Choosing to adopt a child and becoming part of the adoption community will change your life forever.

The adoption process is a roller coaster of emotions (and–unfortunately–paperwork). Although it can seem overwhelming at first, knowledge is power. You can be empowered with knowledge about the adoption process and feel better equipped as you decide if adoption is right for you.

Although every family is unique in their adoption, there are some basics that stay fairly consistent across the board.

Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Call 1-800-ADOPT-98.

1. Decide to Adopt

Adoption can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. For some, it is just the beginning of creating a family forever. Adoption may be the perfect choice for your family, but it may not be the best option for every family. As you question, “Is adoption right for me?” it’s equally important to explore the other side of the question: “Am I right for adoption?”

Am I Ready?

This is a time for some serious soul-searching–a time to explore the real reasons for wanting to adopt. Ask yourself:

Do you want to provide a loving, stable family for a child? Can you?

Do you want to help a child overcome some of the challenges he or she may have faced early in life? Can you?

Are you willing to be there as a support for a child through thick and thin?

Do you have a strong support system? How are you strengthening it?

If you have come to adoption because of infertility, have you fully processed your grief?

Adoption is not a cure-all for processing the grief of struggling with fertility. Openly and honestly examine your reasons and motivations for adopting. Consider speaking with a counselor or therapist about processing any grief you are experiencing and your intentions in pursuing adoption. Adoption requires a lifelong commitment. It is extremely important that you adopt for the right reasons–whatever that means for you and your family.

How We Knew Adoption Was Right for Us (Video)

When I Wrote My Life Plan, I Never Imagined This

My Parents and Their Decision to Adopt

Adopting After Infertility

The Spirit of Open Adoption by James Gritter

More books on preparation and support

Adoption forums 

2. Choose a Type of Adoption

Who belongs in that empty chair at your dinner table? If you have other children, try to imagine how each family member will adjust to your potential family dynamics. Look at your community. Ask yourself how your child would develop a racial/cultural identity within your town or city. Are there resources available in your area to help a child with special needs? It is common for those new to adoption to start out with narrow expectations of the child they want to adopt and then to expand their views as the education process proceeds. Experienced adoptive families have found it important for those starting the process to resist the temptation to quickly narrow the group of adoptable children that they would be willing to consider. You may find that by adopting a type of child you hadn’t initially planned to adopt, your cup will run over with joy. And remember, don’t overlook the possibility of adopting more than one child. There are three ways you can build your family through adoption:

Domestic Adoption

Many prospective parents seek to adopt children from within the United States. Adoption fees and waiting times vary tremendously, depending on the type of adoption involved and the specific circumstances of the adoption. Domestic adoption may be managed with the assistance of an agency or may be done privately (generally with assistance from an attorney). Domestic Adoption often provides children with opportunities to connect with their biological roots through open adoption.

Learn more about domestic infant adoption

Learn more about open adoption

Foster Adoption

There are currently more than 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. Over 100,000 of those children are eligible for adoption and looking for forever families. Foster adoptions always come first through fostering children and placement is not always guaranteed. Some of these children may have special needs–meaning they may be older, may have a disability or medical condition, or may be brothers and sisters who should be adopted together. In many cases, financial assistance in the form of adoption subsidies is available to help parents with the legal, medical, and living costs associated with caring for a child with special needs.

View a photolisting of children who are hoping to be adopted.

International Adoption

Many children in other countries are eligible for adoption. Countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Central America, and South America are the home countries for most international children adopted by Americans. More than 700 US private agencies place children for adoption from foreign countries. Children eligible for adoption in other countries are often living in orphanages. In some instances, they may be in foster care.

View our photolisting of children who are hoping to be adopted.

3. Work With an Adoption Professional

Now that you’ve made it this far, you’ll need to decide on what kind of professionals can assist you on your journey. Will a private adoption agency best serve your needs? Could you adopt through a public adoption agency? Would a private adoption be best? Should you use an adoption facilitator? Since adoption laws in the state where you live will govern your options, it is essential that you know what types of placements are allowed or not allowed by your state’s adoption laws. An adoption professional can help you learn the specifics of how to adopt a child in your area.

