Let me preface by iterating that I do not have an agenda of what type of adoption is best or even that adoption is the best option for those who are struggling to have a family. Creating a family is a very individual thing, and no choice is the best for everyone.
The problem with trying to give a general idea with domestic newborn adoption (also called birth parent relinquishment programs) is that the waiting time varies depending on how aggressive the prospective parents are in finding a pregnant woman who might be considering making an adoption plan. But there are a few patterns.
The longest wait is for a full Caucasian, low-risk girl. (By low risk we mean at low risk for prenatal exposure to alcohol, drugs, or tobacco; low risk for family medical or mental health issues; and low risk for legal complications, usually, but not always, involving an unknown birth father.) Your wait is usually shorter if you can accept a child of a different race, one with greater risk factors, or a boy. The shortest wait is for full African-American boys or infants with prenatal drug or alcohol exposure.
Foster care adoption
There is a huge need for families to adopt children from our foster care system — almost 130,000 children are waiting to be adopted. Generally speaking, there are two ways to adopt from foster care: You can adopt from a foster home or foster to adopt. With the first option, the kids are legally free (parental rights have already been terminated) and living in foster homes or group homes until a family is found. On average, that wait is pretty long — nearly 39 months. These children are an average of 8 years old and they are equally divided by gender and race (white, black, and depending on the geographic area, Latino). Most adoptive families will receive monthly subsidies after adoption to help with expenses, and in some states, college tuition.
The second way to adopt from the foster care system is to foster to adopt. Since the goal of our foster care system is family reunification, choosing this option means you run the risk that eventually the child will be allowed to return to her parents’ care. Prospective adoptive families can foster these children until a decision is made on whether it is in their best interest to be returned to their birth family or extended family. If they do not return, then the foster parents can adopt them. The vast majority of the younger kids (younger than 5 years old) adopted through foster care are adopted through the foster to adopt program.
Quite frankly, some states and counties do a better job at choosing children to place in foster-to-adopt families than others. Some make every effort to only choose those children where there is a good likelihood that family reunification will not be successful, while others do not make this effort. Though most families I talk with have successfully adopted through foster to adopt, there are situations where the child or siblings they were fostering to adopt were returned to either the birth parents or extended family.
For a more detailed explanation of the factors to consider in choosing between international and domestic adoption, look at the adoption country charts at CreatingaFamily.com.