Adopting an infant is a dream that many American families share. In fact, studies show that over 81.5 million families have considered adoption at some point.

There are currently about two million couples waiting to adopt in the United States. Many singles also dream of providing a stable, loving home for a child who has no one to call a family. Infant adoption allows new parents to experience “firsts” like steps, words, and “big kid” meals. Many prospective parents look forward to holding babies in their arms and buying clothes, bassinets, and car seats for their new tiny additions.

Some parents choose to adopt babies born in the U.S., and a number of agencies are ready to help. You can also adopt through a private lawyer. Several foreign countries have infants for adoption, and babies can also be adopted through foster care.

1. Who Is Adopting?

About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States every year. Of those adoptions that are not stepparent adoptions, about 59% are through foster care, 26% are adopted internationally, and 15% are American babies whose mothers made an adoption plan.

The number of infants for adoption has declined from 9% before 1973 to 1%. The majority of adoptive mothers (81%) are between 35 and 44 years of age. One in every 25 U.S. families have an adopted child.

Single men and women also adopted a significant number of children. In fact, in 2011, almost one-third of the adoptions from foster care were by single parents, including 14,000 single men and over 13,000 single women.

2. Domestic Agency Adoption

When most people talk about infants for adoption, they are thinking about domestic adoption through a private agency. Altogether, the cost of this type of adoption is between $25,000 and $40,000. This includes agency fees, home study expenses, legal costs, and birth mother expenses.

A home study is nothing to be worried about. A social worker will ask questions about prospective parents’ work, upbringing, family life, parenting philosophy, and volunteer activities. They are looking to see if you are capable of providing a stable, loving home for a child. They are not looking for perfect parents but are making sure you are prepared to care for a child. Some interviews may be conducted in your home, and others may occur at an office. You will have to supply references as well as some financial records and a background check.

Adopting a healthy infant in the U.S. may take some time, usually somewhere between two and five years. Some adoption agencies require couples or singles to create a “family scrapbook” of photos and unique and memorable facts about the couple. Birth mothers can look through materials and choose a family for her child. Adoption.com also has a unique site called Parent Profiles that connects hopeful adoptive parents with expectant parents. Prospective adoptive parents who have completed a satisfactory home study should be prepared to be patient while they wait for the right child to be matched with the right parents.

When adoptive parents are chosen, some can meet their new child at the hospital on the day he or she is born. You may have to travel to another state for a few days to wait for the adoption to be finalized. Nationwide, about 80% of adoptions make it to finalization. After the paperwork was completed, that number climbs to 98%.

Some of the most popular agencies with infants for adoption in the U.S. are Spence-Chapin, Bethany Christian Services, Nightlight, Christian Family Adoptions, and Heart of Adoption, but there are hundreds more to choose from. Ask trusted friends or family members for referrals, or post questions on social media to find out about others’ experiences. Remember that adoption agencies are there to make your experience as smooth and positive as possible.

Today, 95% of domestic infant adoptions have some degree of “openness.” This could mean anything from sending photos or updates on birthdays to regular emails to occasional meetings.

3. Private Lawyer Adoption

It has recently become more popular for couples and individuals to pursue infant adoption through a private lawyer. This can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $30,000 and takes about 18 months, although it may happen sooner.

Jeanine Castagna is a successful and popular private adoption attorney in New York. She says “the majority of my clients will tell you that, however difficult their path was, it was worth it and they would do it again!”

Becoming approved for a private adoption involves becoming certified or approved by the court. Castagna says that clients have fingerprinting done to check for criminal history and a child abuse clearance. They also need a home study conducted by a licensed social worker.

When asked about openness in private adoption, Castagna stated that “it is important to note that there are no set definitions of ‘open’ or ‘closed’ adoptions. In my practice, I have adoptions that range from extremely open to completely closed. Most of the adoptions that I handle fall under the “semi-open” category, where the birth parents meet the adoptive parents (typically at the time of the birth) but are on a first name basis only. They may have updates and photos of the child at a set time each year, typically on birthdays. Updates and photos may be shared via email, texts, or a confidential website.”

4. International Adoption

The cost of adopting internationally is usually somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000. Some countries with toddlers and infants for adoption are Korea, Haiti, and Bulgaria.

If you are looking to adopt a healthy infant from Korea, you may wait up to three years for your referral. Couples between 25 and 44 years old who have been married for more than three years are eligible to adopt. You will be required to take two trips to Korea that are about six to ten days each.

To adopt from Haiti, you will need to take two trips to the country. Parents must be between 30 and 50 years of age, and single women are allowed to adopt.

To adopt from Bulgaria, you will need to be 21 years of age or older, and you will have two trips of ten days each to the country. Singles are allowed to adopt.

Keep in mind that adopting internationally involves completing a home study in the U.S. You will need to send your dossier, including USCIS approval, overseas where you will be matched with a child. It is a good idea to take your child’s referral to a pediatrician with expertise in international adoption before accepting your referral.

After you have decided to accept your referral, you will be asked to travel overseas to meet your child and begin the adoption process. During your second trip, you can complete your paperwork and bring your child home.

5. Foster Care

Infants in foster care are now a growing part of first-time admissions. In fact, nearly half all foster care adoptions are of children who entered the system before the age of one, and most children adopted from child welfare are under the age of three. Many babies in foster care are members of sibling groups that need to be adopted together.

There are many benefits to adopting through foster care. While the child is still in foster care, parents receive a monthly stipend to help care for the child. Free health care coverage is available to foster children until they are 18 years old. In some states, children in foster care are eligible for free college tuition. The cost of adopting from foster care is relatively inexpensive and runs from $0 to $2,500 per child. In some cases, there is even a stipend to cover the cost of the adoption. More than half of the children in foster care are adopted by their foster parents.

While parental neglect is one of the most common reasons children are placed in foster care, drug and alcohol exposure is present in nearly 61% of foster care infants. Parents caring for babies in foster care should be prepared to respond to FAS or FAA-related issues. Patience, love, and a positive attitude go a long way toward minimizing the effects of FAS. Lots of praise and a calm demeanor will make your child feel safe, cared for, and ready for a hopeful future.

Infant adoption requires parents with big hearts, warm homes, and a loving, enthusiastic outlook. While there are many ways for parents to adopt infants, the result is usually the same. Little ones without homes are given the opportunity to become part of a family, and adults without children fill their homes with laughter and joy.

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.