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How Adoption Works

Adoption is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. As a hopeful adoptive family, knowing what to expect before you begin this amazing journey helps you prepare and focus on the ultimate outcome of becoming a parent. Adoption is not as intimidating as it may initially seem – this article will walk you through the process.

While every adoption situation is unique, there are general steps in the adoption process that help make an adoption work. Whether you are just beginning your adoption research or are ready to start your journey, better understanding what to expect can help improve your entire experience. 

Anytime you have questions about how adoption works, you can call 1-800-ADOPTION or fill out this form to learn more. In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the adoption process.

Choosing an Agency


Before you can begin the amazing journey adoption brings, the first and most important step in the process is choosing the right adoption agency. For over 30 years, American Adoptions has helped create over 13,000 families by focusing on providing the best adoption experience for everyone involved. What separates American Adoptions is our ability to provide services like:

  • Honest wait times

  • Financial protection

  • A full-service, national domestic agency

  • Licensed agency/staff

  • Ethical and honest practices

  • Much more

The agency you choose will be by your side through every step of the process – you want an agency you can trust. As a licensed agency, we are monitored and reviewed to ensure our practices are safe, honest, and legal. 

Not all agencies are licensed, and we encourage you to read about professionals to avoid by taking this link. Do you really want to take such a big risk on something as important as reaching your dreams of parenthood?

"We [chose American Adoptions] in large part because they were among the largest nationwide adoption agencies, emphasized openness and birth parent support in their materials, and found their average wait times to being among the shortest of agencies that we had considered."

- Adoptive Father Josh

Adoption Home Study

In order to become eligible for adoption, you must successfully complete and pass your adoption home study. This is essentially a task to determine your readiness and ability to adopt. To some, this may sound overwhelming, but your adoption specialist will help guide you through the steps of the home study, including:

  • All required paperwork 

  • Background testing

  • Home visits

  • Interviews with family

  • And more

Once your home study has been approved, you are eligible to adopt and will be an option for an expectant mother placing their baby.

Being Chosen By an Expectant Mother

When a pregnant woman or mother with a newborn baby at home decides adoption is the best option, she chooses the family she wants to place her child with. Through your adoptive family profile, you will help birth mothers learn more about you, hoping to discover a personal connection that leads to being chosen and placement.

The best way to increase your visibility to birth mothers is to work with an agency that puts an emphasis on adoptive family marketing. Based on third-party research, on average, American Adoptions has 12x more marketing and visibility than other leading agencies. More marketing means shorter wait times and a better chance of finding the right adoption opportunity. You can learn more about the significance of marketing and how it impacts your adoption by reading this comprehensive guide.

When a birth mother is interested in your family, adoption specialists will help coordinate a meeting to determine if this is the right connection for everyone. Once a birth mother has chosen a family, the level of communication you and the birth mother have throughout the pregnancy will depend on the type of adoption both of you have chosen to pursue.

Finalization of Your Adoption

Once a birth mother has delivered the baby and placement occurs, the last step you must complete before your child is legally recognized as a member of your family is the adoption finalization

Each state has different rules and regulations on when finalization can occur. Working with your adoption specialist and legal team, you will attend a hearing where you will provide all of the necessary paperwork, answer a few questions, and explain your intentions behind adoption. Once you have completed these steps to the satisfaction of the judge, they will issue their final decree of adoption. At this point, your adoption process is complete, and your baby is a member of your family.

Contact American Adoptions

This was a brief overview of how adoption works and the key steps in the process. To learn more about adopting a child or to get answers to any questions you may have, call 1-800-ADOPTION or fill out this online form to speak with an adoption specialist.

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

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Adoption Home Study

Adoption Home Study Process

Learn what a home study is and why you need one to adopt a child.

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Home Study Questions and Answers

While adoption home studies vary slightly from agency to agency and state to state, there are several key elements that are almost always included in every home study.

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Home Studies: State by State

Find a qualified professional in your state to complete your home study.

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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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