Types of Domestic Adoption

With Hollywood adoptions being all the rage, exemplified by mega-couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, adoption has been pushed to the forefront of the collective American consciousness. People generally understand what adoption is, but there remain some obscure details about adoption that go unknown. For instance, are there different kinds of adoption? What is the adoption process like? What's the difference between adoptive children and foster children?

These are all important questions, each of which this article will touch on briefly. First of all, there are two major types of adoption: domestic and international. This article will focus on the various kinds of domestic adoption in the United States. The most important thing to keep in mind is that once an adoption has been finalized, adoptive children and biological children are no different under the eyes of the law. Whether adopted or born into the family, all children are equal members of the family system.

Open Adoption:
There are actually two definitions for this term. When used in the United States, open adoption most commonly means an adoption in which the birth parent(s) is(are) involved in the process and remain so even after finalization. Typically, birth parents will choose to meet prospective adoptive parents before choosing to place their child in their care. This is usually done before the baby is born. The two sets of parents can agree that the birth parents will be allowed to remain involved in the child's life, albeit in a non-parental role. Phone calls, letters, and regular visits are not uncommon in this sort of arrangement.

This term can also be used to indicate a type of adoption in which the adopted person has access to their own files and records. In the United Kingdom, for example, adopted children are granted this right upon turning 18.

Semi-Open Adoption:
A modification of the above arrangement, semi-open adoption involves significantly less involvement in the child's life on the part of the birth parent(s). Adoptive parents and birth parents may still meet face to face prior to undertaking the adoption process, but typically there is no physical contact beyond that. The birth parents and the child may occasionally exchange photos or letters.

Closed Adoption:
In this type of adoption, minimal information is shared between birth and adoptive parents prior to placement. After the finalization of the adoption, adoptive and birth parents share no information. This type of adoption can take place in cases of child abuse or neglect, or when the birth parent(s) has(have) specified that they want no contact.

Foster Care Adoption:
This occurs when a foster child is adopted by their foster parents. Children may be placed in foster care for one of a number of reasons, one being abuse or neglect. They may remain foster children-- meaning that the foster parents are guardians, but the children are not legally their own-- or the foster parents sometimes choose to adopt them. Upon finalization of the adoption, the foster child officially becomes the child of their former foster parents.

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