If you’ve considered adoption or are in the process of adoption or know someone who is adopting or has completed an adoption, it’s very likely that you’ve either asked or have been asked, “How long does adoption take?” If only there was a set timeline—a solid start and end date—but the process of adoption differs depending on the path taken, state regulations, county requirements, and of course, good ‘ole Murphy’s law as it applies to most adoption experiences (and if you’ve completed one you know what I mean). If only there was a way to gauge the time between taking those wobbly first steps on your adoption journey to nervously holding your child for the first time. Still, with the right amount of research and understanding you should be able to better determine the typical time frames involved with the kind of adoption you choose.

Let’s face it, adoption has a reputation for being a difficult way to grow your family. Speak to the more than 123,000 children in foster care, according to Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, who are patiently waiting for forever families and I’m sure they would agree. From the lists, the long requirements, to the time it takes, to the cost, to the legal considerations, it can feel confusing and stressful even to those who have gone through it before.

The time it takes to adopt can be broken down into three stages: pre-placement, placement, and post-placement. Pre-placement waiting occurs for all types of adoptions and varies by type. The post-placement time period occurs in both domestic and international adoptions and typically runs no less than six months from the time of placement. Some of the things that factor into the length of adoption include age, race, and type of adoption.

Age

It is common knowledge that age plays a big part in determining the answer to this question: how long does adoption take? There tends to be a greater wait time for infants than for older children. Unfortunately, many older children find themselves waiting for many years and spending these years in multiple foster homes along the way. Teens actually age out of foster care each year.

That said, the adoption of an older child can proceed rather quickly compared to adoptions of younger children and especially newborns, which can take several years.

Gender

While possibly not quite as impactful as other holdups, prospective adoptive parents set on one gender over another may find themselves in for a longer wait and while there may be no hard numbers to prove this, it is something to consider when filling out your paperwork.

Race

Race can and does play a role in the length of an adoption. There is higher demand for children of Western European descent than there is for children of Eastern European, African, and Asian descent.

Types of Adoption

There are several types of adoption, including domestic infant, foster care, special needs, and international to name just a few. Here is an overview and some insight regarding these and other adoption avenues and what you can anticipate from each.

Domestic Infant Adoption

Look no further than the “How To Adopt A Baby Guide” to find out everything you need to know about domestic infant adoption. How long does adoption take where domestic infant adoption is concerned usually falls somewhere between one year to seven years. The process includes (basically) completing the home study, finding a match, placement and post-placement, and finalization. Your wait time will depend upon the birth mother and child preferences ( i.e., age, gender, race, special needs, etc.); your adoption agency and factors such as advertising and dossiers, as well as disrupted adoptions due to a variety of unplanned factors.

According to Creatingafamily.org,  the average wait time to adopt a baby via an adoption agency in 2018 was:

 - “Matched within 1 year:  62%

- “Matched within 2 years:  82%”

Via an adoption attorney in 2018:

 - “Matched within 1 year:  68%

- “Matched within 2 years:  84%”

Special Needs

The Adoption.com “Special Needs Adoption Guide” describes special needs adoption like this, “When the child to be adopted has some sort of medical need or is older than an infant.” Further, most international adoptees are considered special needs due to the fact that they have spent at least some time in an institutional setting. In truth, the label of special needs can sound scary to many prospective adoptive parents and while it can and sometimes does involve serious and lifelong issues, special needs also encompasses less serious and medically repairable situations involving children who are otherwise healthy.

The Adoption.org article “10 Things To Know About Special Needs Adoption” provides an overview of the process of special needs adoption and the happy and hard truths behind what it will mean for you and your family.

Foster Care

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, “Foster care (also known as out-of-home care) is a temporary service provided by states for children who cannot live with their families. Children in foster care may live with relatives or with unrelated foster parents. Foster care can also refer to placement settings such as group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and supervised independent living.”

Fostering to adopt may be the fastest form of adoption in answer to how long does adoption take for several reasons, possibly the most pressing being the shared interest in finding families for children who have already spent too much time outside the structure of a loving family for whatever reason and at no fault of their own.

Foster care, made simple, is a three-step process involving certification, placement and transition, and severance to adoption. That said, the necessary evils are involved, such as home study and never-ending paperwork (sorry). Adopting through foster care can take six to 18 months.

Factors that can play into the wait time may include the availability of children, the reunification of a child with a birth family, and the length of training. It’s important to remember that the true goal of foster care is to return the child to the birth family whenever it is in the best interest of the child. Because of this, some foster care situations will not result in an adoption. It is also important to know what sort of training you will need based on what sort of foster care situation you are entering. Some programs and some agencies may require more hours than others.

