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Adopting a Child: What it Means, How it Works and Why You Should

How to Adopt a Child: Understand the Process and Start Your Adoption Today

Every hopeful parent who dreams of starting a family should have the opportunity to see that dream become a reality. The means each family uses to get there are unique. For most people, the first thought is having a child biologically. But for others, their family is meant to grow in a different way. And so, they choose adoption.

Your journey to this point has likely been full of challenges, and also, hopefully, joys. However you’ve come to consider adoption, we’re glad you want to adopt a child. American Adoptions is here to help.

Child adoption is dear to our hearts. As a national adoption agency, it is the work we do every day. More than that, it is woven into the fabric of our DNA. American Adoptions’ founder, Scott Mars, was adopted as a child. He experienced the life-changing impact of adoption firsthand. As an adult, he knew he had to give that opportunity to others. For more than 25 years, American Adoptions has been doing just that.

Adopting a child is one of the best things you could ever do. Like most families considering adopting a child, you probably have a lot of questions. We get it — the process can feel overwhelming, and it’s common to be totally unfamiliar with how it works. This guide on child adoption will change that.

If you're a birth mother reading this and considering placing your child for adoption, you can find out complete guide here. You can also connect to a professional today by filling out our free online contact form.

An experienced professional is ready to provide you with the information you need to start your adoption journey.

Why Adopt a Child

Family is arguably the most important thing in life. How we start our families is different for everyone. There are a lot of different paths that bring people to the adoption of a child. You know your own journey, and how much it means to you. In the end, it comes down to this: love is more than biology, and family means everything.

Why adopt a child? There’s a unique reason for each family. The ultimate reason is love.

Child Adoption Definition

Child adoption is the process of a child, ranging in age from newborn to teenager, legally becoming a part of a family through the adoption process. There are several different ways to adopt and many reasons why adoption can be beneficial to both children and families.

Simply put, what is child adoption? It is one amazing and beautiful way to start or grow a family.

Ways to Adopt a Child

Once you know that you want to adopt a child, you still have a couple big choices to make before you officially begin the process. There are, generally speaking, three types of adoption. Each family approaches adoption from a unique context, so the type of adoption that’s right for you can only be known by you.

First, there’s adopting a child in the U.S. This can happen in two different ways: domestic infant adoption and foster care adoption. Families wanting to adopt a young child in the USA need to consider both. Ask yourself:

  • Do you want to adopt a kid who is older, or adopt a baby?

  • Do you want to work with a private adoption agency, or work with the state?

  • Do you want to have an ongoing open adoption with your child’s birth mother?

American Adoptions works with families adopting a child from the U.S. through domestic infant adoption — the process of adopting a child at birth or shortly after. If you want to adopt a child, we believe there are many reasons this could be the best choice for you. On the other hand, foster care adoption could be the best choice for families who want to adopt kids who are older or part of a sibling group.

Alternatively, there are families who may not want to adopt a child in the U.S. These families can pursue international adoption — the process of adopting a child from a foreign country. International adoptions in the U.S. peaked in 2004, and have been declining each year since. The reasons are varied and complex. This process navigates international law, which shifts with inter-country conflict, culture and more. Still, many Americans choose this type of adoption each year, and it could be right for your family.

How to Legally Adopt a Child

This process will look different depending on the type of adoption you choose. Here is what it will look like when you adopt a child through American Adoptions.

Step 1: Make Sure Adoption is Right for You

Two things are true: Adoption is beautiful, and adoption is not for everyone. It’s okay — recommended, even — to take your time making this choice. Adopting a child will change your life. You need to be completely committed from the start. If you’re unsure about adoption, ask yourself these questions and answer honestly.

Step 2: Choose the Type of Adoption

As we said above, there are several types of adoption. When adopting a child, you have to know for certain which type you want to pursue before going any further.

Step 3: Choose the Adoption Agency

You’re almost there! This is the last big decision before you officially begin the process of adopting a child. There are several types of adoption agencies, and we recommend considering all of your options. 

American Adoptions is a full-service, fully-licensed domestic adoption agency. Being full-service means that we can meet your need at every step when you are going through the process to adopt a child. Fully-licensed lets you know that we are held to the highest standards of professional and ethical accountability. We do adoption the right way, every time. 

