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How to Adopt a Child Guide

Welcome to the adoption world!

Sandra Benointon April 04, 2014

Welcome to the adoption world! Adopting a child and becoming part of the adoption community will change your life forever. Your heart will grow in ways you didn’t even know were possible.

The adoption process is a roller coaster of emotions, paperwork, and love. Although it can seem overwhelming at first, knowledge is power. We hope to empower you with knowledge about the adoption process in this educational tour. With this knowledge, you will be better equipped as you decide if adoption is right for you and hopefully get started on fulfilling your dream of adopting a child to love and providing a forever home for this child.

Although every family is unique in their adoption, there are nine basic steps to the process; here is the How to Adopt a Child Guide.

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. Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.

Step One: Decide to Adopt
1. Step One: Decide to Adopt

Adoption can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Without a doubt, it will change your family forever. Being entrusted with raising a child is a miracle.

Adoption may be the perfect choice for your family but we also know that it may not be the best option for every family. As you seek your own answers to the question, “Is adoption right for me?", it's equally important to explore the other side of the question: "Am I right for adoption?"

The next few slides highlight some questions you may want to consider on your journey to parenthood.

Step One: Decide to Adopt - Am I Ready?
2. Step One: Decide to Adopt - Am I Ready?

This is a time for some serious soul-searching. It’s a good time to explore your reasons for wanting to adopt. Ask yourself: Do you long to provide a loving, stable family for a child to grow up in? Do you have love that you want to share with a child? Do you want to help a child overcome some of the challenges he or she may have faced early in life? Are you willing to be there as a support for the child through thick and thin? Do you have a strong support system?

If you have come to adoption because of infertility, have you fully processed your grief? Don’t go into adoption thinking that it will cure your infertility.

Openly and honestly examine your reasons and motivations for adopting. Adoption is a permanent proposition that requires a lifelong commitment by everyone involved. It is extremely important that you adopt for the right reasons.

Step One: Decide to Adopt - Further Reading
3. Step One: Decide to Adopt - Further Reading

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

You can view more recommended books on parenting and adoption on this list of books for preparation and support.

Be sure to check out our adoption forums for new information about the adoption process.

Step Two: Choose a Type of Adoption
4. Step Two: Choose a Type of Adoption

Infant? Toddler? Older child? Same race? Different race? Special needs? Domestic? International? Foster? Who belongs in that empty chair at your dinner table?

If you have other children, try to imagine how a prospective child will fit in with them. Look at your community. Ask yourself how your new 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 primary ways you can build your family through adoption:

Step Two: Choose a Type of Adoption - Domestic Adoption
5. Step Two: Choose a Type of 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. Learn more about domestic infant adoption here.

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 open adoption here.

Step Two: Choose a Type of Adoption - Foster Adoption
6. Step Two: Choose a Type of 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 (grade school through teens), may have a disability or medical condition, or may be brothers and sisters who should be adopted together.

Public agencies (operated by State governments)--and some private agencies--complete foster adoptions.

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 our photolisting of children who are hoping to be adopted.

Step Two: Choose a Type of Adoption - International Adoption
7. Step Two: Choose a Type of Adoption - International Adoption

Many children in other countries are available for adoption. Countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Central America, and South America are the “sending countries” for most foreign-born children adopted by Americans. More than 700 U.S. private agencies place children from foreign countries for adoption. Children available for adoption in other countries are often living in orphanages. In some instances, they may be in foster care.

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

Step Three: Get Professional Help
9. Step Three: Get Professional Help

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", but here’s the skinny on each type of professional service:

Step Three: Get Professional Help - Agency Adoptions
10. Step Three: Get Professional Help - Agency Adoptions

Adoption agencies often provide more support services than in a private adoption, such as pre-adoption education, counseling, home studies, advertising, and post-adoption services and/or referrals.

Agencies vary. Some may focus exclusively on international adoptions; others may specialize in infant adoptions. "Public agencies" are supported by public funding, are run by counties or states, and generally assist in the adoption of children in the foster care system.

Private agencies are usually 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).

Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.

Step Three: Get Professional Help - Private (Attorney-Facilitated) Adoptions
11. Step Three: Get Professional Help - Private (Attorney-Facilitated) 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 "finding" function that the attorney performs may increase the cost.

In some states, private attorneys cannot be involved in the "finding" and "matching" phases of an adoption, but are limited to 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.

Step Three: Get Professional Help - Read Reviews
12. Step Three: Get Professional Help - Read Reviews

Get started finding an adoption professional by checking out the Reviews, which features listings and reviews for adoption service providers across the country.

In the directory with reviews, you'll be able to search for resources such as agencies, attorneys, counseling, facilitators, organizations, publications, home study providers, and others in your region, and learn what people think of the service they've received from these providers.

Step Four: Research Your Financial Options
13. Step Four: 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.)

Step Five: Get a Home Study
14. Step Five: Get a Home Study

A home study is a thorough investigation of your home, family, relationships and -- more importantly -- an opportunity to determine what “type” of child would be the best fit for your family. This process takes, on average, 2-6 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.

Step Five: Get a Home Study - Finding a Home Study Professional
15. Step Five: Get a Home Study - Finding a Home Study Professional

If you’re working with an agency, they will arrange your home study. Independent hopeful adoptive parents will need to find a licensed social worker to perform the home study, and your attorney may have recommendations. can connect you with a home study professional in your area. Click here to make a request for contact.

Step Six: Do Some Networking
16. Step Six: Do Some Networking

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.

Step Six: Do Some Networking - Parent Profiles
17. Step Six: Do Some Networking - Parent Profiles

Parent Profiles(SM)is a website 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 upload, photo albums, profile statistics, video chat with expectant parents, and a Pinterest-like section that allows you to share your interests through photos.

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 an "Ultimate Package" that pulls out all the stops: you'll be provided with personalized profile coaching, printable announcements, and an all-stops-pulled marketing campaign that has yielded pretty incredible results for the parents who have used it so far. Read more about it here.

Step Seven: Prepare for the Possibilities
18. Step Seven: 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 first parents.

Step Eight: Wait
19. Step Eight: Wait

This is by far the hardest of all the steps on the adoption journey.

If we look at the nine-month process that is involved when biological children come to their parents, it is easier for us to appreciate how it may be beneficial for hopeful adoptive parents to also "wait" for a period of time for the arrival of their child/children, so that while they are waiting, they will have time to better prepare themselves for the arrival.

Hold onto hope and keep yourself busy and productive while you wait.

Read more about waiting:

5 Ways to Keep Your Sanity While Waiting
Adoption: Bearing the Wait
How to Survive the Big Wait.

Step Nine: Adoption!
20. Step Nine: Adoption!


Adoption will change your life forever, adding depth and dimension that you may not even be able to imagine right now.

“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

author image

Sandra Benointon

Sandra Hanks Benoiton is a mom, a wife, a writer, and an adoption advocate. She lives in the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles with her husband, Mark and their children, Sam and Cj, and has two grown kids and a granddaughter in the US. In addition to adoption-related work, Sandra is a speechwriter and contributes articles to publications worldwide.

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