close menu

“What does adoption mean to a child?”

Watch Video
Call 1-800-ADOPTION Contact us anytime, an adoption professional is here to help Free Info Free Info

Get Free Info

How to Adopt a Child - The Domestic Adoption Process

The Steps to Adopt a Newborn in the United States

Family is everything. The way we get there is different. For thousands of hopeful parents, the domestic adoption process is the path to a life of joy and love. This path is long and winding — the process can be confusing. It’s normal to have questions.

How do you adopt a child?

What is the adoption process?

What are the steps to adopting a child?

Can adoption be right for me?

This guide aims to answer these questions and more. We want to help you decide whether or not domestic adoption is right for your family.

The following will walk you through how to adopt a child domestically and the adoption process with American Adoptions.

How to Adopt a Child

Step 1: Decide that Adoption Is Right for You

This may seem like an obvious step to adopt a baby in the U.S. — so obvious that you could skip right over it. But this decision is too important to blow past. It should be considered carefully and deeply before beginning the adoption process.

Deciding if adoption is right for your family is a personal decision and one that is made for a variety of reasons. Everyone has a unique life experience. The journey that has brought you to this decision has likely been full of ups and downs.

Many hopeful parents choose adoption after 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, which can be emotionally draining. After this, they begin wondering how to adopt a baby.

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

Other families approach adoption from different circumstances. Maybe you have seen the impact of adoption in someone else’s life, and that has led you to consider it for your family. Many adoptive parents are adoptees or have adopted siblings. Still others feel a sense of calling to adoption.

Whatever your journey up to this point has been, if you are considering adoption, you must fully transition and commit to 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: Select 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. The child adoption process is different for each type. Do you want to:

The answers to these questions will lead you to the type of adoption that is best for you. American Adoptions serves families in the domestic infant adoption process.

Step 3: Choose 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. Unfortunately, this is not true. Your experience with the child adoption process can change drastically depending on the agency you work with.

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 characteristics 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 is involved in more than 300 newborn adoptions every year and offers all the services adoptive families need for a successful private adoption process. If you’re trying to figure out how to adopt a baby, we can help.

Step 4: Become an Active Waiting Family

If you choose to work with American Adoptions, you must complete three steps in the process of adoption before becoming an “active family” with our agency:

  • Home Study – A home study is required in every type of adoption process 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 in the child adoption process, American Adoptions uses the Adoption Planning Questionnaire (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 prospective 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: Wait 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 is an exciting step in the baby adoption process, but it can also be challenging. Your adoptive family profile will be shown to prospective birth mothers whose situations line up with the boundaries put in place by your APQ. Eventually, a birth mother will select your family to adopt her baby.

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.”

Adoptive families that are able to distance themselves from the wait tend to have a much smoother experience in the domestic adoption process. Patience is key during the waiting period. Keep in mind that while you are waiting, your adoption specialist is doing everything possible to find the right adoption opportunity. American Adoptions works hard to minimize wait times, which average from one to 12 months with our adoptive families.

Step 6: Communicate with Prospective 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 potential birth parents will then pursue the same adoption plan. This is an exciting step in the process of adopting a child. Adoptive parents can make the most of pre-placement contact by approaching it with a positive attitude and open mind.

It is common for prospective birth parents to want to get to know the adoptive family a little better. Today, most adoption professionals, including American Adoptions, encourage this openness in these adoption relationships because of the many benefits open adoption has for birth parents, adoptive parents and, most importantly, adopted children.

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

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

  • Email Exchange – Ongoing email communication prior to placement.

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

An adoption specialist will be ready to facilitate communication at each step. However, many families and birth parents find that they are able to maintain this relationship on their own after the first phone call.

Step 7: Meet the Baby at the Hospital

This is the moment hopeful parents dream of. You’ve waited a long time and worked so hard; then you are finally here and holding your baby for the first time. It’s indescribable, really. Each parent will connect in a unique, special way to this new child.

There are some logistical elements of this step, too. It’s important to understand these before you go to the hospital.

When the birth mother chooses adoption, she will create a hospital plan as a part of her overall adoption plan. Your adoption specialist will present this plan to you before you arrive, and it’s important to follow it exactly. This is an emotional and life-changing moment for her, too, and she deserves to be in control of how things go. Her plan will dictate whether or not you are in the delivery room, if you have face-to-face contact and how long she spends with the baby after birth.

After official consent to adoption has been given and everything is cleared from the doctors, the baby will be placed in your arms, and your new life as a family begins.

Step 8: Finalize 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. This is the final step of the adoption process.

in general, 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 on 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 9: Participating in Post-Placement Contact

After the adoption process ends, nearly all birth parents are interested in receiving ongoing updates about their child, 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, this relationship could also include email exchanges, phone calls, Skype sessions, or in-person visits. It is increasingly common in domestic infant adoptions for adoptive parents and birth parents to have direct interaction — an exciting opportunity to form a meaningful relationship.


If you have any more questions about how to adopt a baby, contact an adoption specialist at 1-800-ADOPTION who can answer all of your adoption-related questions, or request more free information here

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

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

Read More

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.

Read More

Home Studies: State by State

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

Read More
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

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.

Sign Up

Famous Adoptions

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

Read More

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.

Read More