There are several ways to adopt a typical child or one with special needs:
- Closed or open adoption
- Public agency adoption
- Private agency adoption
- Independent adoption
A closed adoption is sometimes called a traditional adoption where the birthparents and the adoptive parents do not know each other's identity, either before or after the adoption.
In an open adoption, birthparents and adoptive parents usually exchange information, sometimes meet each other and agree to maintain some contact after the adoption.
A public agency is supervised by a state or local Department of Health and Human Services and often has children with special needs who are looking for adoptive families. A public agency usually has more flexible eligibility requirements for adoptive parents and will often consider single parents, older parents and parents with low incomes. Placement of a child can occur in as little as a few months following a home study and approval. Because many foster parents adopt children that have been placed in their care, you may be approved as a licensed foster parent as well as a prospective adoptive parent in the same process.
A private agency is supervised by a privately funded, licensed adoption agency, usually works with infants from the local area or neighboring states, and sometimes handles children with special needs. A private agency may have specific requirements on who can adopt, based on race, religion or age. Placement can take longer, often up to a few years following a home study and approval.
An independent adoption or private adoption is usually arranged through an individual, often an attorney, physician, friend or adoption counselor and can sometimes be risky and expensive. In addition, each State may have its own specific requirements. Findlaw has information on adoptions and legal assistance.
NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) compares different types of adoptions.