Adopting a Baby in the U.S.

Everything you need to know about bringing a baby into your forever family.

Sara R. Ward February 26, 2019
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Are you interested in adopting a baby in the U.S.? Then you’ve come to the right place for guidance and tips about starting on your adoption journey. Adopting a baby in the U.S. is also known as domestic infant adoption, which involves a birth mother making the decision to place a baby with adoptive parents. If you are interested in beginning your domestic adoption journey, you will need to select a licensed adoption agency or adoption attorney. Before you choose one, it is important to find out the fees and requirements for domestic adoption as it varies based on the agency. Every state sets its own laws concerning adoption requirements, so it’s good to know what your state requires before you begin.

How Much Does It Cost?

Domestic adoption costs vary widely, from $20,000 to $40,000. These fees help provide the staffing and paperwork for the adoption process and often include other fees, like the cost of counseling for the birth mother. Legal fees are separate from agency fees and so are birth parent expenses and travel costs.

Although the overall cost can be intimidating, it’s important to remember that there are ways to fund your adoption. Fundraising opportunities exist including online platforms that use social media to promote your fundraising efforts. Other families raise funds by selling food, goods, or services in order to meet their savings goals. Adoption grants are another area to explore and typically involve filling out paperwork and following through with grant requirements. Adoption loans are an option for families who have exhausted other avenues of support or who prefer not to fundraise. They often involve low-interest fees (3% or less) and may provide a stopgap between agency fees and the adoption tax credit. Word of mouth can still be the most popular way to raise funds, so be sure to let family and friends know that you are adopting. Some families use a combination of methods to save for adoption.

Reasons Why People Adopt

People choose to adopt a baby for many reasons, but one of the most common ones is because they want to expand their family and are most comfortable adopting a baby in the U.S. Infertility and miscarriage can sometimes lead a couple to pursue adoption, especially if they have not had a biological child and want to experience raising a child from birth. Sometimes, a couple ends up adopting a baby in the U.S. because they are connected to a birth mother through their family or friends.

Mother father and baby child on a white bed.

Steps for Adopting a Baby in the U.S.

First, you will need to choose an adoption agency or attorney who will help you through the process of adopting a baby in the U.S. It is helpful to find a licensed agency that comes with good recommendations from others before you begin your home study. Many agencies will provide you with an information packet or ask you to attend an introductory meeting where you can inquire about their fees and the step-by-step process for adopting.

It’s always a wise decision to do your homework before committing financially to a program and to inquire about the number of adoptions they have facilitated in the last few years. Agencies track how many waiting families they have in their program and the number of birth parents they are working with at any given time. Although these are numbers and might not have any bearing on how long you will wait, it gives you an idea of how busy the agency is in their current season.

After you have selected your agency, you will need to begin a home study for your adoption. A home study is completed by a caseworker and is a detailed written record about your family, history, employment, home, and finances. The home study process includes a host of forms to complete as well as a home visit by a caseworker who is checking to see that you have adequate space to add a child to your family. State law requires you to get a criminal background check as part of the adoption process, which includes fingerprint records and checks for child neglect or abuse. Every state has its own laws concerning what is required in order to complete your adoption home study, and a caseworker will guide you through the necessary steps.

After the home study is finished, the next step is to become matched with birth parents. Many adoption agencies work directly with birth parents who are looking for an adoptive family. If you are working with an agency, they will ask you to put together your family story, which includes pictures and a letter to show birth parents. Additionally, there are outside resources you can use, including our online Parent Profiles to find a birth parent match.

Another way to connect with birth parents is through word of mouth, so the best thing you can do is to let people know you are pursuing adoption. Sometimes, a match can happen through family, friends, coworkers, a community connection, or even through social media. Once you’re connected to a birth parent, have them contact your adoption attorney or agency for the next steps.

Most birth parents will want to meet you before selecting you as their adoptive family. They want to know the details of how you will raise a child, the atmosphere of your home, and the opportunities you will provide to their child. Many birth parents desire an ongoing relationship and appreciate your support as they make this difficult decision. This may involve several visits, phone calls, or ongoing meetings.

You will also want to check with your agency or attorney about what kind of birth parent expenses you are legally allowed to provide. Most states allow birth parent expenses, but they are limited to specific categories like living expenses, medical expenses, and adoption-related costs, like counseling. There are also limits to how much money you can provide, so it’s best to check state laws before providing any expenses.

When you make arrangements for contact with the birth parents after the baby is born, it is called an open adoption. This can include pictures and letters, or it can be visits in a neutral location or a home. Every open adoption arrangement is unique and will largely depend on several factors, including how comfortable you are meeting with the birth mother and whether she wants to have regular contact after the birth of her baby. Distance can also play a factor in how often you meet. Many birth parents prefer contact after the baby is born, especially in the first year. When deciding how much contact you are comfortable with, it’s important not to make promises you can’t keep. It’s in everyone’s best interest to be open about your expectations for contact after the adoption so that no one is disappointed by the outcome later.

How Long Is the Wait for a Baby?

The wait for adopting a baby in the U.S. varies considerably and depends on several factors, including whether you have a birth mother who has already chosen you and what kind of children you are open to adopting. If you want a healthy Caucasian infant, the wait for adoption will likely be long. If you are open to a baby of any race or an infant with special needs, your wait time may be less. It’s important to consider what you feel comfortable with and whether you can provide that child’s social, emotional, cultural, and physical needs for a lifetime.

Baby boy in white sunny bedroom

Adopting a Baby in the U.S. through Foster Care

Adopting a baby can also happen through the foster care system. Although it is possible to adopt an infant that you foster parent, adoptions are more likely to occur with children age 2 to 18.

The steps for foster to adopt are similar to the steps for domestic adoption. You will need to get a home study through a licensed agency that has contracted to work with the state. Your home study will require background checks, including criminal and fingerprint checks, and a detailed written record about your family, history, health, and home. Every state has different requirements for their foster license, including the number of training hours you will need to complete. This training helps you prepare for children who have experienced trauma and may have unique challenges from their personal history. Foster parents need to have some understanding of the impact of trauma and how to help children through it. Waiting children, who are available for adoption through foster care, are usually older and not typically infants.

Parental Rights

Adopting a baby in the U.S. also involves the termination of the biological parent’s rights. This means that for an adoption to occur, birth parents need to relinquish their rights either voluntarily or involuntarily. Birth parents who are not able to parent will sign consent forms voluntarily giving up their parental rights after the baby is born, depending on your state laws. Parents who lose their rights involuntarily do so through a court of law when a judge determines it is in the child’s best interest not to remain with their biological parents. After the termination of parental rights, a child can be adopted by a forever family.

Adopting a baby in the U.S. is an exciting journey no matter which route you choose. To help you through the process, visit our parent forums to meet others on the same journey or read from one of our domestic adoption or foster to adopt guides. You can also use our Parent Profiles to tell your family’s story and find a birth parent match.

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Sara R. Ward

Sara R. Ward is a writer, adoption advocate, and mom to three children through adoption. Her passion is helping adoptive parents and those who struggle with infertility and grief on her blog PoetsandSaints. Sara writes about parenting, marriage, and faith and has a book coming out in 2019. Follow Sara on Facebook or Instagram @SaraRWard.


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