How We Decided

International? Domestic? Open? Adoption comes in many shapes and sizes. These AF readers share how they decided what route to take, and how it turned out for their growing families.

A family formed via adoption, talking about "how we decided to adopt"

My husband and I chose independent domestic adoption because we wanted to raise children from infancy and have as much contact with the birth parents as possible. We discussed lawyers, costs, and finding a birth mother. But the most important step we took was to visit my sister’s friends, who had adopted two girls.

Neither my husband nor I had known anyone who had adopted, and when we saw that this was a regular family — a husband and wife with their two young girls, running in and out of the living room, showing off for visitors, playing together — we had one of those “aha” moments. That was what we wanted: family.

Roni Breite, San Diego, California

We had wanted to adopt internationally, but we worried about how a new child would fit in with our three biological children. We chose foster care adoption so the children could get to know each other before the adoption was finalized. We had increasingly longer visits with our foster girls, ages 10 and 12, and once we all felt comfortable, they moved in permanently.

We didn’t need the incentives, but the low fees, monthly stipends, and medical insurance we got by adopting from foster care let us put extra money toward the children’s college funds.

Kathryn Reiss, California

We did not want to go through the ups and downs of domestic adoption or have to advertise and meet prospective birth parents. We were still suffering from our infertility, and we didn’t want to risk the further disappointment of having a birth parent change his or her mind.

We chose Korea because it has a longstanding adoption program, the babies are adopted at a young age, and they live in foster care until they’re placed. We had attended an adoption conference, where we learned about all the options, and I had a friend who adopted from Korea and told me about the process.

Christy Miller

My husband and I looked at international adoption because we had heard that we were too old to adopt domestically (we were 37 at the time), and that adopting an infant could take a long time. As we set out to choose a country, we examined our and our families’ beliefs.

Would our families accept a child who looked Asian or Hispanic? Did we want a child who looked like us? Were we willing to help a child of another culture learn about his or her culture? Did we want an infant or a toddler who might struggle with a new language?

We decided to adopt from Russia. We felt that being Caucasian would allow our son to keep his adoption private if he chose to because it wouldn’t be obvious that he was adopted.

Michelle Giess, Cincinnati

I have had Type 1 diabetes since I was 23 and had just turned 40, so we initially thought we would adopt internationally, even though we preferred a newborn. As I later learned, my age wasn’t a barrier, so we ended up adopting domestically. And despite what I had heard about domestic adoptions taking years, ours took only one year.

Elaine M. Lane

I am a single gay man who wanted to adopt a baby as young as possible. I was told that a single parent adopting domestically could face a long wait, so I went the international route. After being told “No” many times, I eventually found an international agency that would work with a single man.

Next, I had to find a country that allowed single men to adopt. I chose Vietnam [now closed], with the understanding that I might switch to Guatemala. My area has a large Vietnamese community, and I thought I could take advantage of it. Soon, I brought my 14-week-old son home.

To me, it’s less important where you adopt from than what resources are available to support you during the adoption process and your family once you bring your child home.

Michael Morton

We talked to everyone about wanting to adopt. After meeting a couple who had adopted from foster care and spoke positively about the experience, we became interested. We attended a training session conducted by our county’s social services office, and were hooked.

We have since adopted two children whom we have had since infancy. The cost is low, no travel is required, the adoption is unlikely to be challenged, and subsidies are available when you adopt from foster care. The downsides I saw were that the process is lengthy, there’s a lot of paperwork, and the child may be returned to the birth parents.

Lori Jacobson, Loveland, Colorado

My husband and I consulted books, filled out forms — and did some soul-searching. Speed was the biggest factor in our decision, as we had already waited so long to be parents. International adoption seemed to be the best option.

As it turned out, I got pregnant shortly before we received our referral. Matthew was welcomed home in June, and Taylor was born in August.

Karen Ganis, Carmel, New York

We had decided to take a break from fertility treatments when my sister told me about a pregnant woman who wanted to place her child for adoption. We had talked about adoption, but my husband was not keen about it. We talked it over and decided to meet her.

