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What Are the Types of Adoption Available?

By now, you probably are realizing that adopting a child is more layered and complex than you may have ever imagined. That certainly was my experience, as well, when I started seriously digging into what it takes to adopt a child. It is surprising how many types of adoption are available to you. Today, we will briefly review each type to give you a foundation of understanding.

The first type is infant adoption. The age range that would be considered infant adoption is anywhere from newborn to toddler. Each state has different policies in place for the process a first mother must go through to terminate her parental rights. The state of Wisconsin, for instance, has a policy that the infant enters into a “bridge home” until the first mother terminates her parental rights. This is for the protection, first and foremost, of the first mother, that she doesn’t feel pressured to relinquish her rights, that she takes the time she needs to decide. Both the first mother and the prospective adoptive parents can see the child at the bridge family’s home during this time. You can imagine how tense of a time this can be for everyone! Especially if this is your first child.

The second type of adoption is fostering to adopt. This is where you become a foster parent first. An infant or older is placed in your home. There is a likelihood that the first family’s parental rights could be terminated, but it is not for certain. There will be foster parent involvement and first family reunification is a possibility. This type of adoption requires an expanded definition of what a family is, that family includes first family, foster family, and others. Therefore, you would need to keep an open mind. You also would need to be someone who can withstand the potential loss of the child returning to their birth family. It’s also important to examine your motivation for adopting a child in this way. Is it because it’s generally more affordable or that you believe you’ll have a higher chance of receiving an infant, or is it to do something good for the world? When you know your motivation, you will be better equipped for this type of adoption.

The third type of adoption is adopting through foster care. Often you’ll find "listings" of children waiting to be adopted. For example, AdoptUSKids have photo listings of waiting for children by state. The North American Council on Adoptable Children also has such listings. In these cases, the parental rights have been terminated by the state. If the parental rights haven’t been terminated, the state is almost certain that they will be terminated once a permanent home is found. The ages of the children can range from infants and toddlers who have special needs, to grade school and teens, which is more likely.

Siblings may also be available to be adopted together. You know, I adopted 2 children one right after the other and they were 16 months apart. I did have the resources to handle this and my children had no medical or identified emotional challenges, but adopting siblings could be an overreach in terms of time, energy and resources.

Whichever adopting through foster care option you may consider, it’s important to know that the loss these children have faced in their young lives has been tremendous. You will need to be someone who is prepared to learn about loss and the struggles that can result. You also will need to be someone who will be open to getting help and to learning parenting techniques that are different from the ones you may have learned from your parents. You will need to be flexible – which is true for any adoption – but is especially true if you adopt through foster care.

Between now and your next lesson – I invite you to pull out your trusty journal again. Think carefully about these three types of adoption we discussed today.

Answer these questions for yourself:

  • What are the ramifications of each type of adoption?
  • Do you have enough resources, time, energy, and support each type of adoption?
  • Does one type of adoption seem to fit you better than the others?

Next week, we will dig a little deeper into the types of adoption by exploring transracial and transcultural adoption as well as special needs adoption.