What are the main differences between infant and older child adoption?

The number of infants eligible to be adopted in the U.S. and via intercountry adoption is decreasing due to a number of factors including increased acceptance of single parenthood. Prospective adoptive parents of infants may now wait many years to adopt an infant. More prospective parents of infants, within the U.S., are now working directly with birthparents and lawyers, and foregoing agency involvement. There are more restrictions on who can adopt a healthy infant in the U.S. For example, many agencies require prospective parents be under a certain age, be in a heterosexual marriage. Adopting an infant from another country also has become more difficult as many countries are limiting infant adoptions to prospective parents that are citizens of that country. As noted, older child adoption is open to more prospective parents. Each country has its own guidelines for the age and type of children eligible to be adopted (e.g. some countries restrict non-citizens to adopting children with special needs). Many of the procedures and background checks for adopting infants and older children are the same. With all types of adoption prospective parents will have to undergo background checks and home studies. Adopting a child of any age from the U.S. foster care system is much less expensive than adopting an infant either domestically or though intercountry adoption. Children legally free for adoption through the foster care system generally are older, however, some prospective parents are able to adopt infants through the public system if they first foster an infant who become legally free for adoption. There are emotional risk to “fost-adopt” programs however in that some infants and children are returned to their biological families should they meet the requirements of their case plan.

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Who can adopt an older child?

The answer is probably you, if you are a caring mature adult who wants to open your heart and home to a waiting child. The AdoptUsKids public service announcements say it best, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” Adoptive parents of older children, adopted from another country or domestically include people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, single persons, same-sex couples (whether married or un-married), persons and couples over the age of fifty, and lower income singles and couples. Although it is easier to adopt an older child as compared to an infant, there continue to be some barriers to adoption for some people. For example, many countries prohibit foreign same-sex couples from adopting, although the U.S. is not one of them, and some agencies still prohibit same-sex couples from adopting domestically. Transracial adoption, typically involving a white parent adopting a Latino or African-American child, has become more common in the U.S. Prospective parents considering transracial or transcultural (e.g. an older child adopted internationally) adoption should think about the diversity and openness of their community before adopting a child of different race or culture.  It is important prospective parents ask prospective agencies who is eligible to adopt through their program.

In the following video clip, Stephanie and Gloria discuss why many older adults are deciding to adopt older children and whether older child adoption is a good idea for prospective parents interested in skipping the “baby stage.”