We met the birth mother several times before our son’s birth. My husband and I, along with my sister and the two people who introduced us to the birth mother, were all in the delivery room. It’s as if we were all on different paths, moving around each other, and one day, our paths crossed to create this family.

Lorraine Ciavola, Mesa, Arizona

My husband and I read Lois Gilman’s The Adoption Resource Book and Patricia Irwin Johnston’s Adopting After Infertility, which helped us decide to adopt and taught us about choices we would have to make in the process. I went online to learn about various options.

We used an agency for our domestic adoption, because we wanted the support and did not want to advertise by ourselves.

My husband wanted an infant, and we both wanted an open adoption. We are white, and after discussing transracial adoption with African-Americans friends and a transracial adoptee, we decided we could be open to it. On March 30, we became the parents of an African-American newborn.

Erika Solberg, Illinois

My husband and I ruled out domestic because we were uncomfortable with open adoption. And we had heard stories of birth mothers who changed their minds after choosing adoptive parents.

So we looked for countries with well-established adoption programs. We liked Korea, but my husband was above its age limit. We chose China because we were likely to get a girl, and we liked the predictability of the program and the idea of escorted, group travel.

The popularity of the program at the time made our wait longer than we expected. So much for predictability! But if we did it again, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Marie Winters

After my cancer and hysterectomy, my husband and I knew we would be adopting. Still, it took a few years to decide on the route we would take.

We were interested in domestic adoption, although we had qualms about it: Were we wrong to want a healthy Caucasian child? Were we selfish not to want an open adoption? In the end, though, our agency social worker helped us decide that domestic was best for us, and five weeks after we completed our paperwork, we brought our first daughter home.

With our second child, race, gender, openness, and location no longer mattered, and we decided to look into China as well as domestic adoption. After only eight months, we were matched with a domestic birth mother. One month later, we picked up our second daughter from the hospital!

Kate Findlen, Needham, Massachusetts

We chose international over domestic adoption because we were worried about drug use among U.S. birth mothers. We also were uncomfortable with open adoption, although we have since initiated and nurtured an open, international adoption.

After eliminating the countries whose criteria we did not meet, we considered our feelings about race, color, and maintaining cultural practices for an internationally adopted child. We looked at the prevalence of alcohol use by birth mothers in certain parts of the world, quality of orphanage care versus foster care, and the ages of children available for adoption.

We chose Guatemala because our child would likely share our Catholic heritage, we were comfortable with Hispanic culture, the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome is low, we liked the foster care system there, and we would be able to adopt a relatively young infant.

Over time, we have become more comfortable with domestic adoption, and would consider that route if we adopt again.

Marcy McKay, La Grange, Illinois

We chose domestic adoption because we really wanted a newborn. We wanted to experience parenthood from as near the start of life as possible. From there, it was a matter of picking the right agency.

Domestic newborn adoption comes with an emotional as well as a financial cost. You need to prepare for the possibility that, after you pay the birth mother’s expenses, she might change her mind. That’s the reality of adoption.

Nancy, Natick, Massachusetts

I had thought about adoption for years when I got a newsletter from the National Association for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. In it was a story about kids in Asia with albinism needing homes. I thought, I can deal with that — I have had albinism all my life! I fell for a 2-1/2-year-old boy profiled in the article, and a little more than a year later, YangGen became my son. Now I’m adopting special-needs siblings from a different country.

Mindy Heppe

Domestic adoption in Spain can take seven years, so choosing international adoption was an easy decision for us.

Skin color wasn’t an issue. We weighed the pros and cons of each country and rejected the ones that suffered from internal strife. We rejected some South American countries after hearing about international adoptions that had taken more than four years.

We chose China because we liked how the steps and cost of the program were clearly laid out. Talking to a local group of China adoptive families helped us decide. They shared their experiences and confirmed that the China program was reliable.

Jordi Delgado and Conxi Alfaro, Barcelona, Spain

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