How Does Adoption Work? What’s the Process?

How does the adoption process work? Where is the best place to start? We understand that whatever led you to adoption, you will probably be excited and perhaps a little anxious and unsure of where to begin. Because these are all common adoption questions and ones we hear a lot, we have put together this helpful list to get you started through the adoption process.

We are here to support you every step of the way!

Step 1: Choose the type of adoption you want

A portrait of a happy adoptive family When researching about how adoption works, you first need to decide on the type of adoption you are interested in. There are many different choices. The age of the child you adopt is a major factor.

Newborn or infant adoption is most often the type of adoption people seek. Taking your baby home from the hospital and being there for every milestone is many adoptive parents’ dreams. This can take some patience, however. While some match with a birth mother quickly, it can take months to years to find the right match. These types of adoptions are typically open adoptions and completed with a private adoption agency like Lifetime Adoption.

Toddler Adoption

These children are between one and three and are placed for adoption for many reasons. You will still experience many firsts and skip all the middle of the night feedings and a lot of diaper changes. You will know the child’s history and have all the medical and developmental information you need. While toddler adoption may have its own challenges, it will also have its own amazing rewards when you see that child grow and thrive with the love you give him.

Older Child Adoption

Older child and sibling groups are two other types of adoption. There are many reasons to adopt an older child. Perhaps the “baby stage” does not appeal to you or fit into your lifestyle. Giving an older child a loving home that would otherwise leave the child in the welfare system (foster care) may appeal to you as well. While foster care is necessary, it is not ideal for a child to grow up in. The same is true for sibling groups. It is ideal to keep siblings together, but it can be difficult to find a family to adopt two or more children at the same time. It is a true blessing when these children find a loving family in a home where they feel safe and loved. These types of adoptions are typically through a public agency.

When adopting, most hopeful adoptive parents believe that ethnicity or race will not matter and it certainly will not affect how you love your child. There are, however, considerations to make for the child’s sake. Racial heritage and culture do matter and to ignore that is a disservice to a child. Introducing and celebrating their culture into your lives will be crucial for your child and can enrich your lives as well. You will need to decide if this is something you feel you can commit to and can accomplish.

Domestic or International?

Another consideration is whether you would like to adopt domestically or internationally. There are major differences between the two. For example, if you are hoping to adopt a newborn baby, you will want to adopt domestically as internationally you will be adopting a toddler or older child. Additionally. international adoption tends to be more expensive as there are travel costs, and each country has its own very specific laws regarding adoption. Another factor is availability of information. For instance, international adoptions are often children who are in an orphanage or foster care, and there may be little to no information on the birth parents. Domestic adoption is most often open adoption, and you will have access to medical and genetic information that will be beneficial to you and your child’s doctor.

Step 2: Factor Cost of Adoption

Adoption can be quite expensive. Taking a realistic look at your finances is essential. Putting yourself at risk financially will not create a stable home environment. If your funds are limited, consider a public agency that works with child welfare cases or waiting adoptable children such as those on AdoptUsKids. These children are in desperate need of a loving family and they are often lost in the child welfare system. Many are in stable homes with foster parents yet long for permanency.

Domestic newborn adoption will run between $30,000 and $50,000. There are many options to help raise these funds. There are grants and loans available, adoption benefits offered by some employers, and tax credits. Many couples create their own fundraisers and have great success. Adopting a baby is such a joyous event. Many friends, family, and church congregations are happy to contribute. Similarly, some couples evaluate the cost of fertility treatments with the cost of adoption. When comparing the two, they are sometimes similar, with adoption having greater chances of a positive outcome.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, international adoption will run between $20,000 and $50,000. Additionally, you will need to prepare for travel expenses, visas, foreign attorney fees, and other miscellaneous expenses depending on the country you are adopting from. You will also want to factor in time away from work as some countries will require you to visit several times or stay for a certain amount of time after the adoption.

cost of adoption was well worth being home at last with their newborn

Step 3: Identify an Adoption Professional to work with

According to Mardie Caldwell, Founder of Lifetime Adoption and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P.), you will want to prepare a list of questions about how adoption works, so when you meet with your adoption professional you will be ready. Some great questions are:

  • How many families have you helped successfully adopt?
  • What adoption services do you offer to birth mothers?
  • Do you comply with state laws and regulations?
  • Is your reclaim rate available?
  • How much are your adoption fees and will there be any additional fees?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • As the adoptive family, what services are available to us?

