What is Adoption? Full Resource

There are several ways we can grow our family. Many have biological children while others may decide to adopt a child. But what is adoption?

Adoption is the legal process by which a child is removed or surrendered by their biological parents and rehomed by a family who wishes to raise a child. All legal rights between the birth parents and the child are terminated, and the adoptive parents are granted full legal custody.

There are many reasons why hopeful parents adopt children. Some may not be able to conceive naturally and choose adoption. Others may have an existing family yet wish to reach out and help a child in need.

You may be surprised that someone can also be adopted after the age of 18, and the process is less complicated than adopting a child. Perhaps a stepfather wanted to adopt a child but did not have permission from the biological father. Or, a foster child ages out of the system, but the family wants permanent ties.

Regardless of the reasons adoptive parents choose to adopt, adoption is done out of love from both sides. The birth parents want what is best for their biological child, and the adoptive parents want to share their love with a child.

One may choose to adopt either domestically, internationally, or through the foster care system. You will want to research your options and decide the route you wish to take.

A couple outside in a field holding their young daughter.

What Does An Adoption Agency Do?

As the name implies, an adoption agency deals in child adoption. But what does an adoption agency do?

An adoption agency is a liaison between the birth parents and the hopeful adoptive parents. Adoption agencies match children with the adoptive parents, while also arranging to counsel the birth parents. Adoption agencies also ensure that all legalities are met within the process.

All prospective adoptive parents are required to go through a home study program that will be overseen by the adoption agency.

Adoption agencies also provide education related to adoption as well as handle all the paperwork involved during the adoption process.

Post-placement visits are also provided by the adoption agency that will continue until your adoption is finalized. Finalizing an adoption is a long process, so be prepared.

Before you can decide which type of adoption agency to use, you will want to investigate your options. Adoption can be a difficult process if you do not do your research to prepare.

We cover the different types of adoption agencies below, which should help you on the path of making a decision you are comfortable with.

Did you know there are different types of adoption? Learn about why open adoptions are the most popular type of adoption today.

What Is Domestic Adoption?

Prospective adoptive parents have the option to adopt domestically or internationally. What is domestic adoption?

Domestic adoption refers to a child in the United States being adopted by adoptive parents who also live in the United States. This process includes content, placement of the child, the home study, and all other legalities and finalization happening within the United States.

If you are holding out for a newborn, then you will want to follow the domestic adoption route. Although it is not impossible to adopt a newborn by other means, it is more unlikely.

Domestic adoptions can be completed within a few months.

Single men and women have a much better chance of adopting domestically. Many countries have restrictions that prevent single people from adopting.

You are apt to receive a more substantial medical and social history of the child you wish to adopt as compared to adopting internationally when medical history may not be known.

There is no waiting list. You instead will put together a personal profile for the birth mothers to review, and they will determine who will adopt their baby.

Your profile is a visual and written introduction that gives the birth mother a sneak peek into who you are as a family, so she can then have an idea of what it will be like for her unborn child.

If you look young and have an active lifestyle, you are more likely to be chosen by a birth mother.

Most birth mothers will know your first names, and many will have spoken to you on the phone or met you in person before the birth. This helps them get to know you, which builds trust and confidence in choosing you as the adoptive parent for their unborn baby.

Whether you choose to adopt domestically or internationally, neither are more-or-less expensive than the other. Rough estimates are provided in this article, but those numbers vary widely and do not imply what it will cost you to adopt a child.

All you want to do is love and care for a child who needs you. Why then is adoption so expensive?

What Is a National Adoption Agency?

Within the United States, adoptive parents may use a national adoption agency. But what is a national adoption agency?

A national adoption agency works to help adoptive parents within the United States adopt a child in any state where a child is available to adopt. Unlike state adoption agencies, national adoption agencies represent all 50 states offering a wider selection of adoption possibilities.

You may be asked to satisfy more requirements due to other state adoption laws. It all depends on the state in which you are adopting in.

