Adoption 101: The Basics for Military Families

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Adoption 101: A Series on the Basics for Military Families

I am absolutely thrilled to be doing this series for Military Spouse Magazine. As any of you who read my personal blog know, my family is currently in the process of adopting from the Philippines. The process of adoption can be a little daunting, so this series is designed to provide you with useful information, and help answer some of your biggest questions about adoption. Part One will cover the different types of adoption; Part Two will cover the unique challenges military families face in adoption; Part Three will cover resources available to military families to help with adoption; Part Four will provide adoption tips from the experts about how to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Certainly, I won’t answer every question out there in this series. If I miss anything that is important to you, please leave your questions in the comments on each article and I will do my best to address them.

I look forward to taking this journey with you! I hope that you find it helpful, even encouraging, and I hope it inspires some of you who have been thinking about adopting to go ahead and take the plunge!

Adoption for Military Families Part 1: Choosing an Adoption Path

For my family, adoption was always in the cards.  From the beginning, we were pretty sure that ours would be an international adoption from the Philippines (where Jake and I met). But for others I have spoken to, adoption was less of a certainty at first, and it took a while to decide upon a particular path. Part of the reason for that is simple: most people don’t know all of the options that are available when considering adoption. And unless you know what you’re looking for, finding the right information can be daunting.

There are basically four broad categories, of four paths, of adoptions to choose from. Two of the paths are domestic, and two of them are international. Each path has a distinct process, although some of the steps in the process overlap. The four paths have their own unique benefits and challenges, but knowing a little about each of them can help you decide which one might be best for your family. Be aware, though, that what choosing a path does is tell you the right place to start looking for the information you need. It is the beginning of your research, not the end.

The Two Kinds of Domestic Adoption

Domestic adoption means the adoption of a child that was (or will be) born somewhere in the United States. Children are eligible for domestic adoption from birth through age 18. There are two types of domestic adoptions: Independent/Private Adoption and Public/Foster Care Adoption. 

Independent/Private Adoptions are handled through private adoption agencies or placement services. Typically, these adoptions involve matching expectant mothers with pre-screened, prospective adoptive families. They also include things like step-parent adoptions, and sometimes, they may include placement of kids with relatives after the loss of their parents. In some states, these kinds of adoptions can be completed without the assistance of an agency (hence, independent), but that is the exception, not the rule. There are many resources available to help with Private Adoption, but and are great places to start. In Private Adoption, the adoptive family and the birth family can have as much (or as little) contact as they want during the course of the child’s life. Although it varies based on particular circumstances, a private adoption generally costs between $20,000 and $30,000.

Public/Foster Care Adoptions involve adopting a child or group of children through the foster care system. The children available for Public Adoption range in age from birth to age 18, and often include sibling groups. The kids available for adoption through Public Adoption tend to be older children than Private Adoption, where most often the child is an infant. Public Adoptions happen in different ways depending on the state you live in, and the state that the child/children live in. For instance, some states prefer that prospective adoptive parents serve as foster parents first, while others place less emphasis on fostering. If you’re interested in Public Adoption, becoming certified as a foster parent is a great way to learn about the process and to give a foster child (children) a temporary home. For information about adoption in particular states, a great resource is There are also great national resources where you can find more information, like Again, there is some variation from family to family, but the average cost for a Public Adoption is $2,500.


The Two Kinds of International Adoption

There are two kinds of International Adoption, or rather two categories into which countries are divided. The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (the Hague Convention) was signed in 1993, and provides standardized guidelines for adoption between countries that have adopted the convention (including the United States). Countries that have signed the Hague Convention make up the first category of International Adoptions.  Hague Convention Countries are all subject to the same rules and guidelines, which provide a certain level of consistency in the process. The rules and guidelines are very strict, carefully designed to meet the needs of children, and to protect them from things like cross-border trafficking. Because of this thorough vetting, however, the adoption process can take longer from Hague Convention Countries.

The other kind of International Adoption is adoption from those countries that have not adopted the Hague Convention (Non-Hague Countries). Non-Hague Countries have their own distinct processes. They may follow some Hague guidelines, or they may not follow any of them. Because the process lacks some of the rigors of the Hague process, these adoptions can often be completed more quickly than adoptions from Hague Convention Countries. However, Non-Hague Countries are more susceptible to internal issues that affect the process, such as political regime changes.

If you have particular countries in mind from which you might like to adopt, the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs is a great resource for learning about the adoption process in each country. The United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) also has useful information about the differences between the Hague and Non-Hague adoption processes, as well as the overall process of adopting from another country.

In either kind of International Adoption, the children available range in age from birth to sixteen years of age. Some are individual children and some are in sibling groups. Most countries have a general system of adoption, as well as a “special needs” list, which usually includes children over five years of age, sibling groups, and children with a physical or mental special need. The timeframe tends to vary based on whether you are adopting through the general system (usually a longer wait) or from the special needs list (usually a shorter wait).

For either kind of International Adoption, the average costs range between $30,000 and $50,000. Part of the reason that the costs are high is because they include travel for at least the child, and sometimes for the entire family depending on whether you go to the child, or the child comes to you. How that process works varies by country, as does most other things when it comes to International Adoption.

Hopefully this overview has given you a good sense of the four paths available for adoption. In the next segment, I will talk about beginning the adoption process and some of the unique challenges that military families face during that process. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about the four paths, or adoption in general, please leave them in the comments!

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