what makes you feel the most comfortable and which option best fits your family.