Private Adoption: What It Is, Private vs Public Adoption, Cost, & More

What Is Private Adoption? What You Need To Know Before Adopting A Child

April 6, 2020 Updated May 20, 2021

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If you’re looking for more info on other types of adoption, you can find our guides to embryo, open, closed, baby, foster care, adult, international, transracialstep parent, military, single parent, Jewish, Christian, and same-sex adoption

Bringing a child into your home through adoption is a beautiful and deeply personal decision, so congratulations on getting to the research phase. Every step in the process comes with its own complexities and nuances and, right now, you might be spinning your wheels over private adoption. What is it? How is it different from other types like open adoption and closed adoption? And, most pointedly, is it right for your family? You’re not alone in your query here. In fact, according to the latest search data available to us, private adoption is searched for nearly 1,900 times per month. There’s a lot to unpack, but obviously the end result (a new family member!) is well-worth all the hard work and hustle. Let’s get the ball rolling by looking at the basics of private adoption.

What is private adoption?

Deciding to adopt a baby or child in and of itself can feel overwhelming. In good ways, of course, but also just in the sense that it’s daunting trying to figure out where to start. So, one of the first pieces of information we can share that may alleviate some of your anxiety is to tell you that there are different options available. One of the most common types is private adoption (especially for parents adopting an infant).

Broadly speaking, private adoption describes the process by which a birth parent or parents voluntarily place their child for adoption and that child is then placed with adoptive parents. Birth parents may find the hopeful adoptive parents in various ways — searching personal ads, via word of mouth, through an adoption agency, or through an attorney. That latter two categories come with their own distinctions, so we’ll cover that more in-depth in a minute.

But disclaimer: This can be confusing. We know. It doesn’t help that private adoption is often referred to by several names, including “domestic adoption” and “infant adoption.”

Is private adoption the same as agency adoption?

It can be. Let us explain. Agency adoption is one method of private adoption. A defining characteristic of private adoption through an agency is the services available to you by working with adoption professionals.

Just think of it as more of a one-stop-shop. In a private agency adoption, the agency would help the adoptive parents “match” with a potential birth mother or birth parents. Because agencies often have extensive networks at their disposal, it can expedite the process of pairing birth parents with adoptive parents who share adoption preferences. Adoption agencies typically also offer screening and fraud protection services to ensure the birth parents are fully committed to the process, home study logistics (whether they are licensed to perform it themselves or arrange for a contracted party to do so), counseling and support, facilitation and mediation, insurance and hospital coordination, and even prenatal care assistance.

What is the difference between private adoption and “public” adoption?

Also known as foster to adopt, public adoption entails foster parents petitioning to permanently adopt their foster child. This type of adoption is very rewarding but can also be rife with uncertainty. In order for a child to become part of the foster system, the rights of the biological parents must first be terminated. If the child doesn’t have any relatives who can care for them, they are placed into foster care and live with foster parents.

However, the foster care system is ultimately designed to help biological parents rehabilitate so that they can be reunited with their children. If they comply with the state’s mandates, they may reclaim their parental rights. Your state’s adoption consent laws determine how far into the foster to adopt process this could take place.

What is the difference between private adoption and independent adoption?

A private adoption and independent adoption are effectively the same. “Independent,” like “agency,” refers to the method of adoption. With an independent adoption, contact between the birth mother or parents and the adoptive parents is direct and/or through an adoption attorney. Since it isn’t through the state foster care system, it isn’t considered a public adoption. In this form of private adoption — unlike with agency adoption — adoptive parents do the legwork themselves.

Since there is no agency arranging everything, the hopeful adoptive parents will need to employ several other professionals. In addition to an adoption attorney, you’ll need to hire a home study provider — a home study is necessary to declare an adoptive family ready to adopt. It’s also recommended that prospective parents open a line of dialogue with a counselor, as well as collaborate with a media pro to create their adoptive family profile. Although, hey, some parents have even become adoptive parents through social media!

It’s important, though, to note that some states require a licensed adoption agency to be involved in every adoption.

How long do private adoptions take?

As you may have guessed, it’s pretty much impossible to predict how long a private adoption may take for you. There are far too many extenuating factors that could affect the timeline. Per the National Adoption Center, this can vary based on whether you choose an independent or agency adoption, how your home study goes, and more.

“With a completed home study in hand, the process to adopt a child with special needs can often proceed quickly,” says the organization. The wait for children without special needs, on the other hand, is “typically between two and seven years.” Also, because there aren’t as many infants to adopt domestically as there are internationally, the criterium is more restrictive — thus, private adoption of an infant in the U.S. can take longer.

What is the average cost of private adoption?

Again, and sorry to beat the same old drum, this is a metric that you just can’t accurately measure without having all of the details. But the National Adoption Center ballparks that adopting a healthy infant of any race through a private agency or attorney in the U.S. can range from several hundred dollars (independent) to $30,000 or more (agency). A 2017 survey published in Adoptive Families magazine found that domestic infant adoption cost families on average of $43,000.