How do I begin the process of adopting an older child?

Once prospective parents decide to adopt an older child from another country or domestically they should begin contacting prospective agencies. Prospective parents should ask agencies about their parent eligibility requirements, the matching process, and their post-placement services. Families adopting domestically must choose a public or private agency. Even if parents work with a private agency they will interact at some point with the public agency in care of the child. While choosing an agency, prospective parents should also begin speaking with other adoptive parents, joining adoptive parent support groups, and reading books and articles about child trauma. Once parents choose an agency they will have to complete a general application form and other paperwork including a budget worksheet, self-study, family information form, and criminal background check form.

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What factors should be considered when deciding whether to adopt an older child from another country or domestically?

A single person or couple must decide what type of adoption is best for them and their family. Prospective adoptive parents vary in their income, ability to travel, interests in adopting children from a specific cultural group, and willingness to maintain contact with biological family members. Parents with lower-incomes many only be able to adopt domestically due to the negligible costs of adopting from the U.S. foster care system. For prospective parents with higher incomes the travel and agency costs of intercountry adoption may not be a barrier. Some people feel a sense of obligation to adopt from their own country since so many children are in need right in their backyards, while others feel more comfortable adopting a foreign child. An important component of many people’s decision is their willingness to have contact with their adoptive child’s biological family. Children adopted domestically will be more likely to have a continuing relationship with biological family members including siblings or grandparents as compared to their internationally adopted counterparts. This is due to the simple fact that they may have preexisting relationships with family members and that these family member may live close by. Children adopted from another country most likely have completely lost contact with their biological family or have never known them, making continuing contact a moot issue. A final factor that contributes to some families’ decisions to adopt from another country is their own ethnic background or familiarity with a country they’ve spent time in which leads them to want to adopt a child from that culture or country. Prospective parents should become family with both types of adoption before making their final decision. An important part of the decision-making process is to speak to adoptive parents about their experience adopting domestically or through a specific country program.