There are basically four types of domestic adoption: Public adoptions, which deal mostly with adoption from foster care, adoption through a licensed adoption agency, adoption accomplished through an unlicensed agency or facilitator, or a independent adoption which does not use any intermediary agency or facilitator.

In addition, U.S. families adopting domestically must consider what kind of contact to have with birth families after the adoption is complete. This can be a source of much fear and confusion for adoptive families, but by understanding your needs and the needs of your child, you can make this decision with confidence and peace.

Public Foster Care Adoption

A child who has been placed under the care of the state and whose parental rights have been relinquished may become legally adoptable through the state. There are currently more than 100,000 children awaiting adoption through the US foster care system.

Children who are in the foster care system and have been legally freed for adoption can be placed into an adoptive family without necessarily going through a period of fostering. However, it is important to work together with the foster care agency to manage a transition for the child that will ensure the best success and least amount of disruption.

Because of the nature of how children most often find themselves in the care of the state, an ongoing relationship with a child’s birthparents is often not possible.

Licensed Adoption Agency

Licensed private placing agencies are required to meet state standards and therefore should have a great deal of oversight to ensure a high quality of ethics and service. While this is generally true, it is important to obtain references from others who have worked with any agency you may feel drawn to in order to ensure a high ethical standard in services.

In a private licensed agency adoption, birth parents most often relinquish their parental rights to the agency at the birth of their child. Because of this, domestic private placements (either through an agency or attorney) are often the best way to adopt a newborn.

Domestic adoption often offers the ability to gain information on your child’s birth family history (medically and socially).

If maintaining a relationship or familiarity with your child’s birth family is important to you and your family, then domesic adoption through a licensed agency is likely your best option.

In contrast to an international adoption where your file slowly moves to the top of the waiting list, a domestic adoption often includes a profile made by your family for birth parents to review. Making a profile can be a powerful tool in giving a birth family an intimate glimpse into your family and the life the child would enter

While adoptive families provide an excellent tool for birth families to determining which family they feel to be the best match for their child, it also introduces an uncertain element of “wait time” as it is impossible to determine how quickly your profile might be chosen by a birth family. For some, this is a very difficult aspect of the wait.

Unlicensed Agency/ Facilitator

Unlicensed agencies and facilitators often do not have the same State oversight; consequently, there may be more financial, emotional, and legal risk for the adoptive and birth families.

Independent Adoption

In an independent adoption, the birth parents relinquish their parental rights directly to the adoptive parents through an attorney instead of an agency. Private adoption allows all parties involved to make choices about the parameters of openness as well as other aspects that may be important to either the adoptive or birth family. Direct contact allows more extensive background information for the child, including medical, social, and religious histories.

Some advantages of a private adoption can include a shorter wait time for placement and immediate ability to begin bonding with the child as placement generally occurs just after birth.

Some disadvantages include a greater cost to the adoptive family.


Open vs Closed Adoption

This is a very personal decision that must be determined when entering into a domestic adoption program. People often have varying definitions of what an open or closed adoption means, but here is a general idea of what each one entails that perhaps can be a help to you as you begin.

Closed adoption: Neither the adoptive parents nor the birth parents know each other, nor do they ever meet. Instead, all the arrangements and paperwork occur through a mediator, usually an adoption agency or an attorney.

Semi-Open: The variations in semi-open adoptions are vast. This arrangement can range from updates sent from the adoptive family to the birth parents through a mediator for a set amount of time, to the adoptive parents and birth parents actually meeting before the child is born but only known to each other by their first names. After the birth of the child, correspondence between the adoptive family and the birth parents occurs through a third party only, such as an adoption agency or an attorney.

Open: The adoptive parents and the birth parents both know each other’s full names and have come to a mutual agreement on how involved they will be in each other’s lives


Next Steps

Once you have decided to adopt domestically, it is time to Find an Agency!