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Deciding Adoption Preferences: Domestic Versus International Adoptions

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Adoptions are either domestic or international. These terms describe whether the birth parents and adoptive parents live in the same or different countries. Domestic adoptions occur when both sets of parents live in the same country, while international adoptions occur when the birth parents live in one country and the adoptive parents live in another. Whether an adoption occurs internationally or domestically has bearing on the degree of openness that adoption can possess. Domestic adoptions vary widely in their degree of openness, depending on the needs of the birth parents; however, international adoptions are more likely to be closed by nature, with little or no contact between birth and adoptive parents.

people around worldInternational and domestic adoption options each offer distinct advantages and disadvantages. Domestic adoption agencies generally are able to provide more detailed and accurate information about birth parents' medical information than are international agencies. They are also better able to provide the option of an open or semi-open adoption than are international agencies. Whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage depends on the preferences of the adopting parents. A further reason that people may choose to adopt domestically is that it is the best way to participate in a newborn or young infant adoption. With a domestic adoption, you may be matched up with a pregnant woman who has not yet given birth. In contrast, when dealing with international adoption you are usually not made aware of children until after they have been born. If a family pursues an international adoption of an infant, the child will most likely be several months old at best, and possibly over a year old or more, before all administrative hurdles are cleared and the child is permitted to travel to the new home.

International adoptions offer advantages as well. Many adoptive parents do not desire any contact with birth parents and like the fact that most international adoptions are closed in nature. Others like the humanitarian issue of knowing that by choosing to adopt a child internationally, a child can be removed from harmful or poverty level situations -- although the same could be said for many domestic adoptions. The manner in which most international adoptions are conducted also minimizes the risk that a child could be offered to prospective parents and then withdrawn. International birth parents have already transferred their parental rights to a third-party adoption agency or orphanage before the adoptive parents get involved. This may not be the case with domestic adoptions, particularly when a child is expected, but not yet born. Birth parents may change their minds about adopting out their child during the period before the adoption is finalized. This can be a frightening prospect for would-be-parents to contemplate, and adoptive parents who wish to minimize this possibility may prefer international adoption or may otherwise work only to identify candidate children who have already been placed in an orphanage or foster program. Finally, some adoptive parents find that international restrictions on who may adopt (with regard to age, finances, etc.) may be less stringent, making it more likely their application will succeed. There is no right or wrong decision with regard to choosing to pursue a domestic versus an international adoption; these choices are best made based on personal preferences.