An Overview of the Adoption Process: Helpful Information, FAQs, and More

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Families are created in all sorts of ways, one of which is through adoption. Adoption takes many different forms. Kinship adoption is when a child is adopted by a member of their biological family. A stepparent might adopt their stepchild. Some children are adopted from foster care. The stereotypical image of adoption is that of an infant going straight from the hospital nursery to their new family, but most adoptions in the United States actually involve older children. International adoption is also an option some families pursue.

Adoption in the U.S.

Non-familial domestic adoptions typically fall into one of two categories: adoption from foster care or private adoption. Often, adoptive parents start their relationship with their future child as the child’s foster parents. The risk with adopting from foster care is that the biological parents often still have legal rights to the child; the primary goal of foster agencies is to reunite the child with their family of origin. However, some kids in foster care have been cleared for adoption and are just waiting to find a forever family. Adopting from foster care is much less expensive and often comes with financial benefits that last into the child’s college years. Private adoption is far more expensive. Sometimes, it’s done through private adoption lawyers instead of agencies. Often, it’s the preferred choice for those who want to adopt an infant.

Helpful Information: Starting the Process

The first step for families is deciding that they’d like to adopt a child. Next, they need to identify reputable adoption agencies and choose one that is a good fit for their values and goals. The agency will then conduct a home study to make sure the prospective parents are qualified to adopt. At this point, the search for a child who is a good match with the family and is ready for an adoptive placement begins.


Are There Adoptable Children in the United States?

At any given time, there are more than 100,000 adoptable children in the United States.

What Ages Are the Children Who Are Ready for Adoption?

Most adoptable children are at least school-aged. Some are part of a set of siblings who need to be kept together and adopted by one family. These children are usually living in either group homes or temporary foster homes.

Will I Be Given Information About a Child I’m Interested in Adopting?

Some information about the children is confidential and will be only shared with families who the social workers are seriously considering as adoptive parents. At that point, the agencies must, by law, share any information about the child that doesn’t identify the birth family. However, sometimes, there just isn’t a lot of official information about a child’s history.

Can the Biological Parents Reclaim the Child?

Most adoption agencies make sure that the birth parents’ rights have been legally terminated before seeking adoptive parents. Once the biological parents’ rights have been legally severed, they no longer have any legal relationship with the child.

Is It Possible to Adopt a Child from a Different State? What About a Child of a Different Race?

A 1998 law, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), requires states to approve interstate adoptions. A 1995 law, the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA), requires any agency that receives federal funding to avoid race-based discrimination when placing children with adoptive families. However, there are specific laws relating to the placement of Native American adoptable children.

What Is a Home Study?

Each adoption agency manages home studies a little differently, but generally, during this time, a social worker will meet several times with the adoptive parent or parents. The prospective parents will be asked to provide documentation about themselves. The agency will perform background checks, and a worker from the agency will visit the prospective home to ensure that it’s a safe place for a child.


At some point, around one-third of adults in the United States consider adopting a child. However, only about 2% ever go on to become adoptive parents. Once, domestic adoptions were almost all closed adoptions, where the adoptive family knew nothing about the birth parents and the birth family knew nothing about the adoptive family. Now, almost 70% of domestic adoptions are open, meaning that information about the two families is shared. Many open adoptions feature ongoing communication between the adoptive and birth families.

Adoption Tips

It’s important for prospective adoptive parents to remember that adoption is a process, and it can be a lengthy one. It’s a good idea to get help from an adoption attorney who can inform, guide, and advocate for you throughout the process. Spouses should check in with each other often to share their feelings and concerns; getting therapy as a couple and as individuals can also be helpful in navigating the emotional upheaval of the process. It’s also important that prospective parents be ready to educate their families and friends about the realities of the adoption process.

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