A lot of the time people talk about "adoption" as this one homogeneous idea. But that's deceiving because both historically and today there are lots of different types of adoption. I promise to talk about the history of adoption at some point because it's truly fascinating, but here and now let's talk about the types of adoption common in the U.S.A. today.
"Adoption" today can mean international, private domestic, public domestic, or step-parent adoption. And before we go any further, it is really important to say that no one type is better or worse than the other. One type of adoption may have a lot of benefits for one family and present some serious obstacles for another. Last caveat for this post: there is a ridiculous amount to know about each kind of adoption, but this is meant only to be a first overview.
International Adoption: Generally speaking, international adoption is any type of adoption where the adoption takes place outside of the U.S.A., almost always in the adoptee's country of birth. The U.S. has to then recognize the adoption in order for it to become official and for the adoptee to become a citizen. These adoptions are no joke - some countries require adoptive parents to make multiple visits to the country for more than a month at a time. Hopeful families have to be approved by their home country AND their future child(ren)'s home country. And the risk can be high in some countries because any country is allowed to say that no non-citizens will be allowed to adopt. It's usually just politics, but the effects on adoptive families, and especially pre-adoptive families, are life-changing.
Private Domestic Adoption: These types of adoptions take place solely within the U.S. and do NOT involve a public agency (i.e. foster care agency), and they can be completed within one state or across state borders. Both of our adoptions have been private domestic adoptions, though we're interested in other types as well. This type of adoption can also include adoption by grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other close family or even friends - known as kinship adoption. Private agencies, attorneys, non-profits, and birth mothers themselves can set up matches for the adoptees. Basically, private domestic adoptions are "default" adoptions - they don't involve other countries, foster care, or pretty much anything other than the adoption triad.
Public Domestic Adoption: These are the foster care adoptions you've heard about, but it is not the same as foster care. In foster care, the child is in the physical custody of the state, but the parent still has legal custody (these terms vary by state). In order to become available for adoption, the legal tie between parent and child has to be severed. When those children are adopted, it is referred to as a Public Domestic Adoption. There are a lot more ins and outs to this, and many more nuances than I can cover here, but that's the really basic gist of it.
Step-Parent Adoption: This is the only type of adoption that is defined by the adoptive parent instead of the adoptee. It's a type of private domestic adoption and can be completed whether or not the child's other bio-parent is alive. If the child's other bio-parent is alive, that parent must either consent to the adoption (which would sever their legal ties to the child) or have a court sever the ties.
I hope this sheds a little bit of light on the world of adoption, it can definitely be a little convoluted. I hope to have more analysis posts like these for you soon!
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