When starting your adoption journey, knowing whether you want a newborn baby or an older child will be the first thing to consider. This question alone will take you on different paths in adoption. You can go with an adoption agency, which will primarily be newborns, with a few exceptions. If you’re willing to adopt a toddler-age child, international adoption may be right for you. The age of the child can be even higher with foster care. You can choose to foster a 9-year-old or 15-year-old; however, they may not be legally free for adoption yet, and you would only be fostering them until they leave to be with another foster family or their original birth family. Signing up for foster parenting does not guarantee adoption. You can almost always specify the gender you want in foster care. Thinking about if you can request the age or gender or other specific qualities is important.

The idea behind foster care is that you are caring for this child until their birth family is in a place to parent again. This may happen or it may never happen (in which case the child can be adopted). If, in your heart, you to care for a child, no matter the age, and maybe for only a short time, then foster care may be the route for you. If naming your baby and permanently making them a part of your family are priorities, newborn adoption would be the way to go. International adoptions can be more complicated, and due to the fact that two or three visits are required prior to taking the child home, the child can be of toddler age or older. Of course, there are always exceptions. It’s not necessarily a question of which country you’ll adopt from, but, rather, which agency you will use. The agency will usually determine if you can select age and gender.

Can You Request Your Preferences?

Gender is a touchy subject. This should be considered after you choose which type of adoption you’re doing. Most of the time, you will not be able to choose, however, there are some places that allow for gender preference. The important thing is to do this in the healthiest way possible. You don’t want to have an adoption agency (for newborn adoptions) show your family’s profile to expectant mothers and then say no if an expectant mother chooses you because it’s not the gender you want. You never want to reject a birth mother who chose you. That said, the burden of choosing a gender will be on you as the adoptive family. You will have to let your agency know of your preference (if the agency even allows it), and then know that you will possibly wait longer. This is because your profile book will only be shown to expectant mothers who already know the gender.

Some expectant moms don’t want to know the gender or had no prenatal care so they don’t know. You wouldn’t have your profile book shown to those mothers. You also wouldn’t have your book shown to boy moms if you wanted a girl. So, the burden remains on you that you cut your options mostly in half. There is also another factor—ultrasounds may be wrong. An agency will tell you that this is possible. You may think a girl is being born when out pops a boy. In this scenario, the agency will want to know that you will still adopt the baby. This is because the expectant mom has chosen your family. She has gotten to know you all, possibly for months now, and is trusting you. It would be extremely hard to say no, and then force her to go through the process of picking another family. Technically, it is legal to say no but that would be very stressful for the agency and expectant mom.

Choosing your preferences like age, gender, and race are important for your family. You will come upon many varying opinions from others on these issues, so making sure you and your spouse are on the same page is vital. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you it’s hard dealing with your respective families’ opinions and choosing to honor them or ignore them. We adopted a boy (no gender was specified) as a newborn. For a second adoption, we were matched with an expectant mom of another race. We had about a month and a half of stress with trying to get everyone in our family on board with the idea. For a couple of people, the idea was something they just wouldn’t support. We had decided it was, ultimately, our choice, and we were going to move forward and ignore the naysayers. The adoption ended up being disrupted anyway; the expectant mom chose to parent. When it fell through, I had my grandma directly tell me she was glad it didn’t work out as she thought I shouldn’t raise a black child. It was just a stressful time and dealing with others’ opinions is added to that stress.

Can You Request Gender?

Now, we are still waiting for a second adoption and have specified a gender as a girl. I have heard many people on social media voice their opinion that this shouldn’t be allowed; that nobody should get to choose; that natural mothers don’t get to choose what gender they’re pregnant with. “If you were pregnant you wouldn’t get to pick,” they say. “Yes,” I reply. “If.” You just said it. It’s not the same situation. To me, that’s not my reality. I’m not pretending I’m pregnant, I’m not taking away the expectant mom’s importance or role. I’m in a completely different situation as an adoptive mom. Also, I would never put the burden on the expectant mom. Like I said before, we are the ones cutting our options in half. We won’t reject a birth mother. We won’t say no if we are chosen. We just won’t be chosen for half of the scenarios. That’s on us. So I’m not sure why it’s anyone’s business if we choose this route.

