Adoption: Where to Start in the Process and the Need-To-Knows

Individuals and couples consider adoption for many different reasons. However, they all stem from the desire to start or grow a family. When you think about adoption, it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s a brief walk-through of the process for newcomers:

Before beginning the adoption process . . .

  1. You should learn as much as you can about what it’s like to be an adoptive parent. Books and other reference sources are a wonderful place to start. If you’re seriously considering adoption, meeting with other adoptive parents is your most valuable resource. Get in touch with local families who have adopted, and hear first-hand what it’s like to adopt an infant, an older child, or a child with special needs.
  2. Also, take the opportunity to do some soul-searching. Why do you want to adopt and what are your expectations? Meeting with an adoption counselor can be valuable at this stage. It’s important to understand your motives and hopes for adoption before you can meet the needs of an adopted child. The insight gain about your own expectations will help you make decisions about who you want to adopt. Are you looking for an infant or an older child? A child born in the US or overseas? Are you open to starting a family with a child from a racial, ethnic, or cultural background that’s different from your own? What about twins or siblings? And are you interested in providing a home to a child who may have special needs? The more specific preferences you have, the longer the adoption process will probably take.

The three ways to adopt

These are through the foster care system, an adoption agency, or private means. If you want to adopt through the foster care system or an adoption agency, attend local informational meetings. Use brochures, online information, and personal reviews to learn more about local agencies, and contact them directly for information about their fees, their processes, and what kind of children they place. For private adoptions, state laws vary, and you’ll need to hire an attorney who specializes in private adoption laws in your state.


Once you’ve decided on an adoption method, you may have to make some decisions about how you’re going to pay for the adoption. Adopting through the foster care system is often virtually free, but other adoption methods may cost anywhere from $5,000 to more than $40,000.

Moving along in the stages

  1. No matter what type of adoption you choose, you’ll undergo a home study at some point. The social worker who conducts the study will ask each parent, together and separately, questions about their backgrounds, relationships, and feelings about the adoption. They will also make sure that you’re able to provide a safe physical environment to ensure that children are placed in situations that are safe and likely to be permanent. The process can be stressful, but it’s meant to keep everyone’s best interest in mind.
  2. When you consider a child’s profile, read it carefully and don’t rush to a decision. If there are specific medical concerns, meet with a pediatrician and ask questions. If you adopt a child from a foster care, you may be able to meet with them several times. But, if you adopt privately or through an adoption agency, you may not be able to meet the child until the adoption process is final. And if the birth family is interested in staying in touch, you’ll face decisions about the degree of openness that you’re comfortable with.
  3. Once your adoption is finalized and your child is home with you, find a local support group. Many adoptive parents and children rely heavily on their communities. Attending counseling separately and together is another great way to smooth the transition after adoption.

Adoption can be a long and taxing process, and the challenges often continue after the adoption is finalized. But adoption is also a rewarding way to expand your family and broaden your horizons. For more information about adoption, check out the National Adoption Center website at