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If you are considering adoption, it is important to know all the facts about the various adoption processes. While the more common form of adoption is currently international adoption, popularized by its apparent celebrity endorsement, from celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock to the popular reality series The Little Couple, domestic adoption remains both prevalent and in-demand.
What is domestic adoption?
Domestic adoption refers to the process of adopting the filiations and legal rights and responsibilities of a child or infant from within the same country—in other words, the adopted child is selected from within his or her country of birth. There are two main forms of domestic adoption:
1) An identified agency placement is a form of domestic adoption which takes place when the birth mother relinquishes her parental rights to a licensed domestic adoption agency. The agency then places the baby with the selected adoptive parent(s), in some cases directly from the hospital; however, the adoption agency maintains legal custody of the baby until the placement is assessed and deemed to be appropriate and the adoption is finalized.
2) An independent infant domestic adoption, or direct placement adoption, occurs when a birth mother selects the adoptive parents and gives them direct physical and legal custody of the baby without the involvement of an agency. An assessment of the adoptive placement is still required before the adoption can be finalized, but these are generally handled by adoption attorneys and independent social workers. Independent adoptions can be streamlined, and can provide the opportunity for a more customized adoption plan to take place. Many adoptions in which an alternative family member takes custody of the infant fall under this category.
How common is domestic adoption?
As the popularity of international adoption continues to rise, a number of myths have begun to surface surrounding domestic adoption. One such myth suggests that the availability of domestic infants in need of adoption is dwindling. In actuality, while 19,000 infants are available internationally for adoption each year, a minimum of 20,000 infants under the age of one year are placed for adoption each year in the United States alone. Of these infants, less than 1,500 are adopted each year, leaving thousands of infants to be entered into foster care.
What are some other common misconceptions about domestic adoption?
Another common misconception surrounding domestic adoption includes the length of wait time. While a popular myth suggests that the wait time for adoption takes around 5 years, a more realistic wait time ranges from one to two years. This length of time accounts for the amount of time it takes to match the baby to his or her potential parents, as well as the assessments and legal proceedings which are required to take place before the adoption can be finalized. In many cases, the adoptive parents can attain physical custody of the child before all of the legalities of the adoption process are finalized. While the myth seems to suggest that the parents, seeking to adopt an infant, are finally awarded physical custody of a 5-year old child, depending on the type of domestic adoption selected, it is often possible for the parents to take their newly adopted infant directly home from the hospital. In certain circumstances, given the respective comfort levels of both the biological and adoptive parent(s), as with open adoption, it is even possible for the adoptive parents to attend doctor appointments with the pregnant biological mother, allowing contact and involvement throughout all stages of the child’s life.
For more information regarding the common myths and misconceptions of domestic adoption, consult Eliza Newlin Carney’s The Truth About Domestic Adoption.
In the United States, each state and territory contains different laws and procedures surrounding the domestic adoption process. These laws affect not only how a biological parent can relinquish their parental rights, but also when a birth parent can legally consent to an adoption. While the biological father can relinquish his parental rights beforehand, the birth mother cannot legally consent to an adoption until after the baby is born—even if an adoptive family has already been chosen. A waiting period ranging from 1 day to 2 weeks is required before the birth mother can give consent; however, the average wait time lasts 3 days, after which point the adoption can be finalized.