Also, let’s be real, most people hope for boys or girls depending on the gender of their first child or children. I know tons of families, non-adoption families, who have three boys because they were trying for a girl or vice versa. Nobody is saying they don’t love all three kids—but there’s nothing wrong with hoping or wanting a certain gender when you already have the other. Come on people, we all know a healthy baby is the most important thing. But if I have to pay $30,000 for an adoption and I do have the option to choose a gender, well, I’m going to. I don’t want to feel shame about it; however, if there’s some reason I’m missing, I hope someone can fill me in. Perhaps there’s some other reason gender specificity is immoral and I’m not seeing it—if so, I’d genuinely like to know.

Agency rules are always changing, but currently, I can give the following list of agencies that do allow gender specificity: Forever Bound Adoption, Premier Adoption, Heart to Heart Adoptions, Texas Adoption Center, Adoption Choices of Arizona, Family to Family Adoptions, Adoption Authority, and Heart of Adoptions.

From what I have found online, there is greater demand for girls than for boys, so wait time will be longer if you’re hoping to add a little girl to your family. I’m not sure what the reason is for more families wanting girls—it’s interesting, to say the least. “A girl has a higher—by slightly more than one-third—chance of attracting the attention of potential adoptive parents than a boy” (Futurity.org). Some suggested there were more girls available for adoption internationally; however, studies have shown it’s not just that—the desire by adoptive families for girls is larger than boys. I’m interested to see if this trend changes.

Another thing hopeful adoptive families should consider is what kind of relationship they want with the birth mother and/or birth family. As many families have found recently, open adoption can be a great thing for everyone involved. We have enjoyed not only gaining a son but gaining more people in our life who love him. We have visits with his birth mother and her family regularly. We love knowing her and having our son be able to know her. If we adopted internationally, the chances of ever having visits with the birth family are slim. The chances of never even meeting her are high. Knowing what we do now, we just can’t imagine not knowing the birth mother. There are true orphans out there, but some do have birth families in a country far away and the money and time associated with visits are too high. Our family doesn’t have too much trouble scheduling visits, but imagine trying to fly 15 hours to have a visit? Really tough. Most international adoptions are more on the closed side than the open side. I’m certainly not discouraging international adoptions, but it’s important to be aware you may be missing that family link.

Can You Request Age?

If you decide to be a foster parent, which is of the least financial burden, you can tell them what age range you prefer and are equipped to handle. There are many families, or single men and single women, who become foster parents knowing they don’t care so much about the infant stage. They look forward to conversations about life with the kids and providing a safe home. They like the idea of taking them to sports practices, teaching them to cook, and being there to help with homework. Parents of an older child have a much different routine than the parents of a baby. A good site to check out regarding foster care is Adoption.com.

Another important consideration is the other children you already have, if any. Would bringing in a 17-year-old foster child be too hard if you currently have a 1-year-old? If you have a 3-year-old, would you want to foster a 5-year-old and, suddenly, the 3-year-old has a big brother/sister influence? Do you want the 3-year-old to have the experience of gaining a new brother or sister who is a baby? I think, depending on the people, any situation can work. You just have to look at your schedule, routine, and family dynamic to determine what could be possible for everyone involved. There’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all answer.

What kind of help do you have for when you are sick or need a break? Do you have other family members in the area? Do you have a trusted nanny or friends who are available for childcare? If you are sick or otherwise unavailable, it may not be the best choice to take on a foster child with severe medical needs and hope your family or babysitters are prepared to handle all those needs. Not all foster children have medical needs; however, some do have trauma from whatever situation they came from. Parenting is tough and regardless of the type of adoption, or even the healthiest of children, parents need time for themselves. We are all humans doing our best, and we all have our limits. “It takes a village” is absolutely true so we can keep our sanity and be good examples of healthy adults. Check out local adoptive family groups or trauma support groups.

Requesting the age of your adopted child is perhaps the most important consideration to choose which type of adoption is right for you. From there, choosing gender is possible in some cases. Be sure to research all of your options, and don’t sign anything until your agency has given you satisfactory answers to your questions. Adoption always comes from a place of loss, but it can also be a beautiful thing. With attention to detail, organization, and patience, you will find something that is the right fit for your family.

Kristin Anderson is an adoptive mother who lives with her son, husband, and two crazy dogs. She loves open adoption and is always looking for ways to help in the adoption community. You can find her blog at www.lookingforlittleone.wordpress.com