Domestic, International, or Foster-to-Adopt?

So you want to adopt. But from where?

Now that you’ve decided to adopt, it’s time to decide where you’ll go. Talk to any number of people who have adopted and you’ll likely get the same number of strong opinions.

Bottom line: You have to look at the options and decide what’s right for you and your family.

Here are 5 basic facts about each—

What to know about the 3 main options

1. Domestic

  • Refers to the adoption of children born in the United States.
  • Adoption fees typically range between $25,000 to $50,000, depending on many factors (such as agency, home study, and travel costs). Whether you choose to financially support the birth mother during the remainder of her pregnancy also plays a major role.
  • May include an open relationship with the birth family.
  • Usually, adoptive parents receive a more detailed medical history for the child (than when adopting internationally).
  • Accounts for nearly half of adoptions by families in the U.S.

2. International

  • Refers to the adoption of children born outside the United States.
  • Many countries are closed to international adoption, and this list changes yearly. As of 2018, the countries most frequently adopted from include: China, South Korea, Haiti, India, Ukraine, Colombia, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Philippines, Latvia, Poland, Uganda, and Jamaica.
  • Wait times and adoption fees are less predictable than domestic adoption and are prone to change.
  • On average, wait time is approximately 3 years, and fees typically range between $20,000 to $50,000, depending on a wide range of factors (such as need to travel and length of stay in country).
  • On average, children adopted internationally are over 2 years old. This is both because of wait times, and because there is a big need for older children to be adopted into loving, waiting families. If you are considering adoption, please consider adopting an older child.

3. Foster-to-adopt

  • Refers to the adoption of children out of foster care.
  • More than half of the children adopted are adopted by their foster parents.
  • In 2017, the average adoption fees for foster parents was $2,398. (Adoption fees may vary significantly based on whether or not the adopting family fostered the child.)
  • Many babies waiting to be adopted are part of a sibling group. If at all possible, please work to keep sibling groups together when adopting.
  • The average age of a child entering foster care is 6.4 years old, and the goal for children in foster care is usually reunification with the birth family. Adoption becomes an option when the courts decide it’s in the best interest of the child.

Still not sure which direction to go? It’s a big decision. We recommend using Loving Shepherd Ministry’s free Adoption Assessment Form, which will ask you a variety of questions and help you narrow down your options. LSM has helped families navigate 7,300 adoptions and can help guide yours.

Additional reading:

Where Do I Start? An Adoption Guide

How to Choose an Adoption Agency

Meet families who have recently adopted.