We’ve helped thousands of families begin through adoption. We’d love to be your adoption agency.

Step 4: Become an Active Family

Now that you’ve made all these big choices, you’re ready to begin the process. When you adopt a child through American Adoptions, you’ll have personal guidance from your adoption specialist throughout the whole journey. Don’t worry about being an adoption expert — that’s what we’re here for.

To get things going, you’ll fill out an Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ), which is essentially a document that gives you an opportunity to define how you’d like this process to go. The more open you can be, the more likely you will find a quick adoption opportunity.

Next, you will need to complete your home study for adoption. While this is happening, you can also put together your adoption profile. Our media team helps you put the best version of yourself forward to prospective birth mothers through print and video profiles.

Step 5: Be Selected by a Prospective Birth Mother

Once your APQ, home study and adoptive family profile are complete, you will be an “active family,” which means your profile will be shown to prospective birth mothers. Now comes one of the most difficult steps to adopting a child: the wait.

By searching for prospective birth mothers on a nationwide level, and through a robust investment in adoption advertising, we do everything we can to shorten wait times. Still, waiting is hard. But it’s so worth it when you get the call saying that you have been chosen to adopt a child.

Step 6: Pre-Placement Contact and Adoption Placement

Once a prospective birth mother has chosen you to adopt a child, you will usually have the opportunity to get to know her through pre-placement contact, depending on the level of openness in your adoption. There’s a lot more to learn about this, but what you need to know now is that 90 percent of domestic infant adoptions are at least semi-open. This is a good thing, as it helps prospective birth mothers feel confident in their choice of adoptive parents and can become a beautiful relationship.

Then, when the time comes, you’ll get another amazing phone call: Baby is on the way. You’ll travel to the hospital where, after official consent to the adoption is given, your child will be placed with you. Child adoption from hospitals is common for most domestic infant adoptions.

Adopting a child is a long journey, and you need to savor this moment. It’s the manifestation of a dream, and it’s truly amazing.

Step 7: Post-placement and the Life Ahead

There are a few steps left to finalize the adoption, and your adoption specialist will make sure everything goes smoothly post-placement. In a way, that’s the end of the adoption process. But it’s only the beginning of the adoption journey.

You’re parents now! That comes with all of the joys — first steps, first words, endless moments of laughter — and challenges — sleepless nights, dirty diapers, arguments — of parenthood. You’ll also, depending on your communication plan, have the chance to stay in contact with the birth mother as your child grows and thrives.

More Information on Adopting a Child

Do you feel overwhelmed? That’s a lot of information to take in. Adopting a child can be a challenging process, but it’s also an incredible opportunity. Most things worth doing aren’t easy, and that’s most certainly true when you want to adopt a child. We can tell you this: in the end, it will always be worth it.

To learn more about adopting a child, you can request more information at any time.

Prospective birth mothers, remember to complete this form to speak with one of our professionals about putting a child up for adoption. We know you have questions and our experienced staff can give you the answers you need to begin the life-changing journey of adoption today.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

Adoption Home Study

Adoption Home Study Process

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Home Study Questions and Answers

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Home Studies: State by State

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do we need to retain our own attorney?

No, American Adoptions has established relationships with some of the best adoption attorneys in the nation. Because adoption laws vary from state to state and between counties, it is important to utilize the services of an adoption attorney who specializes in the state where the adoption will finalize, which is unknown until you match with an expectant mother. You have the right to retain your own attorney, but doing so may be an additional, unnecessary expense.

Can we choose the gender of our baby?

American Adoptions does not allow gender specificity in adoption. Any family who wishes to be gender-specific in their adoption should contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION and ask about the possibility of an exception waiver before taking any other steps toward adoption with our agency. Any families who do receive an exception to be gender-specific may also incur an additional fee, which helps cover the additional advertising costs of such a request.

Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

Additional Resources

Adoption Newsletter

Did you know that American Adoptions offers a free bi-weekly e-newsletter? Sign up today to keep up-to-date on the latest in adoption news and information.

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Famous Adoptions

Learn which famous Hollywood actors, sports stars, politicians and other icons have been touched by adoption.

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Adoption Glossary

Do adoption terms and phrases leave you feeling confused? Learn the meaning to key adoption words and phrases with our comprehensive adoption glossary.

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