How does adoption work? Whether you are considering learning more about adoption to adopt a child, or if you’re looking into it because you’re considering making an adoption plan for your child, this article will help you learn more about adoption and what steps you’ll need to take to start your adoption journey. This is also a good article to read if you’ll be supporting someone getting ready to start either of these processes and if they ask the question, how does adoption work.

Adoption laws and regulations aren’t so cut and dry. Not only does every location have different rules, but every agency and lawyer has different processes. This can be a tough terrain to navigate. Remember, these laws are put in place to protect all people in the adoption triad from the birth parents to the children, and the adoptive parents. Though you may not understand or even agree with every rule, these laws exist for a reason. This is a time to trust professionals and the process.

No matter if you’re an adoptive parent or a birth parent, the process to complete an adoption can seem daunting, confusing, and more often than not, an extremely emotional process. By taking your time, trusting the process, and working with others, you’ll find your way in this.

How Does Adoption Work: Get Started on your Adoption Journey.

Regardless of what path you’re taking, you need to understand a few things about adoption. It is always best to work with professionals who can help you understand the legality in your own country, state, and in some instances, your own county. It is a hard journey to go through, no matter what aspect of the adoption triad you’re a part of, so it’s in your best interest to also find someone who can walk this path with you.

If you’re a birth mother considering making an adoption plan for your child, you might start by consulting your doctor. If you explain to your doctor your intent, he or she will likely know where you can go locally to get the help you need. You are under no obligation to disclose this, however, if you don’t feel comfortable, and you’re under no obligation to make an adoption plan, even if you start looking into it. If you’re a birth mother, read Alyssa’s story to learn more about the process and her experience.  Another great article to read as you navigate through this process is “The Love of a Birthmother.

If you’re seeking to adopt, you’ll need to answer some questions as to if you’re interested in an infant-only, if you plan to adopt from the foster care system, or work directly with an agency. You’ll want to make sure you and your partner are on the same page and both have an understanding of what the other one wants to do. You’ll need to understand the home study process, as well as the steps that are required by your state.  If you’re considering building your family through adoption, this article explains how to get started.

Get started by familiarizing yourself with adoption laws in your state with this state-by-state guide.

You can read about my own experience with the home study process as well.

Read these stories from birth mothers for further research.

How Does Adoption Work: Do Your Local Research.

If you’re a birth mother, the agency or social worker that you’re working with will let you know the next steps, which usually involve you learning more about your adoptions, getting the services that you need, and even beginning to look at profiles of people considering adoption.  These steps all depend on your local agency, but above all, your health and wellbeing are the most important at this stage. I suggest finding out what agency might be best for you at this stage and what your rights are throughout this process. Don’t rely on friends for this information. For the most up-to-date, and even more importantly, accurate, information, find a local agency to help. Remember that not everyone’s story is the same, and all scenarios are different. Be prepared to tell your story truthfully so that you can make a decision that works well for you and your child.

If you are seeking to adopt, I say this time and time again, but you have to do your research. There are seemingly endless options when you begin the adoption process, but understanding what agencies provide versus lawyers, what is available to you locally, what you’re looking for when it comes to adoption, and cost are all factors that you should consider. Remember that using a lawyer might seem more convenient, but for us, since we didn’t have a birth mother we were working with and didn’t feel comfortable seeking one out, it was nearly impossible to work solely with a lawyer. However, I know several people who have used lawyers when couples have adopted biological siblings to children previously adopted or if the family has been approached by birth parents that the couple is working with. This also can be an option for kinship placements that turn into adoption. (If you’re adopting from foster care, this is a guide that can help you.)


One of the questions I most wanted to know was where the fee we paid was going. We chose our agency based on a lot of things from location, to the willingness, to also support those individuals who opted to parent. Location was important to me because I wanted to adopt if possible, within our own state. I didn’t have a strong understanding of the legality of adopting out of state. Though I understand it well now, at the time, to digest less information, I decided to stay within the state was more manageable for me.

