PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Adoption: The Basics

What is adoption?
Adoption is when a child's "birth parents" or "biological parents" transfer the rights and responsibilities of parenting a child over to another parent or parents. The child then legally becomes part of the adoptive parents' family.


What are the types of adoption?

Domestic adoption is when parents choose to adopt a child in their own country.

International adoption is adopting a child, usually a baby or toddler, from another country. Often, but not always, people choose to adopt from countries that are poor, troubled by war, or where there are many, many children in need of care. In the U.S., parents often choose to adopt from places like China, Korea, India, and countries in Eastern Europe and Central America.

Open adoption is a relatively new way to adopt a child where the birth parents and adoptive parents agree to stay in touch after the adoption. The adoptive parents raise the child, but allow the birth mother or parents to be a part of the child's life through regular visits, letters and photos, or other forms of contact.

Closed adoption is the more common form. Birth parents give up all rights to the child, who then grows up only knowing his or her adoptive parents. Information about the child's birth parents is "sealed," and usually not even the adoptive parents know these details. Sometimes important information, like a birth parent's medical history, is given to the adoptive family so they have it if they need it.

Semi-open adoption is when the birth parents and the adoptive parents agree to have some contact or exchange just a little information. Often they never meet face to face, but instead use a "middle man" such as the agency that handled the adoption.

Foster care adoption is when a family decides to adopt a child that they (or another family) have cared for as part of a state or national foster care program. Sometimes the child is a baby, but more likely he or she is an older kid. For more about this, see our page on Foster Families.

Stepfamily adoption usually occurs when a child's mother or father gets remarried, and their new stepparent decides to become a legal parent by adopting. You can read more about Stepfamilies on IML.


Why do people choose to put a child up for adoption?

Money issues. A mother, or a mom and dad together, may not feel they have the financial resources needed to raise a child, or may want their baby to grow up outside of the poverty they live in. In some cases, babies are born with medical conditions that the birth parents can't afford to treat.

Single moms. Many pregnant women and moms are faced with raising a child by themselves. They may be widows, or divorced, or simply unmarried, and they decide they can't do it alone.

Age. When a woman becomes pregnant very young, she may feel that she is not ready to be a parent, and that her baby will be better off being raised by an older couple.

Whatever the specific reason, most birth parents choose adoption as an option because they want their child to have the best possible life -- and know they are unable to provide that.

Why do people choose to adopt?

Infertility. Sometimes, a couple very much wants to start a family but finds out that for some medical reason, they're not able to have children of their own. This is the number one reason why people adopt, making up more than two thirds of adoptions worldwide.

To create a new type of family. Many people are able to have children, but choose to start a family without having kids themselves. Often a single woman will want a baby, so she chooses to adopt. Sometimes families have one or more biological children, and then decide to expand their family by adopting.

Because there are kids who need it. One of the best reasons to adopt a baby or child is simply because there are so many kids who need safe homes and loving families. Parents feel the need to help these kids and give them the love they deserve.

Population concerns. Many adults want to start a family or add to their family, but worry that there are already so many people in the world. Rather than add new people to the count, they choose to adopt kids who have already been born and need someone to raise and love them.

So those are the basics. Now, do you know what's True or False? when it comes to adoption?

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