This is one of the most controversial issues in adoption. Many families feel strongly that adoption should mimic biology, and that parents should accept a child of either gender. Other parents — particularly those who have experienced infertility — feel they should be allowed this measure of control. Interestingly, about 80 percent of parents who choose want a girl. No one knows exactly why, though, since single adoptive parents are predominantly women who want girls, this skews the overall numbers.
Many U.S. agencies and attorneys working in private adoption will not work with parents who want to specify gender. For some, it is an ethical issue. For others, it’s just practical: it’s hard to recruit expectant mothers by saying, “We’ll take the baby only if it’s a girl/boy.” If the choice is important to you, you have several options.
Choosing Boy or Girl
- You can choose private adoption and work with an agency or attorney who will match you with birth mothers after the baby has been born. About one-quarter of placing birth mothers don’t make an adoption plan until after the birth, so you are eliminating three-quarters of potential birth mothers. It may take longer for a match.
- You can search for an expectant mother who has already had an ultrasound or other prenatal test to determine sex. This may be rare, as few may have the resources for nonessential tests.
- You can search for an expectant mother and offer to pay for prenatal screening before you commit to the adoption. (We couldn’t find an attorney or social worker who had ever heard of an expectant mother agreeing to this.)
- You can find an adoption attorney who prescreens expectant mothers and covers their prenatal testing before matching with parents.
- You can adopt from foster care. Foster agencies almost always let you specify gender — though some will do it only if you are fostering/adopting an older child.
- You can adopt internationally, choosing an agency and country that will allow you to specify gender. You’ll need to do some searching. Some will allow it only if you are adopting older children; others, only if you already have children and want to balance the family.
- You can work with an agency that specializes in “waiting children” and “special needs” children, either domestic or international.
No prenatal test of gender is foolproof. Ultrasounds have a misdiagnosis rate of about 20 percent in the second trimester, and five percent in the third. If you are pursuing a private adoption, and are concerned about the baby’s gender, you and the expectant mother should plan for the possibility of a baby that doesn’t come out as predicted.
A few countries bar single men from adopting girls. In the U.S., social workers are sometimes biased toward gender matching, and will encourage single women to adopt girls and single men to adopt boys.
Does being “picky” put my adoption at risk?
If you are open to a child of any age, race, or gender, your adoption will be fast and certain. With each restriction, you add time to the process. You will want to think hard about the issues that matter most, and weigh them against the length of time you want to wait for a child. Given the greater demand for girls, for example, requesting a girl can double your waiting time.