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If infertility is a problem for you, another option may be adoption. Adopting a baby or child can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. So many babies, children, and adolescents in the United States and around the world need a family. Some of these are healthy infants, and many are children with special needs, including physical, emotional, or mental disabilities. If you do adopt a child with special needs, there are both federal and state sources of financial assistance available to help you afford the child's care.
There are two types of adoptions:
- Open adoption – The birth mother, and possibly the birth father, know something about the adoptive parents. They might even meet and exchange names or addresses.
- Closed adoption – The birth mother and adoptive parents do not meet each other or know each others' names.
The laws of each state differ on whether, after a period of time, the files of a closed adoption can be opened later to reveal this information. State laws also differ on whether adoptions can be handled by an adoption agency or independently (such as through a doctor, lawyer, counselor or independent organization). Most adoption agencies carefully screen and study the adoptive parents. You can learn more about adoption through the resources at the end of this section.
Another option for couples who have a lot of love to share with a child is foster care. Unlike adoption, foster care is a temporary service that responds to crises in the lives of children and families. But it also can be the first step to adopting a child. Many foster children have been abused or neglected, or removed by a court order. Foster families are people who take these children into their homes to provide day-to-day care and nurturing. Children in foster care may live with unrelated foster parents, with relatives, with families who plan to adopt them, or in group homes or residential treatment centers. Even though foster care is viewed as a temporary service, many children have to stay in foster care for long periods of time.
Each child in foster care should have a plan that will let him or her grow up in a permanent family. For many children, the plan is to return to the birth parents. In these cases, foster families may work with the birth parents and the child to help them both learn the skills they need to live together again. Foster parents need to be able to love the children who live in their home, and let go of them when it is time to send them back to their parents. For other children, going back to their parents will not be possible, and the foster parents may become adoptive parents. Or they can keep other kinds of formal or informal ties with the children they parent.
Every state has its own rules about foster parenting. But, the chances are good that you can be a foster parent in your state. There are many more children in need of care than there are foster parents available. To fill this gap, states are looking for people who want to help children and can share their time and their homes. States also give foster parents many different forms of support, like training and financial assistance.