Make sure these and any other questions you have are answered to your satisfaction and that you feel comfortable asking them and confident in the response. Check with the Better Business Bureau and ask for referral families that will speak with you. Talking with families who have been through the adoption process can provide great insight into the process as well as the adoption professional you are working with.

One important thing to keep in mind is focusing on the adoption services you need. Many, like adoption consultants, are optional and not required. Evaluate this as you prepare your adoption budget so you aren’t paying for unnecessary services.

Step 4: Complete your Adoption home study and Adoption agency required steps

An adoption home study is required for every adoption in the United States. It will consist of a criminal background check, personal references, a check into your finances, and a social worker’s visit to observe your living conditions and to interview you and any family members who live in your home.

You will need to fill out an application and provide all documents such as birth and marriage certificates and financial statements. The purpose of the home study is to make sure your home is safe for a child to be placed and that you are ready emotionally and financially to become an adoptive family.

Adoption agencies will have their own requirements as well. and you may need to provide an adoption profile or dossier if international. Each situation is unique, and your adoption coordinator should be there to guide you through each and all of the requirements. A good adoption professional should also provide you with access to extensive adoption education tools such as webinars, blogs, and articles that will guide you on your adoption journey and prepare you for parenthood.

Step 5: Match with your child or your child’s birth mother

A truly exciting part of the process happens when you match with your child or child’s birth mother. If you match with an older child, there will most likely be visits first and a social worker or counselor will help create a transition plan for the child to join your family. When you match with a birth family, you will work with her and your adoption coordinator to create a plan for contact during the pregnancy, a hospital plan for the birth and establish a plan for ongoing contact post placement — i.e., after the adoption is complete. This is part of the open adoption process.

At this time, you will want to be sure you have everything you need to bring your child home. You will want to be sure their room is ready, and you have a car seat, bottles, and diapers on hand if needed. has a great shopping list for preparing to bring home your bundle of joy.

Step 6: Bring your child home as you wait for finalization!

Now your child is here and you just need to sign some papers and wait for the finalization of the adoption. This can take from a few days to a few months after the documents are signed and filed with the court. The length of time depends on the type of adoption and the regulations in the state you are adopting in.

And finally, enjoy your new life as an adoptive family!

We hope we’ve answered your questions about “How does the adoption process work?” Lifetime Adoption’s caring adoption coordinators can help you work through all aspects of adoption. Get in touch today to get started.

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“We know it’ll happen, in God’s time. If you need a little giggle, here’s one for you. Every morning when we load up in the car and head to school, the boys and I pray for our day. We pray for everything and always include the baby that will join our family soon, his or her mother, their health, etc. Well, one day last week, my oldest asked if I think it will be a boy or a girl. I said I don’t know, but I actually kind of feel like it will be a girl. Our 6-year-old, chimed in without missing a beat, “it WILL be a girl, wanna know how I know? Girls take FOOOOREVER to do ANYTHING, like when mom gets ready to go in the morning and takes so long or when Auntie is coming over and it takes so long or (so and so) at school is supposed to be doing something, girls don’t hurry up for anything and this baby is taking her sweet time being born so it’s gonna be a girl, that’s why it’s taking so long.”
Amanda and Daniel



Mardie Caldwell



Funding Your Adoption



Called To Adoption



Open Adoption Webinars


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Florida Seal of Approval   Florida Adoption Council Logo

Lifetime Adoption, Inc. is a Licensed Florida Child Placing Agency. (License #100084254)

National Council for Adoption seal

35 anniversary logo

Small Women Owned Business

Lifetime Adoption's BBB Accredited Business A+ rating

Lifetime Adoption Center is a BBB Accredited Business with an A+ rating


Copyright © | Lifetime Adoption

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