There is naturally a larger selection of children to choose from with a national agency, as well as shorter wait times.

Adoption costs tend to be more expensive due to the overhead of having employees spread out all over the US, which differs from local state agencies with fewer employees.

What Is International Adoption?

Another option that hopefully, adoptive parents may wish to consider is international adoption. What is international adoption?

International adoption is the placement of a child outside of the child’s home country with adoptive parents in a different home country. International adoption agencies assist prospective adoptive parents with interstate legalities, making sure all requirements are met.

Choosing an international adoption means adopting an older child, but as young as an infant or toddler is possible.

Whether you choose domestic or international, neither are more-or-less expensive than the other. When adopting internationally, the cost of travel is likely to significantly add to the overall costs.

Internationally, the costs of adoption can vary based on which country you adopt from.

You will be put on a traditional waiting list, which is very different when adopting a child domestically.

There are age limitations in some countries, which may make you ineligible from being able to adopt. Other factors such as how many times you have been divorced, as well as how long you have been married could affect your chances for international adoption eligibility.

You will rarely receive family medical history when adopting from another country. Although, you would receive medical information for the child.

There is a perceived advantage of being very far removed from the birth parents distance-wise. It is natural to have a secret fear that someday the birth parents and your adopted child will reunite. Although not impossible, this is more unlikely when adopting internationally.

Learn how long adoption takes and why adoption takes so long.

What Is Foster Care Adoption?

There are over 100,000 children in the foster care system desperately in need of a forever home. Your chances of adopting a newborn drop significantly when adopting through the foster care system, although it is not unheard of.

Foster care provides a safe refuge for children who have been removed from their biological family home due to some sort of trauma they have experienced. The State in which they reside puts the children in temporary custody, while the biological parents complete individualized requirements to earn back custody of their children.

The ages of foster children available for adoption are between infancy and 21 years of age. The Fostering Connections Act allows states the option to continue providing care for a child up to the age of 21 if they are attending school, working at least 80 hours per month, or suffering a medical hardship.

The cost of foster care adoption is very minimal, if not zero out-of-pocket. This is another incentive for many adoptive parents to strongly consider adoption through the foster care system.

Those wanting to adopt from the foster care system are strongly encouraged to first become foster parents. This is a wonderful way to access the compatibility between yourself and the child you are considering for adoption.

A bit more than half of all foster children are returned to their biological parents. The children remaining in the foster care system are many times adopted by their relatives or their foster family.

Foster care adoption is similar to other types of adoption concerning the paperwork, requirement obligations, etc.

Due to the trauma that all foster care children have been rescued from, it is important to be prepared for and understand the healing process that will follow. Continued counseling as well as working on personal issues is to be expected.

What Does an Adoption Attorney Do?

There are times when adoptive and birth parents wish to include an attorney in their adoption proceedings to add some peace of mind that things will run smoothly. So what does an adoption attorney do?

An adoption attorney specializes in the laws and regulations of the adoption process in the state in which he or she practices, ensuring that the adoption process meets all of the required state laws and regulations.

Adoption attorneys protect the rights of the adoptive parents as well as the birth mothers considering adoption.

If you will be working with an adoption agency, there will also be an adoption attorney working alongside you and the agency to ensure your adoption process proceeds legally and meets all state and federal regulations.

Adoptive parents have the option to work solely with an adoption attorney and not go through an adoption agency. A likely circumstance where this may occur could be when the adoptive parents are going through what is called an independent adoption.

For example, if a stepparent is wishing to adopt their stepchild, you do not need an adoption agency to help match them with a child.

Although adoption agencies are wonderful resources for around-the-clock counseling and support during the highs and lows of the adoption process, they are not legal experts.

If you need help in finding a child to adopt, then taking advantage of both an adoption agency along an attorney makes for a complete process that fulfills almost all your adoption needs.

