Domestic Vs. International Adoption: Which One to Choose?

Which of the two adoption methods, domestic or international is better? It certainly is a source of dilemma for the couples or single parents interested in adopting a child. A detailed analysis of both adoption paths will surely help readers to make informed decisions.
AptParenting Staff
With a number of celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Hugh Jackman, Madonna, Guy Ritchie et al., establishing a trend in child adoption, more people are coming out for rearing orphaned children after becoming their legal guardians or parents. The legal complexities involved in a child adoption are such that Pop singer Madonna fought a two-year long battle for adopting a child she met in a Malawian orphanage, in Africa. While Madonna fought successfully to make the child a part of her family, not many of us can afford to get involved in such tiring court cases, and that too, at an international level. This makes it important for an individual who is interested in an adoption to know about the pros and cons of domestic and international adoption.
Understanding Domestic and International Adoption
Legal rules are just one significant dimension of child adoption policies, be it the international or domestic adoption. Both these adoption methods have stringent and relaxed norms depending on individual cases. The couple willing to adopt a kid must carefully analyze their 'needs' and based on that they must choose the child. For instance, if a couple wants to adopt a newborn infant having skin color or ethnicity similar to theirs, they should go for the domestic adoption. If color, creed, nationality, race, ethnicity, looks, and gender are not a matter of concern, the couple can choose to go for an international adoption.
Disclaimer: Make sure that you research the individual and married couple requirements for child adoption from the official website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Given the complexity of laws related to the child adoption, every individual will have to satisfy different criteria depending on several factors. This article just gives you a general idea regarding the major facets of the process. It is not a substitute for professional attorney assistance.
Mentioned below are some other factors that may help you to reach to a conclusion regarding which process to choose: domestic or international adoption.
Adoptee's Age
Do you want to adopt a newborn infant? If that is the case, you will have to compulsorily choose domestic adoption. In international adoptions, it is not possible to adopt infants or toddlers younger than one year of age. You will have to settle with older children than that (one year and above).
Adopter's Age
It is generally said that domestic adoptions have more limitations than international adoptions. One of the reasons for such an opinion is the age factor. In international adoption policies, many countries have a higher upper age limit than the norms in the USA. So, for those who want to adopt a child in their old age, they can also do it through international adoptions.
Medical/Social History
As a prospective legal parent, it is normal to be interested in knowing the social and medical background of the child you have chosen to adopt. This is essential because knowing about the first few years of a child's upbringing will help you to deal with the kid in a more proper way. Similarly, if a child has medical complications, you must be aware of them, as the child will be your responsibility post-adoption. In domestic cases, it is easier to find extensive information about the child's medical and social history. Information regarding the child's family history, birth mother (biological mother), birth father and their social life can be easily documented in domestic adoption cases. This is a limitation when it comes to international adoption cases because it is not easy to track the families or social links of children living in orphanages.
Time Frame
The time period it takes to complete the process for an adoption is not fixed. If you are not adopting the child from an orphanage or other similar child welfare centers, but you are waiting for a prospective the birth mother to get pregnant and/or give birth to a baby for you to adopt, it may take months or even more than a year. Be it the domestic or international adoptions, the time period in which you will be officially declared as the legal parents of the child, depends pretty much on your profile, openness (both parties legally agreeing to share the information about the child after adoption), changing law dynamics and the agency or professionals you're working with. International adoptions take nearly 12-18 months on an average so, you can guess the long wait you have to do, before you can have the child in your arms.
In some cases, adopting a child demands from you to be financially capable to handle the costs incurred in providing nourishment and care to the birth mother (if known) and the child. Completing all legal formalities also requires money besides hiring competent attorneys. In general, there are hidden and direct costs in adopting a child. On a general note, a domestic adoption costs nearly US$50,000 to US$35,000 while an international adoption may cost US$20,000 to US$35,000. These costs are just a rough estimates and they may vary significantly for individual cases.
This is the most critical part of an adoption process. In international adoptions, it takes more than the desire to adopt a child successfully. Firstly, you have to choose a country from where you want to adopt the child. You may like to consider a country that you have visited for a couple of times, or you are familiar with. After receiving all the necessary documents of your family (birth certificates, marriage license, divorce history (if any), photos of home, etc., the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) sends it to the country you have chosen to adopt from. After a long wait, known as the international home study process, the adoptive parents are sent a form for authentication and checks. Some countries even require adoptive parents to stay in the child's native country before adoption! In domestic adoption process, the process is almost similar, except for the fact that the adoption is within the boundaries of USA. To successfully adopt a child, it is best to hire an adoption agency. The professional agencies help their clients in locating sources like adoption center networks, orphanages and similar services from where the client can choose kid(s) for adoption.
For either of the two adoptions, it is imperative to follow the guidelines established by the concerned countries. In the USA, The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) guides potential adoptive parents in handling child adoption issues. Those who opt for international adoptions must respect the laws, restrictions and requirements of the countries from which they are adopting the child. These laws may range from anything as simple as height, or weight criteria to more profound indicators of a well-to-do family, like; high income, number of dependents in the house, and marital stability (number of divorces, how long the present marriage has lasted for). In some countries, like Sri Lanka and Thailand, single parents (female or male) are not allowed to adopt a child! So, acquaint yourself with all the laws and rules, before you wish to adopt a child from a specific country. Expert attorneys are very beneficial in such cases as they are aware of the nitty-gritty of adoption cases.
This is intrinsically a part of the laws and agreements of the adoption policies between the birth mother, prospective adoptive parents and the State (especially, in case of international adoptions). Many adoptive parents fear that the birth mother may come back to claim the child after several years. To help such parents sort out their concerns and establish a more transparent system, there are options like "semi-open adoption", wherein the birth mother is legally not allowed to know the whereabouts of the adopted child. All these steps are there to ensure that no innocent couples are embroiled in needless lawsuits in later years of the child adoption. This concern is mostly, non-existent in international adoptions but, may be valid to some extent in domestic adoptions.
In a Nutshell, You Need to Remember...
Factors Domestic Adoption International Adoption
Adoptee's Age A newborn infant can be adopted. No newborn infant can be adopted (only babies older than a year).
Adopter's Age Stringent upper age limit (25-35). Relaxed upper age limits (40-60).
Medical/Social History Can be known easily and is very helpful. Difficult to know family history due to lack of information.
Time Frame Subjective* Subjective*
Finances Subjective* Subjective*
Process Subjective* Subjective*
Laws Stringent Relatively relaxed in many countries.
Privacy Several options to secure privacy. No major worries about privacy.
*Depends upon laws of the country you are interested in, birth mother care costs, types of attorney/agency hired and other factors, and so, it is difficult to draw any conclusive comparison.

You Must Seek Help From
  • Registered child adoption agencies with a proven track record of transparency and success.
  • Your family attorney or an expert in similar cases. In domestic adoption cases, you may need to consult few of your friends before hiring an attorney. However, for international adoption, the agency in your country, will collaborate with an adoption agency of the other country, to ease the process of adoption for you.
  • Official website of The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
  • Self-study, research and discussions with people who have adopted children.
So, what conclusion can we draw after reading about the domestic or international adoption? It can be conclusively stated that both the adoption methods have advantageous and disadvantageous. It is for the potential adoptive parents to decide what they exactly want and then proceed as per the plan.