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The Adoption Process

While the adoption process varies from state to state, most adoptive families share a similar journey once they have decided which type of adoption is right for them. Generally, this includes choosing an agency, attending orientation and/or training classes, completing a home study, engaging in the placement process to bring a child into the home, legally finalizing the adoption, and accessing resources to support the needs of the child and the family over time.

Adoption Information Booklet

The Adoption Exchange has compiled a helpful introduction to the world of adoption.  

Orientation and Information Classes

Some public and private agencies require you to attend a series of classes to learn about the adoption process and emotional and behavioral issues that adopted children may experience. In many cases, you must complete these classes before the agency will begin the home study process.

We encourage you to attend orientation meetings offered by public and private agencies in your area. Although you must ultimately select one agency to work with, you are free to gather information from as many agencies as are available--even if you don't live in that agency's region. If you live in a rural area, you may have to make arrangements to travel to the nearest metropolitan area to gain access to the adoption services you need. 

Complete the Home Study Process

The home study process varies by agency and type of adoption. It should be an educational and self-evaluative process as well as a way for the social worker to get to know you and your family, help you determine what age of child would best fit into your home, whether a sibling group would work well, and what other important characteristics you would be willing to accept in a child. The home study process will include some or all of the following:

  • A series of individual and/or joint interviews with each prospective parent in the home.
  • A visit to your home to ensure you offer a safe environment and meet State licensing standards.
  • Medical reports from your physician.
  • Proof of employment/ability to financially support a child.
  • Checks for any criminal record, including the State child abuse registry.
  • References from friends and associates.
  • Autobiographical statements.
  • Psychological evaluation (this is usually only required if the applicant has a mental illness).
  • A family picture book or video to present to the birth mother, waiting child, or overseas agency.

Typically, these steps result in the writing of a home study report that reflects the social worker’s findings. This report is then used to introduce your family to other agencies to assist in matching you with a child or sibling group. On average, the home study process takes 3 to 6 months to complete.

Child Search

Once your home study is completed, your social worker will begin searching for a child or sibling group who may be a good match for your family. After being selected, you will be given extensive information about the child so you can decide if you think this child will be a good fit. Some social workers--both with public and private agencies--may encourage you to be involved in the search for a child. Always let your social worker know what you are doing to help identify a child.


During this time you may have visits with the birth family of the infant you plan to adopt, have several visits of increasing length with a child in the foster care system, or begin making travel arrangements to bring home the child you plan to adopt internationally.


Your child finally comes home! Your agency, social worker, parent support group and/or professional counselors can help your family during this often challenging time. The social worker will visit your home to provide support and assistance, ensure the child is well cared for, and write up the required court reports. During this period, you will need to file a petition to adopt with the court. 


Your social worker or lawyer will usually go to court with you to finalize your child’s adoption. Most infant adoptions are finalized 6 months after placement. Waiting child adoptions are usually finalized 6 months to 2 years after placement in order to give the child and family sufficient time to adjust and to provide additional supports to help meet the child's needs.

Post-Legal Period

Adoption is a lifelong process for the child and the adoptive family. Your family, like many families, may need support adjusting to life with your new child. You and your child may have additional questions at different development stages. Do not hesitate to contact your agency and social worker for help, support, resources, referrals, and to share successes.