The steps of adoption are designed for the happy outcome of welcoming a new child into a family. Society is becoming more and more used to on-demand features and functions. There are so many apps that can help you to perform about just about anything at the touch of an icon or click of a button. And dropdown menus get you from A to Z in a matter of minutes. The steps of adoption, however, are not as easy as 1, 2, 3 and should be viewed as more of a distance run than a 5K in terms of endurance and distance. So, what are these steps, and where should you start? As the character, Maria, sang in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”

Depending on what type of adoption you decide upon, the steps of adoption may look slightly different, which brings us to our first step.

Learn About Adoption to Make Sure It’s Right for You.

Adoption may be something you’ve always dreamed of pursuing as a way to start or grow your family, or it may be something you decide to do as a result of infertility or non-traditional family situations where children are involved.

No matter how you’ve arrived here, It’s important to understand what adoption is all about to make sure that you are ready and both for the short-term process as well as the lifelong commitment that it brings. It’s important to recognize that while you need to determine whether or not adoption is right for you, adoption is not all about you–it’s about the child as well. Subsequently, the decisions you make are going to directly impact another human being.

Take the time to research, learn about, ask questions of professionals, and do some soul searching before taking this very important leap in your life. Do you know about the adoption triad? Are you familiar with adoption terms and accepted language? Do you have family and friends who have adopted or who are adopted? Is your partner or spouse on board with your decision?

Become Familiar with the Types of Adoption Available to You.

There are many roads to adoption, typically including public, private, international, adoption of a stepchild, and adopting a birth relative (kinship adoption). In her Adoption.com article “Types of Adoption,” writer Sara Graham advises those considering adopting to first take the time to explore options. In addition to the basic types of adoption, she digs deeper into additional elements of adoption including the level of openness (vs. closed adoption), special needs adoption, transracial adoption, and embryo adoption.

Adoption.com and Adoption.ORG provide helpful information and tips to help you to educate yourself about adoption and foster care, including information concerning the children in care as well as resources for families interested in adopting or becoming a foster parent.

Check Your Finances.

Although an unpleasant part of the adoption process, it is a necessary one. We all know that adoption is expensive (in many cases) and that the financial burden is a major deterrent for some families who believe adoption is out of reach. It’s a sad fact and unfortunate considering that in the United States of the more than 437,000 children currently living in foster care, more than 125,000 are available for adoption. Let that sink in–there are 125,000 children waiting to find forever families.

According to the Dave Thomas Foundation, “The cost of adoption depends on a number of factors, such as type of adoption, the agency through which you adopt, the state in which you live, attorney fees and whether or not travel is required.”

“Foster care adoption can cost $0 to $2,500, while private infant or international adoption might cost $7,000 to $40,000, or more. Subsidies are often available for families who adopt from foster care. You can also talk to your employer about adoption benefits and consult your tax adviser about possible tax credits.”

For families who are set on private adoption or international adoption, there is hope and help. Adoption.com’s Affording Adoption page offers guidance through articles, links, and overviews of loans, fundraising opportunities, tax credits, grants, and other benefits available to families pursuing several types of adoption.

Seek Professional Help.

As tempting as it is to try and figure out everything in life on our own (aka paging Dr. Google), one very important step of adoption is seeking the help of licensed and qualified professionals who understand all aspects of adoption, from the legal sense to the social elements involved that you are going to need in order to make your adoption a reality in an ethical and healthy manner. No matter how well-meaning family and friends may be, when you decide to become serious about pursuing adoption, you’re going to want and need the help of a good adoption agency.

Not only is it important to look for an agency, but to look for a good agency. Adoption.com offers some guidance in selecting an adoption agency and the US Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Information Gateway suggests prospective parents take the following steps listed here when assessing the reputation of licensed, private adoption agencies.

The Adoption.com article “22 Questions To Ask An Adoption Agency Before Choosing Them” offers up great advice on important questions to ask to make sure a potential adoption agency matches the criteria that are most important to you.

 Get Support Close to Home.

You’re not going to want to stop with the professionals, however, on your journey toward adoption and that of your forever family-to-be’s ever after chapter. Before you’re too far along in the process, you should make sure you have the support you need. And, if not, now is a good time to build a solid support network not just for yourself, but for your adoptee.

