Evaluating Risk: How to decide which type of Adoption is right for you.

Every adoption assumes some risk. One way to decide which adoption program is right for you is to look at which type of risk you are ready for. Let’s look at what the risks are in each type of adoption.

Domestic adoption. The primary reason people choose domestic adoption is that they want to adopt an infant. This way, they are avoiding the risk that comes with adopting an older child who may have incurred several lost attachments or developed complications from being in an abusive home, foster home, or institution. But in domestic adoption, you have to be chosen by a birthmother. So domestic adoption carries with it the risk of waiting (for a period outside your control) for a birthmom to choose you. Nationwide, the number of hopeful adoptive couples outnumbers the number of birthmothers 20 to 1, so domestic families should be prepared to wait to be matched. People who do not want the risk of waiting for a birthmom to choose them should consider other adoption programs. Domestic adoption also carries with it the possibility that a birthmom could change her mind about placing for adoption. Some couples cannot envision taking on this risk.  In addition, domestic adoption carries the risk of possible poor pre-natal care or health, including possible drug exposure.

Embryo adoption. The primary reason people choose embryo adoption is so that they can experience pregnancy. They are avoiding the risk of a birthmom changing her mind. They are also avoiding the risk of having an older child who may find it more difficult to attach to them. But embryo adoption carries with it the risk of miscarriage. Many couples who consider embryo adoption have just finished their own fertility treatment and have probably experience a few miscarriages. They must be willing to incur the risk of future miscarriage if they pursue embryo adoption. The national statistic for frozen embryos resulting in live birth are about 43% for each embryo transfer, and 82% of having a live birth after the third embryo transfer. There is little risk of not being chosen by a donor family. The number of donor families is roughly equal to the number of adoptive families, and matching usually occurs within a couple months of completing your home study.

Foster adoption. The primary reason people choose foster adoption is that the cost is either free, nearly free. In addition, families are paid a monthly stipend from the state for being foster parents. Foster parents are also motivated by the desire to minister to children in need from difficult backgrounds. But foster adoption comes with the risk of losing custody. Many foster parents must be ready to assist with reunification efforts with the biological family. Some parents feel they cannot envision bonding with a child and then losing custody. Our experience shows that this fear is somewhat unwarranted. Bonding is hard work, and it does not happen as soon as you think. It can take months or years to have a strong attachment with an older child. Furthermore, only half of the children in foster homes each year are reunited with their biological family, and many re-enter foster care again. So while foster parents should not view fostering as a “back door” to adoption, realistically, foster placements often do result in adoption. Ideally, foster parents should ready simultaneously to help with reunification and be willing to adopt. Foster parents are avoiding the risk of being chosen by a birthmom. All foster parents who are successfully certified as a foster home can expect to have a placement relatively soon. The number of children in need far exceeds the number of homes, so if your criteria are reasonable, you will have a placement.

International adoption. The primary reason people choose international adoption is that they do not want to run the risk of losing custody (through foster care). Nor do they want to run the risk of waiting to be chosen by a birthmom (through domestic adoption). Some families are also compelled by the overwhelming need to minster to children in foreign orphanages. International families are placed on a referral list for “first come, first served” so every family can expect to be matched in time. However, the wait time can be a few years in some cases. The main risk with international adoption is that countries have fragile adoption infrastructure or fragile commitment to adoption. Sometimes countries close the doors to adoption completely, overnight! Sometimes the US prohibits adoptions from foreign countries, overnight! These problems are sometimes resolved by waiting out the storm, or by switching to another country program. But international families should be prepared for the risk of foreign countries having a breakdown in the process. On the other hand, international families have the benefit of adopting a child who is old enough that their behavior is known and documented. Since children are almost always at least 2 years old, you have a better chance of knowing whether they have autism, ADHD, reactive attachment disorder, etc. than if you adopt an infant.

To summarize,

  1. If you are worried about not being picked by a birthmom, domestic adoption may not be right for you
  2. If you cannot envision having a miscarriage, then embryo adoption may not be right for you
  3. If you have a hard time seeing yourself helping with re-unification efforts, then don’t choose foster care
  4. If you want a baby, then you should not choose international adoption

Or to put it differently:

  1. If you are willing to help with re-unification efforts, and are open to a sibling set, or a child over 5 years old, or children with special needs, choose foster care.  If you can’t afford other adoption programs, or you don’t want to wait to be picked by a birthmom, choose foster care.
  2. If you are willing to wait to be chosen by a birthmom, and you only are open to adopting a baby, then choose domestic adoption.  If you don’t want to risk losing custody, choose domestic adoption.
  3. If you are willing to take the risk of miscarriage but want to give birth to your adopted child, choose Snowflakes®.  If you don’t want to wait to be picked by a birthmom, choose Snowflakes®.
  4. If you are willing to wait out what can sometimes be an international roller coaster, and you are open to older children, or infants and children with special needs, choose intercountry adoption.  If you don’t want to wait to be picked by a birthmom, choose intercountry adoption.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President

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