Agency Adoptions

Adoption agencies often provide more support services than in a private adoption such as pre-adoption education, counseling, home studies, matching, and post-adoption services and/or referrals. Agencies vary. Some may focus exclusively on international adoptions, others may specialize in infant adoptions. Private agencies are licensed by the state but run privately and can assist in most types of adoption. International adoptions generally cost more money than domestic infant adoptions because travel is involved, but you need to check with your adoption agency for more information on the costs associated with the adoption path you have chosen. Foster care adoptions generally cost little or no money (but check with your state for more specifics).

Private Adoptions

Private (or independent) adoptions are done through adoption attorneys and may or may not involve an adoption opportunity that is located and arranged by the attorney. If so, the attorney’s efforts to find a match for you may increase the cost. In some states, private attorneys cannot be involved in the “finding” and “matching” phases of adoption, but they can help in finalizing the legal part of the adoption in court once the match has taken place. If you choose an attorney to help you with this process, it is best to select one who is experienced in adoption.

Read Reviews

Get started finding an adoption professional by checking out Reviews of adoption service providers across the country. In the directory, you’ll be able to search for resources such as agencies, attorneys, counseling, facilitators, organizations, publications, home study providers, and others in your region. Learn what people think of the service they’ve received from these providers.

4. Research Your Financial Options

This is a good time to begin thinking about finances. Read more about funding your adoption. (And remember that it is very inexpensive to adopt from the foster care system.)

5. Complete a Home Study

A home study is a thorough investigation of your home, family, and relationships. This process can take between two and six months and requires quite a bit of paperwork. This is a good time to begin collecting documents: birth certificates, marriage licenses, tax returns, and financial statements. Make appointments for physicals, as you’ll need a valid TB test and proof that you are in reasonably good health. You’ll also need to be fingerprinted for a criminal history background check.

Learn more about the home study process.

Finding a Home Study Professional

If you’re working with an agency, they may help you in arranging your home study. Independent, hopeful adoptive parents will need to find a licensed social worker to perform the home study; your attorney may have recommendations. can connect you with a home study professional in your area.

Find a Home Study Professional

6. Spread the Word

With or without an agency working for you, active participation in your adoption may speed up the process and keep you busy and focused. Particularly if you’re hoping to adopt domestically, putting the word out with friends and family that you are hoping to adopt can be the first step, and there are many things you can do to increase the likelihood of a match or being selected by an expectant parent considering adoption.

Parent Profiles

Parent Profiles was designed specifically to allow hopeful adoptive parents to connect with parents who are considering placing a child for adoption. You can create a profile on Parent Profiles that includes features like video, photo albums, profile statistics, and tags that will help your profile be more searchable. These features will help you better stand out and connect with expectant parents who are considering an adoption placement for their child. Parent Profiles also offers different packages to stuir your needs. 

Getting Started: Parent Profiles

7. Prepare for the Possibilities

The time after a match has been made will be filled with anticipation, preparation, and lots of excitement. Consider that there are three sides to the adoption triad. Educate yourself and create a post-placement contact/openness plan that you and the birth parents feel comfortable with. Whatever your relationship is to be with the child’s birth parents, begin now to cultivate respect and unconditional love for these individuals who are your child’s biological parents.

8. Wait

This is by far the hardest part. Biological parents get about nine months’ notice to prepare for parenthood: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Adoptive parents also need to wait for the arrival of their children; sometimes that is two months, and sometimes it is two years. There is no telling how long it will take for a hopeful adoptive family to match. So, while they are waiting, they also can better prepare themselves for the arrival. Hold onto hope and keep yourself busy and productive while you wait.

5 Ways to Keep Your Sanity While Waiting

Adoption: Bearing the Wait

How to Survive the Big Wait

9. Adoption Day

Adoption will change your life forever: in ways that you cannot imagine. “Having kids–the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings – is the biggest job anyone can embark on. As with any risk, you have to take a leap of faith and ask lots of wonderful people for their help and guidance. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to parent.” ―Maria Shriver, Journalist and News Anchor

Learn More About How To Adopt a Child