Whether you work through your agency or through family and friends, seek out other adoptive or adopting families. Most adopting families are happy to share experiences and offer advice or support when needed. Yes, the steps of adoption leading up to the big day can be confusing and difficult, but so can the steps following the big day. Adoption looks different and feels different for every family and will change as your child grows.

Having people in your family’s life who have been there and done that will be a benefit not only to you but to your child as you begin to navigate life as an adoptive family. In addition to those you may wish to turn to on a regular basis, you must also consider having in place professional support such as pediatricians, counselors, and school faculty and staff who will play a role in your child’s life.

Fill Out the Paperwork.

Once you have decided what type of adoption you want to pursue and have the backing of professionals to help guide you through the process, the paperwork will start flowing. You’ve probably heard that there are mountains of paperwork involved in the adoption process and that’s no exaggeration.

To begin with, you will need to apply for a specific program. Once you’ve been pre-qualified and determined eligible to adopt, you will need to complete a home study, which will make up a huge chunk of the paperwork mountain.

The Adoption.org article “10 Things You Need To Know When You Prepare For The Home Study” breaks down what the home study encompasses, how to prepare for one, what questions to anticipate, how to choose a home study professional, the necessary documents you will need to provide, additional information specific to international adoption, home studies, the difference with foster care home studies, an overview of home visits, considering your past and how it may impact your home study, and who to consider listing as references for your home study.

Now You Wait.

If you thought completing paperwork was a chore, you’re either going to love or loathe the next steps of adoption, which typically involve waiting for acceptance and a referral or placement to adopt a child (again, depending on what type of adoption you are pursuing).

If you feel as if your fingers are too swollen to sign another signature or initial another document, and you’ve taken more photos and provided fingerprints to more agencies than you knew even existed, then you’re about to enjoy a break once your application, home study, and the last of your paperwork have been handed off. If you’re the type of person who likes to burn off your nervous energy by keeping busy, you’re probably not going to enjoy the waiting period, which seems like an eerily quiet pause during which you feel as though you should be doing something–anything–to contribute to keeping going the momentum that is you getting closer to finalizing your adoption.

The Adoption.ORG blog has an article about how to survive and cope with the waiting period. It is an excellent breakdown of what many waiting adoptive parents may feel from the early stages right on down to the wire when it comes to the ups and downs of the adoption process.

Finalize Your Adoption.

The wait is over and you have been united with your adoptee. Congratulations! But wait! Depending on what type of adoption journey you are on will determine the next steps of adoption.

Be sure to do your research on what kind of requirements are included in your adoption. You may also need to consider what happens after the adoption is finalized as well.

If you are adopting domestically be it locally or out of state, you’re not quite finished with the legal process yet, nor have you dotted the last I or crossed the last T. If you went the international route, chances are you may be spending a couple of weeks to a couple of months in the country of your child’s birth while the courts finalize your adoption there and you finalize paperwork that will allow you to travel home as a family. Once home, while you may see the finish line, you’re still not quite there as you will need to follow the laws of your state in finishing up what is typically known as readoption as well as post-adoption social worker visits, which vary according to country requirements and in some cases, the Hague Convention.

Come Home.

Whether local, domestic adoption, or international adoption, nobody ever forgets that homecoming. It’s important to remember, though, that as the process of adoption may be coming to an end, your life as an adoptive family is just beginning.

Parenting, no matter how it comes to be, is no easy task. Being an adoptive parent brings additional responsibilities and the need for awareness that traditional parenting may not. In her Adoption.com “Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Adoptive Parent?,” adoptive mom, Caroline Bailey, offers that adoption is both a gift and a challenge and asks prospective adoptive parents to ask themselves questions such as, “How comfortable are you with answering questions the child might have about his or her biological family?” and “Can you accept rejection and are you resilient?” in an attempt to challenge those considering adoption to recognize that while there are many joys associated with the journey, it’s important to reflect on these and other questions while considering taking the life-changing path.

Ready to Get Started?

If you’re ready to get started learning more about the steps of adoption, check out the Adoption.com “How to Adopt a Child Guide” to find some information you will need to know to get the process started, about the different types of adoption, about the resources available to you, about how you can be a strong adoptive parent, about finding support for your child, as well as articles, blogs, podcasts, links, and guides to help you and your adoptive family well after the adoption process has stopped and your life as a forever family has begun.

Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org 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.