Adoption attorneys, whether you work with an adoption agency or not, are required for filing legal paperwork and ensuring all state and federal laws are being met.

Attorneys are also held accountable to stay up to date on adoption laws and regulations in the state in which they practice.

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Advantages of an Adoption Attorney

You may initially conclude that working with one professional rather than two would be more cost-effective. Keep in mind, however, that attorneys tend to charge per hour, so costs can be unpredictable.

Identified adoptions refer to when you already know the child in which you wish to adopt. This could be a stepparent wanting to adopt their stepchild.

This could also be when a relative is wanting to adopt a child within their extended family. Or there could be a situation where you know a birth mother who would like you to adopt their child.

In these types of situations, you wouldn’t need an adoption agency to help match you with a child. You simply need to ensure your adoption is processed legally by an attorney.

Disadvantages of an Adoption Attorney

Adoptive parents not going through an identified adoption will need to rely on advertising or an adoption agency to help match them with a child.

Families advertising on their own might end up paying more in the long run than through an adoption agency.

Adoption attorneys do not have licensed social workers to provide counseling services for adoptive parents and birth mothers. There would also be no ongoing emotional support after the adoption is finalized.

You will also need to be aware that because most attorneys charge per hour, your out-of-pocket costs could add up to be much more than you expected if you happen to experience any adoption disruptions that require more time to iron out.

A set fee with an adoption agency means that any hiccups that are experienced along the way are included in your quoted flat fee.

Regardless of whether you go through an adoption agency or use only an adoption attorney, an attorney will be required.

Having both a supportive adoption agency as well as an attorney for legal support can be the preferred scenario.

What Is Adoption Home Study?

With so many requirements to keep track of, a big one that is hard to forget is the constant chatter about home studies. Yet when new to the adoption process, one will surely ask themselves, what is adoption home study?

Adoption home studies require home visits to verify your home is suitable for raising a child as well as to get to know the adoptive family. The inside and outside of the adoptive parent’s home must be environmentally suitable and meet safety regulations to ensure the safety of the child.

Adoption home study begins after the prospective parents have completed their training courses and application.

During your home study, you will be asked to provide personal documentation such as but not limited to your birth certificate, marriage license, financial records, and medical records.

You will be doing yourself a disservice if you wait until the time you are asked for these items to try to find them.

If you cannot find your birth certificate, for example, you will need to request a new copy from the state agency that handles birth certificates.

Not being prepared in advance can create even more delays in the already long adoption home study process.

Keep in mind that many states will only accept home studies from licensed professionals, so verify that the adoption home study provider that you have chosen meets your state’s requirements before proceeding with your home study.

There will be several in-home visits by your home study social worker. This may feel a bit invasive, but not to worry.

Your social worker wants and will try to make you feel as comfortable as possible, as they understand how uncomfortable the adoption home study process can be for prospective parents.

Whether you are adopting domestically, internationally, or through the foster care system, adoptive parents are required to go through the home study process.

Regardless of what state you live in, you will be expected to complete the home study process.

The home study process can make prospective adoptive parents nervous. Don’t worry! The licensed home study professional that visits your home is not looking for a perfect home or perfect parents.

They simply need to verify that you are physically, emotionally, and financially capable of raising a child.

There are several parts to the home study process: paperwork, in-home visits, adoption training, and diagnostic evaluation.


Going through the home study proceedings can be the slowest part of the adoption process, so you will want to get started as soon as possible so as not to add any more delay to your adoption.

Start to gather all required documentation for your home study professional.

Although most states have the same basic home study requirements, they may vary from state to state. For most states, you will be required to submit a background check at both state and federal levels.

Many times, this includes all other adults residing in your home.

Recent health records will need to be provided to show you are physically and mentally capable of caring for a child and to ensure you will likely be around long enough to raise your newly adopted child.

Many states also require personal references that the home study professional will use to reach out to get a better glimpse into your probability of being good parents.