International Adoption

According to Travel.state.gov, “Intercountry adoptions are governed by three sets of laws: U.S. federal law, the laws of the child’s country of residence, and the laws of your U.S. state of residence. The time it takes to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to the United States varies widely. Generally, the process may take anywhere from one to four years, though in some cases, it may take longer.

Answering the question of how long does adoption take where another country is concerned, is clearly a tricky topic as adoptions can be impacted due to everything else going on in the world: political and governmental tension, social pressure, the immigration process, and safety and travel concerns.

Other items to consider with international adoption are acquiring United States citizenship for your child, post-adoption reporting, post-placement reporting, understanding these requirements, and seeking out post-adoption services.

According to Creatingafamily.org, the average wait for the following countries is as follows:

China:

  • “Traditional Program (non-special needs), matched within 5 years:  0%

  • “Waiting-Child Program, matched within 6 months:  62%

  • “Waiting-Child Program, matched within 1 year:  75%

  • “Waiting-Child Program, matched within 2 years:  90%”

Ukraine:

  • “Matched within 1 year: 100% (The Ukranian international adoption referral method requires that both parents must be in Ukraine to receive a referral.)”

South Korea:

  • “Matched within 1 year:  85%

  • “Matched within 2 years:  100%”

Click here for specific country information.

Other Bottlenecks

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! One thing is for sure, adoption keeps paper manufacturers in business. Just some of the paperwork that you will be responsible to complete; have signed, certified, notarized and/or apostilled; or otherwise, obtain and provide includes:

 - Home study

- Birth Certificates

- Marriage Certificate

- Financial statement

- Employer’s letter

- Medical letter(s)

- Police reports

- Divorce decree

- Approval Notice from USCIS

There are additional forms, of course, especially with international adoption. Once you have completed your main documentation and have been accepted into the process, your agency will be able to provide you with a list of additional required materials based on country requirements.

Your Agency. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of carefully researching your adoption agency before making a selection. An agency in good standing and with the best interests of waiting children and hopeful families in mind will offer clear and open communication not just on Day One, but from Day One all the way through the process. The Child Welfare Information Gateway says, “Locating an agency to assist you in building your family through adoption should take into account your family’s personal preferences regarding the adoption services provided by that agency. While there are overarching characteristics that should be true of any agency, there are different qualities that families might find important.”

You can find an adoption professional here today who can provide you with professional guidance, give you advice on adoption financing, and help you with adoption planning. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, “The Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME) accredits adoption service providers and approved persons for intercountry or international adoption.” You can find helpful information on accredited adoption service providers and approved persons on IAAME’s website here.

Finances. Although nobody likes to think about finances in association with adoption, your ability to finance an adoption—no matter the type—will come into play. It is recommended for those considering adoption to save your money! More than that, look into the available resources and research additional money-making opportunities to ensure that the cost of adoption will not be the reason your experience comes to a halt. The Adoption.com article “Free Adoption” discusses foster care as being the best alternative to private domestic adoption, which can cost upwards of $10,000 (and that’s relatively inexpensive) with international adoption reaching as much as $40,000 in some instances.

Home Study. Breathe in. Breathe out. Quite possibly one of the least understood and most stress-inducing parts of the adoption process is the home study. For everything you need to know about home studies—from finding a home study professional to learning more about what’s involved in a home study and how to survive yours,  click here.

Finalization. The Adoption.com article “What To Expect At Finalization” talks you through the process and provides some insight into what really happens in court. While it may feel like “one more thing” that you have to do in the course of your adoption—it is actually a very special one more thing and whether domestic or international, it is a very necessary step in the adoption process.

Waiting Out the Wait

Know that you are not alone in struggling to navigate the adoption wait process. There are many articles available offering tips and strategies to get you through (and to help support the waiting children, too, including:

The 10 Best Quotes When You’re Waiting

How Do I Overcome the Pain of Waiting for an Adoption Match?

How to Survive the Big Wait

6 Ways To Get More Waiting Children Adopted

Children Waiting For Adoption

Ready to Get Started?

Despite the factors that impact how long adoption takes, for those who are willing to relax their own adoption requirements on things like age, race, and gender and to stick it out from pre-placement through post-placement, adoption is a wonderful and rewarding way to become a family for a child who needs one and well worth the wait!

You can start by checking out the “How To Adopt A Child Guide” for everything you need to know regarding the adoption process, paperwork, and what to do once you are ready to begin your adoption journey.

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.