Adoption is a legal and permanent agreement that is coordinated by adoption agencies and lawyers. There are many resources available to help you place your child up for adoption or understand how to adopt a child. Adoption can take months to years and patience is very helpful during this exciting and stressful time.


  • Domestic - Children are adopted within their country of birth. Adoption processes, waiting periods, and other legal rules can vary from state to state.

  • Open/Semi-open - Communication between the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) occurs.

  • Closed - The adoption is anonymous. There is no communication between the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) and only general and private information may be exchanged.

  • International (Intercountry) - Children from one country are adopted by families from a different country. International adoption processes, waiting periods, and other legal rules vary from country to country.

  • The Hague Adoption Convention is an agreement between participating countries that adds a level of process and standards to foster a healthy and safe international adoption.


Most adoptions are handled by public or private adoption agencies. Agency staff screen, interview, and assist with the matching of birth parents and families wishing to adopt. They provide counseling and support. All public and many private agencies are licensed and regulated by the government.

In independent adoptions, the biological parents and families wishing to adopt have chosen to privately coordinate an adoption. Independent adoptions are handled by a lawyer, rather than an agency, and are only legal in certain states where they are regulated by strict laws.

Foster parents sometimes have the option of adopting their foster children. Foster care refers to temporarily parenting a child who has been separated from his or her parents. Foster care is a cooperative effort between foster parents and a state agency, while adoption is full legal responsibility.

Some steps that occur during an adoption include:

  • Contacting a licensed adoption agency of your choice.

  • Beginning the application and screening process.

  • Participating in a home study interview and assessment.

  • Taking any necessary classes or programs about adoption and parenting an adopted child.

  • Waiting for placement information (adoptive parents) or review placement information (biological parents).

  • Meeting your child.

  • Legalizing the adoption by filing specific legal documents, or participating in court proceedings.


There are many resources and programs available to help you navigate the entire adoption process. Contact your state's health and human services agency. Also, several online resources exist, such as:

Infant Adoption Awareness:

National Council for Adoption:

US Department of State (Hague Adoption Convention)