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.

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.