Understanding the Process

Adoption can be a varied and often complex process, making each adoption experience unique. However, there are several basic steps that are common to most adoptions, and understanding these can help make the journey more manageable:

Step 1: Prepare Properly

It is hard to overstate just how important it is to take the time to assess your motivation and readiness to expand your family through adoption, as both of these elements will come to bear on your and your child’s experience in the family. A good starting point might be to ask yourself questions like these. There are also many really helpful resources that can help you get equipped and get educated as you move forward in the process. In addition to the list of available resources, the growing number therapists, counselors, and healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable and trained in the field of attachment and early trauma can be a great help in both pre- and post-adoption needs. Making use of available resources can help you better prepare to meet the needs of your child once they are home.

Step 2: Decide what type of adoption you want to pursue

Next you must decide on what type of adoption program you feel most drawn to pursue. You may decide to adopt internationally, bringing home a child from a different country. Or instead, you may decide to adopt domestically, welcoming home a child from the same country in which you are a citizen. Within the world of domestic adoption, there are additional choices to be determined that will impact how your process moves forward. Do you want to adopt from state custody (foster care)? Through a licensed agency? Privately through an attorney? What level of openness do you feel is best for your child and family? Each of these decisions will have an impact on the cost and landscape of the process as you move forward.

Step 3: Find an agency

If you decide to work through an agency to adopt domestically or internationally, you must first determine which agency is the right fit for you. Once you have settled on an agency, you will sign a contract with them outlining the services provided and be assigned a case manager who will help lead you through the process. For domestic adoptions, families often choose to work with an agency in their general geographic area as this adds to the convenience of coordinating home study and post-placement visits as well as any required classes/training prior to the adoption. For international adoptions, families will often work with two agencies – a placing agency (to facilitate the actual adoption process and placement) and a home study agency (to coordinate home study and post-placement reports). Because of this, a placing agency does not necessarily need to be in the same geographic area as the family. Regardless of which path you take, it is always important to feel at ease with the integrity, ethics, and practices of any agency before committing to work with them in the adoption process.

Step 4: Apply for a specific program

Once you have chosen your agency and the program you want to pursue, you will then begin to fill out paperwork through the agency in order to apply for the program you have chosen. It can be helpful (and is sometimes required) to attend a seminar by the agency to understand what programs are available and what to expect in the journey ahead. Although most agencies will be able to give you a good understanding of what programs you qualify for before you apply, the formal application process will be able to affirm that you meet all the requirements of a specific program before moving forward in the process.

Step 5: Get a home study

The next step is to complete your home study. This is a document compiled by a caseworker who visits you at your home, interviews your family, and ensures that you and your family will provide a healthy environment for any child added through adoption. It can seem fairly extensive and includes everything from family background, education, relationships, finances, to prior parenting experiences. The home study will focus on the specific type of adoption you have applied for (in regard to country, age of child, number of children, etc.) and once it is complete, a summary is provided giving approval for the adoption to move forward. In some cases, the caseworker may feel that an adoptive placement is not in the best interest of the child or family.

Step 6: Accept a referral or placement

You then work with your agency to complete the necessary steps to be matched to a child for adoption. The manner in which this is accomplished varies between programs. For some, a family will be given a list of waiting children to review, and in others birth parents or caseworkers choose the adoptive family based on their perception of which family would best meet the needs of a specific child. Once a family has been chosen, the referral is presented to the adoptive family who is then given the opportunity to accept the match. If accepted, the adoption process moves through any remaining necessary steps before placement. The timeline from acceptance of the referral to placement varies based on the specific program.

Step 7: Finalize the adoption 

Once the child comes into your care, there are different steps to finalize your adoption depending on the program. Often, you and your child appear before a judge to finalize that adoption. It could also be that all finalization documents are filled out and filed remotely. Regardless, once you’ve finalized your adoption, the child legally becomes your ward.

Step 8: Parent your child

You’ve gotten this far but your journey isn’t over…in fact it’s just beginning! You have a lifetime ahead of you to grow, care, and love your child. Because you have taken the time to get equipped, you are aware that children who are welcomed home through adoption have often experienced a significant amount of loss due to prior attachment injuries and/or early trauma. We encourage you to continue to stay educated and equipped in order to bring hope and healing to your child and family.

How do I fund an adoption?

Adoption can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and often one of the major barriers to adoption is finances. The U.S. offers a tax credit which can help many families, and you can learn about the adoption tax credit here. Organizations like Show Hope exist to help bring waiting children into the love of families through financial grants. There are many other organizations and agencies that offer grants or loans as well. Many employers also include adoption benefits and assistance programs to their employees, so be sure to ask your employer if this benefit is available.

In addition there are many creative ways families have funded adoptions through fundraisers. Show Hope has shared “4 Creative Ways to Fundraise for Your Adoption” and “3 More Ways to Fundraise for Your Adoption.”

What adoption resources are provided to help adopting families?

Each agency offers resources to the adoptive families who are working within their programs. Look into the differences between several agencies on your list to determine what resources each agency offers and what resources are lacking. Decide which resources are most important to you and use this information to aid in your agency decision.

These resources include connections to local pediatricians or care services, early intervention programs, workshops, classes, adoption conferences, mentor programs and formats in which to connect and speak to other adoptive parents. Resources come available in a plethora of forms allowing adoptive parents to choose the resources most helpful to them.

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