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How to Adopt - The Domestic Adoption Process

The Steps to Adopt a Newborn in the United States

The domestic adoption process consists of many steps until an adoptive family is able to wrap their arms around their newborn. 

The following will walk you through how to adopt domestically, and how to adopt with American Adoptions:

Step 1: Moving from Infertility to Adoption

Deciding if adoption is right for your family is a personal decision and one that is usually made due to struggles with infertility. Infertility treatments are available to families, but even in the best-case scenarios they only have a 35 percent success rate. Some families find that with each failed attempt is another large sum of money that could have been used toward adoption.

For some families, transitioning from infertility to adoption can be a long process. Talking with an adoption counselor will help you better understand the domestic adoption process, answer your adoption questions, and ultimately decide if adoption is right for you.

If you are considering adoption, you must fully transition and commit toward adoption before beginning the adoption process. Only then can you let go of the dream of having a child biologically (as difficult as that might be) so you can fully embrace the dream of having a child through adoption.

Step 2: Selecting the Type of Adoption

As an adoptive family, you have to decide what type of adoption you are interested in pursuing, which depends on several factors. Do you want to:

Step 3: Choosing an Adoption Professional

When researching adoption professionals, some adoptive families inaccurately believe that all adoption agencies provide the same services with the same levels of success.

It is essential to thoroughly research multiple adoption professionals and all of their services and benefits before choosing one. For example, it is a mistake to compare Adoption Professional A’s $20,000 fees to Adoption Professional B’s $30,000 fees and select Adoption Professional A because it seems like a less expensive option. Other than the cost of the adoption, you will also want to investigate other factors of an adoption professional, including:

  • wait times

  • disruption rates

  • hidden fees

  • financial protection

  • amount of support, education and guidance

  • and much more

There are hundreds of national and local adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, adoption law centers and adoption facilitators that can all help you adopt a baby. Read the following to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each type of adoption professional.

American Adoptions is a national adoption agency that completes 300 newborn adoptions every year and offers the following adoption services for adoptive families.

Step 4: Becoming an Active Waiting Family

If you choose to work with American Adoptions, you must complete three processes before becoming an “active family” with our agency:

Home StudyA home study is required in every type of adoption and is an in-depth look into your lives to ensure that you are fit to become parents. Your home study social worker will help you collect state and federal criminal background checks, financial and medical information, will conduct interviews with you, your spouse and any other family members living in your home, and will conduct a home inspection.

APQ – To fully understand the types of adoption opportunities you are interested in pursuing, American Adoptions uses the “Adoption Planning Questionaire (APQ), a series of questions that helps us measure which prospective birth mothers would be a good fit for your adoption goals. You will be asked confidential questions pertaining to the cultural backgrounds of babies you are interested in adopting, the amount of contact you are interested in sharing with the birth parents, the medical conditions you are willing to accept in the birth parents’ background, and many more.

Adoption Profiles – All adoptive families at American Adoptions have a print profile, consisting of text and pictures about your family, and a video profile, which allows birth mothers to learn more about what makes your family truly unique. Together, the print profile and video profile complement one another, so prospective birth parents can easily imagine what their child’s life would be like as a member of your family.

Step 5: Waiting for an Adoption Opportunity

Once you have completed your home study, the APQ and your adoption profiles, you will be an active family waiting to find an adoption opportunity with a prospective birth mother.

This waiting period can be difficult for some adoptive families, so it is important to approach it the right way.

In a healthy approach, the adoptive family maintains their normal lifestyle, keeps their adoption private to only close family members and friends, and perhaps takes up new hobbies to help keep their minds occupied, all while being prepared for when they do receive “the call.”

In a non-healthy approach, the adoptive family frequently visits the adoption professional’s website or calls their Adoption Specialist, tells everyone they know about the adoption, wakes up every morning wondering if “today is the day,” and discontinues certain hobbies in favor of shopping for baby clothes or focusing on completing the nursery.

Adoptive families that are able to distance themselves from the wait tend to have much smoother adoptions. After all, at this point there is nothing they can do to adopt any faster. Patience is key during the waiting period.

Step 6: Communicating with the Birth Parents Before the Adoption

Once a prospective birth mother selects your family based on your profile, you will then be involved in what is known as an “adoption opportunity,” in which you and the birth parents will then pursue the same adoption plan.

It is common for birth parents to want to get to know the adoptive family a little better. Today, most adoption professionals, including American Adoptions, encourage openness in these adoption relationships because it helps the birth mother feel more confident in the family she’s chosen and the life she has envisioned for her child.

With American Adoptions, most adoptive families will participate in one or all of the following forms of contact with the birth parents:

  • Conference Call – An Adoption Specialist-mediated conference call between you and the birth parents.

  • Email Exchange – Ongoing confidential email communication prior to placement.

  • Meet During Placement – Travel to the hospital where the birth takes place and interact with the birth parents upon placement.

Step 7: Finalizing the Adoption

Finalization will be an exciting time for your family because it is when all of the legal proceedings are finished, the adoption is legally completed, and your child is an official member of your family.

There are three things adoptive families need to do to reach finalization:

  • Complete ICPC – If your adoption occurs across state lines, you must remain in the state until Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) paperwork clears, which usually takes between 7 to 10 business days.

  • Complete Post-Placement Visits – You will have a select number of post-placement visits to complete, usually performed by your home study provider, which will show the adoption professional and the court that the baby and your family are adjusting well to one another.

  • Attend Finalization Hearing – A judge’s final review of the adoption ensures the necessary post-placement visits were completed, ICPC was conducted in applicable states, and both birth parents’ parental rights were legally terminated.

Once the finalization hearing is finished, the adoptive family is granted legal custody of the child and awarded the adoption decree, and the domestic adoption process is complete.

Step 8: Participating in Post-Placement Contact

After the adoption, nearly all birth parents are interested in receiving picture and letter updates of their child once the adoption is completed, and nearly all adoption professionals encourage this correspondence.

Picture and letter updates are generally sent for the first 18 years of the child’s life. And, depending on the level of openness in your adoption, could also include email exchange, phone calls, Skype, or even visits.


If you have any more questions about the process of how to adopt, contact an Adoption Coordinator at 1-800-ADOPTION who can answer all of your adoption-related questions and help you get started to adopt a baby.

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 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 accepts a limited number of families into our gender-specific program. Please contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION to learn whether we are currently accepting families into this program. With this option, families pay an additional Gender-Specific Fee to help our agency locate and work with birth mothers meeting this additional criterion. This fee is in addition to other program fees and covers additional advertising. The fee is not considered part of your adoption budget. Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

Additional Resources

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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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