Your home study professional will also want to investigate your family background to learn if any issues may be of concern for a child you wish to raise.

In-Home Visits

It is important to remember that the home study professional is not looking for perfection. Having a second set of eyes on your home surroundings is very beneficial and may offer some insight as to anything you may have overlooked such as locks on cupboard doors to keep infants from accessing things they should not get into.

A home inspection by your home study professional will include ensuring your home has the following:

  1. Screens on all windows.
  2. Covers over electrical outlets.
  3. Gates at the top of all stairs.
  4. Fences around pools.
  5. Medications and toxic cleaners are out of reach.
  6. Emergency plans for fire, natural disasters, and medical emergencies.

Your home study interview will include discussing the following with you and your partner:

  1. Your thoughts on adoption.
  2. Your knowledge of and what to expect from raising an adopted child and the process.
  3. Your own experiences, traditions, and upbringing as well as any parenting background you may have.
  4. Feelings about the adoption process from both partners. Are both of you equally onboard? Are there any concerns that need to be addressed? Do you have a stable relationship with your partner?
  5. If there are existing children in the household, they too will be included in the interview process.

Adoption Training

In a nutshell, this simply means you and your partner are asked to participate and pass all requirements of the adoption training based on your state’s regulations.

Diagnostic Evaluation

The diagnostic evaluation of the home study process offers recommendations of the type of child you should adopt as well as covers the plans of the applicants.

Post-Placement Visits

Your home study professional will continue to visit with you to observe how your child is doing in his or her new environment and to ensure they are happy, healthy, loved, and their needs are being met.

These visits will continue until the adoption process is finalized.

In the end, choosing an adoption agency that is right for you is a personal decision made by researching your adoption agency options.

How to Choose an Adoption Agency

Which type of adoption agency you choose is a very personal preference. If you decide to not adopt internationally, then perhaps choosing a domestic or national adoption agency is your best choice.

Or perhaps you would prefer to go through an attorney. It all depends on what you feel comfortable with.

While doing your research, make sure you also check the adoption agency reviews as well as the Better Business Bureau for peace of mind.

You will want to know if there have been any legal actions against the adoption agency, as well as if they are licensed.

Give the agency you are researching a call and ask them a variety of questions. After only a few minutes, you should have a good feeling about whether you are comfortable moving forward or if you still need to research your options.

Below is a list of questions you will want to ask a prospective adoption agency you are interviewing:

  • What kind of adoption training and education do they provide?
  • What type of adoption advertising do they do?
  • What are the estimated costs involved and what does that include?
  • Ask about how they handle adoption disruptions and what they do to try and prevent them. A “failed adoption” can happen, for example, when the birth mother changes her mind and decides to keep her baby before the adoption is legally finalized. Learn more about contested adoptions.
  • How is the adoption agency licensed and how is it regulated.

Make sure you feel a sense of transparency during your interactions with the adoption agencies you are researching. Do they come across as open and honest, or do they seem rather quick in their answers?

This is especially important when asking about the costs of the adoption process and what the costs include as well as what the costs do not include.

If the agency you are researching tells you they provide short wait times, you will want the information to confirm what they are telling you.

A reputable adoption agency will offer data to back up its claims.

Do you get a sense when speaking with them on the phone that the adoption agency staff are professional? This also includes their staff is fully licensed and certified as experts in their field.

It’s probably no mystery that adoption attorneys assist with the adoption process. But what exactly do adoption attorneys do?

What Is an Adoption Facilitator?

Adopting a child can be a complex process, and you will want to know your options. So, what is an adoption facilitator?

Adoption facilitators are independent businesses specializing in matching adoptive parents with birth parents. They are basically like a liaison between the two parties involved.

These facilitators have not licensed adoption agencies.

Facilitators arrange contact between the birth parent and the prospective adoptive parent.

Adoption facilitators are prohibited from using a photo listing to advertise children for placement.

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Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.