What’s the Difference Between International, Foster Care and older Domestic Adoptions?

Kara Lamphere

Why does adoption of older children (anyone over the age of three) have such a bad reputation? I’ve heard many responses over the years. It really comes down to the fact that the older children have experienced early life trauma.

The kids use their survival skills even when they are no longer needed. They have difficulty understanding the difference between neglectful, dangerous homes and loving, caring homes.

Breaking down the differences in the types of adoptions is essential for parents to understand which type would be best for them.

International Adoptions:

Generally, the children will be over the age of four or be physically challenged. They won’t be able to understand your language and you won’t understand them. You’ll have to guess what their needs are for several months.

Some of the special needs international children can have include: developmental delays, autism, PTSD, ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and reactive sexualized behaviors.

The medical issues can include blind, deaf, cleft palette, spina bifida, loss of limbs and other major health issues. As parents of a child with mental and/or physical disabilities are you prepared for caring for this child? Are you prepared for the costs of medical and counseling professionals?

Are you prepared for the fact that your child may never attach to your family? Do you know what you should be prepared for if your child has RAD? Most times parents think “love” will conquer all. It doesn’t! Children with RAD can destroy families.

RAD behaviors can be as simple as lying or stealing or as devastating as endangering children or parents with out-of-control anger. Some of these children turn out well, others land in residential treatment facilities until they reach 18 or 21. The reality of this is that parents need to prepare for all the devastating issues that adoption brings.

Foster Care Adoptions:

The U.S. Foster Care systems have a reputation of placing children for adoption who have multiple problems. This not always the case, but happens frequently.

Placing children in multiple placements due to the insane idea that every child should be reunified with their biological parents, no matter how they lost custody of the child in the first place, causes the child to experience lack of trust in any caregiver.

There are great foster homes with really loving parents who care about the children placed with them. There are good foster homes where the family treats the children okay, but are mostly doing it for the income. The worst foster homes are where sexual abuse is rampant and it never gets reported.

When foster children finally have their parental rights removed, they become available for adoption. There have been situations where the child had visitations with their biological parents for five or six years without the parents doing what was court ordered.

Who adopts foster kids? Many times? it’s usually the last foster home the child was placed in. For a lot of foster children, they remain in foster care until they age out at 18. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has made it their goal to see many children in foster care be placed in permanent homes.

Foster children have many of the same issues as international children have. Many of these children suffer from RAD and/or sexualized behaviors. Families that adopt them really aren’t anymore prepared for their behaviors as families adopting internationally, because it’s a policy of the foster care system to not disclose what happened to the child before he/she came into the new family.

The best thing is these kids speak and understand English. To help families adopting a foster kid they may come with Medicaid and a stipend.

Domestic Adoptions of Older Children:

These adoptions are not foster care or international adoptions even though the children may have come from other countries or foster care. They are considered secondary adoptions. There are two agencies that assist with these adoptions: Nightlight Christian Adoptions and Wasatch International Adoptions.

Nightlight works with states where they have offices. Wasatch has two programs, Second Chance for Kids (places kids ages four to nine) and R.A.D. Teen Adoptions (places kids nine to 15.) Wasatch covers all but a few states.

The programs do cost more than foster care, but are less than international adoptions and the children speak English.

Children in these programs can have any or all the problems discussed in the other two adoption programs. Often times they may be diagnosed with any of the “alphabet soup**” mental problems out there, but when placed with a different family these kids often do a 180 turn around and settle down and attach to the new family.

You can check out these three programs at:




Thanks for reading my post.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW


**Alphabet soup = ADHD, PTST, RAD, ODD, GAD (Check out my post on Alphabet Soup)

Published by annla1441

Adoption Social Worker. Lived in Utah

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