Another reason that we opted for our agency was that it was reasonably priced, and offered lifetime counseling to birth parents. I appreciated all of these things and felt comfortable working with the social workers and the director. Comfort is also an important part of this process for all parties involved, so make sure that the people you’re working with are people you are comfortable sharing some seriously emotional and personal moments with. Believe me, I didn’t realize how much emotion I was going to visibly feel in front of strangers. I am still very open with these individuals as people have been in contact with us through other things post-adoption as well.

If you’re going to be adopting, now is the time to consider looking into your finances as well and creating a budget that will help you afford adoption. It can be an added expense. Now is also the time to learn more about the adoption tax credit and to see if you’ll get any sort of assistance from your employer.  Learn more about the adoption tax credit here.

Research your local community as well as there may be grant opportunities to support you and other things you can do to raise money for the adoption.

How Does Adoption Work: Speak to Professionals.

If you are a birth parent, speaking to professionals is critical. Now is the time for you to find a person that you’re comfortable working with that can be your advocate through this process. If you decide to work with an agency, it can help you with the resources you need, and can even be with you to make decisions, which is helpful. You will also find out what counseling, etc. is available to you as you go through this process. Finding professionals that you trust and feel comfortable speaking with is important for you as well. Again, you can get references from friends, family, your doctor, local clinics, or you can search for an agency.

Here is a directory of some helpful professionals and where to start in this step.

As I mentioned, adoption policies are different from state to state, and sometimes, even are different within counties. If you are a hopeful adoptive parent or coupe, it is in your best interest to talk with professionals and those who know what’s best. When we started the process, before we decided on an agency, we did our homework. My husband and I spoke with lawyers, social workers, friends who had adopted, and countless individuals who were professionally associated with the adoption process. This helped immensely. It gives peace of mind and more knowledge available to you.

I know it can seem tricky to talk to professionals in some instances but remember that people have been trained and have immense experience in dealing with adoption. This is incredibly helpful to you to rely on professionals to help you through this process. Remember that these individuals’ suggestions come from experiences, and each can help you as you navigate what can be tricky processes.

We learned that a home study would be our first step. It was an extensive amount of paperwork and an at-home interview. It was important for us to understand what documents we needed to complete that paperwork. We had to do things in our home to prepare. It was a lot of work, and a checklist from our state that we got early on in our conversations was helpful for us to get started.

How Does Adoption Work: Ask Questions for Clarification.

No matter if you’re seeking to adopt a child, or if you are considering making an adoption plan, now is the time to ask questions. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is so, so important. I suggest the following things for getting the clarifications that you need.

  1. Keep a notebook handy to list questions as they come to mind. This will happen when you communicate with other people about your intentions as well as when you are lying in bed or at work. (Another reason to find someone you trust to be on this journey with you—others will think of questions you haven’t.)

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  2. Read all that you can and list anything that doesn’t 100% make sense to you. Even if there’s the potential for it to be explained to you, later on, it’s a great way to start gauging what information you need when you meet with a professional.

  3. Take notes during any meetings. Should you need clarification on a term or process, you can list questions for follow-up.

  4. Talk with others who have been in your position if at all possible. People may have a list of questions that others had hoped to get answers to that didn’t get addressed. This is a good time to also ask some questions you may have already drafted.

Need more help drafting questions? Here are 22 questions to ask an adoption agency before choosing one.

Learn more about transracial adoption here.

How Does Adoption Work: Stay in the Know.

For both birth parents and those seeking to adopt, it is important to remember to stay up to date on information about adoption. Sometimes, even when you’re in the process of adoption, policies and procedures can change.

Sign up for newsletters from your agency. Check-in with your social worker every few weeks to stay updated on your case. However, remember that no news doesn’t mean social workers are not working on anything—sometimes, it’s better to just wait, but it made me feel proactive to touch base. Make sure that you sign up for other magazines, log on to this site, etc. to stay on top of what is going on in the adoption community—it’s helpful to stay immersed in your own mental health.

Remember to be prepared for the unexpected. Learn more about my own failed adoption experience here.

For more information on how to adopt, read this article.

As you navigate these processes and ask yourself, how does adoption work, remember that there are a lot of people that are around to help. Find a support system, do your research, and relax. You will come to the right conclusions, find the right people to help you, and be able to do this like others before you. Getting started is always the hardest part.

Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98. Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.