Pros and Cons of Domestic vs. International Adoption

by Laura Christianson

If you are in the beginning stages of contemplating adoption, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with the pros and cons from the perspective of both domestic and international agencies. Weigh the pros and cons carefully, then follow your heart and do what works best for you.

American Adoptions, an agency that specializes in placing healthy newborns and infants in domestic adoptions, lists the following cautions about domestic and international adoption on their web site:

Things to consider before adopting domestically:

  • Children are generally healthy with medical records typically available before and after birth. Families are often able to visit with the doctor(s) at the hospital.
  • Birth mothers can change their mind until they sign the legal paperwork. Each state varies on their time frames a birth mother can sign her paperwork.
  • Birth fathers are rarely involved in the adoption and therefore birth father medical background is scarce.
  • Families advertising on their own should be prepared for increased financial risk with little return.
  • Birth mothers select the adoptive family so families must provide photos and general non-identifying information.
  • Depending on the adoption organization selected, waiting times vary more than international adoptions.
  • While drug and alcohol exposure are lower domestically, 65 percent of all birth mothers smoke during their pregnancy.

Things to consider before adopting internationally:

  • Medical records are scarce.
  • Alcoholism and drug exposure is most likely.
  • Issues often develop from neglect and abuse from their parents and emotional detachment issues are common because orphanages do not have the staff to care for their children.
  • Countries can and do shut down all adoptions in their country. This means any adoptions in the process are stopped. You also could be interested in adopting a certain child and it is not uncommon for the orphanage to promise this child to several agencies. The orphanage’s goal is to place the children as soon as possible.
  • Major mental/developmental problems resulting from poor nutrition.
  • Travel is unpredictable.
  • American citizens are not well received in many countries.
  • Language barriers lead to communication failures, delays, and frustration.
  • Significant and unpredictable delays in foreign countries.
  • Extended stays in foreign countries disrupt jobs.

American Adoptions is one of the country’s largest licensed domestic adoption agencies in the United States specializing in the adoptions of healthy newborns and infants. They are involved in more than 300 adoptions per year. Their goal is to help pregnant mothers and families find the best information available for their situation. Their web site contains many articles and links for pregnant women, prospective adoptive parents, and adopted people.

For more news and information about adoption, please visit my web site,

Justin August 15, 2006 at 7:34 AM

I haven’t seen something so biased in a long time. Seems as if American Adoptions group is trying very hard to get clients by trying to scare people off international adoption. They mention almost none of the negatives on domestic and all of the possible negatives of international. All the while ignoring the international positives. I am new to the site but if this is the type of “information” available, then it is not a worthwile site to visit.

Aimee' August 15, 2006 at 8:13 AM

I have to agree with the above comment that there is so much negative written about international adoption by the American Adoptions Agency. My husband and I have five international adoptions and all of them were an awesome experience along with meeting some pretty amazing people in another country. And our children, whom we adopted, are very “normal” but lacked love and nurturing from not having a Mom and Dad.
If you are contemplating domestic or international, base your decision on prayer and where the peace of God is. There will probably be delays and some disappointments with either adoption choice but joy will overpower both of them.
I always say “A child without a Mom or Dad is a child without a Mom or Dad whether they are in the States or in another country.”

Erin August 18, 2006 at 11:06 AM

There is something wrong with nearly every statement the agency proffered regarding international adoption. The most striking is that drug and alcohol exposure is “most likely.”
This statement is untrue. Drug and alcohol consumption is difficult to monitor in any situation, but is not necessarily more likely in international adoptions. I enjoy seeing some verified data on that subject before believing this type of propaganda.

Laura Christianson August 20, 2006 at 9:49 PM

I, too, was somewhat taken aback by the negative tone with which the agency seems to view international adoption.
Aimee’, I appreciate your comments about basing your decision on prayer.
One of the things I try to do on this blog is to help readers become aware that there is lots of information out there about adoption, some of it biased, some of it factual. Regardless of whether or not we agree with the information we read, I believe it’s important to understand that there are many different perspectives about adoption, even within the adoption community itself.
I know there are LOTS of positives about international adoption — readers, please share your top five “pros” about international adoption.

chris February 12, 2008 at 2:30 PM

are there any cons of adoption i mean rely im adopted and i cant find anything wrong
if you have anycons plz tell me

katycakes April 29, 2009 at 7:50 AM

I think that we should adopt from the US. I mean these kids in our counrty need help so why are we adopting from other countries? Because we think its cool? The “IT” thing?
There are sooo many kids here in the states that are living in orpanages and without families. Its way easier to adopt from the US too and it could maybe boost up the economy a little bit more.

A.J. Bryant June 16, 2009 at 9:57 AM

Katycakes- adoption domestically shouldn’t be done to “boost the economy,” we’re talking about children’s lives, not commodities.
I understand your point about domestic adoption and its need. I don’t think anyone is disputing that need. But people adopt here or from elsewhere for a myriad of reasons and each of them for the most part are well thought out and evaluated based on their individual merits and drawbacks.
Laura here is two “pro’s” of international adoption which immediately come to my mind:
1) Being internationally adopted, gives one a more global perspective on life-especially if the child becomes engaged with the process and identifies with their adoption as they grow older.
2) The majority of international adoptees I know have an acute sense of understanding suffering, and can relate to those around them who are in pain. Perhaps this is why the majority of female adult adoptees I know are in some sort of care giving work. Whether that be nursing, social work, working for adoption agencies etc. Also from my experience they have a greater desire to “give back,” and participate in volunteer activities in their communities.
Those might not be initial “pro’s” for adopting internationally, but the process doesn’t end when the child arrives, it continues as they grow to an adult. I think we could agree that those two characteristics are positives for the future, even if they aren’t manifested immediately.

BlackRose April 23, 2013 at 9:39 AM

I myself am adopted from the US. Sure its great to adopt from here, closer to home and a little less pricey. But one of my best friends is adopted from Africa. She is amazing and I wouldn’t be the same without her. And I am also adopting internationally.

aabby February 10, 2014 at 9:06 AM

this was helpoful

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