What to Expect in the Domestic Infant Adoption Process

As an adoptive parent, I’m often asked about the adoption process. The adoption process can be incredibly complex, and every adoption story is unique. However, there are some general steps that occur across most domestic infant adoptions. If you’re considering adoption, this will help you understand what to expect. 

Phase 1: Pre-placement. 

This phase includes everything that happens before you can match with an expectant mom or child. For us, this process took 2-3 months. 

Contact an agency or consultant 

To start the process, you’ll reach out to an adoption agency. I recommend talking to a few to see which you feel the best about. There’s some key information you’ll want learn about from each agency of consultant such as:

  1. What are the general requirements to work with the agency? Is there an orientation you can attend to learn more?
  2. What is the average wait time before a prospective parent(s) match with an expectant mother or child? 
  3. What is the average total cost of a completed adoption? Are they transparent in what that goes towards? 
  4. Ethical concerns: do they have discriminatory placement practices, are they transparent about fees and costs, do they provide support to birth parents after the adoption is finalized?
  5. Anything else that is important to you. 

Complete your home study

The home study is a document prepared by a licensed social worker that outlines different aspects of your life and makes a recommendation that you are suitable to adopt a child. The home study process can take several weeks. You’ll be asked to submit a long list of paperwork and documentation, and you’ll be fingerprinted for a background check. The social worker will come to your house and go through your life story, which is not an exaggeration. It feels incredibly invasive at times (i.e. “How did you deal with the grief of three miscarriages?” or “What do you and your spouse argue about the most?”). 

You’ll also work with the social worker to identify your motivation to adopt and what you are and are not open to. Be honest – both with the social worker and with yourself. Some agencies will require you to take adoption-related trainings while completing the home study.

Assemble your profile book 

Your profile book is the hard copy book or electronic file you’ll prepare about you (and your spouse/children if applicable) that expectant parents will be shown. When an expectant mom decides to make an adoption plan and is working with an agency, she’ll look through the different profiles to see which prospective parent(s) she would like to place her child with. Some agencies work with hard copy profiles, others with electronic. Some may require a professional designer; others will prefer you create one yourself. Once you’ve picked an agency, check and see how they like this done.

Phase 2: Waiting 

Once your home study and profile book are complete, you can become a “waiting family.” Much like it sounds, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting. Some agencies let you know when an expectant mom is viewing profiles, others won’t tell you until an expectant mom has chosen you. There is huge variation in how long this can take, depending on the agencies you work with, your preferences, and the time of year. I know some folks who waited weeks, others who waited several years. When we adopted our daughter, we waited about three months.

close up of baby hand holding finger on adult hand

Phase 3: Matching 

After an expectant mother chooses you and you agree to move forward, you’re considered “matched.” This often happens before the baby is born. However, some expectant moms don’t have adoption plans in place when they deliver, and matches happen after the baby is born. Matching is not final. An expectant mom can make the decision to parent any time before the baby is born. The exact timing of when a mother can sign paperwork relinquishing her rights and the amount of time she has to change her mind (known as the “revocation window”) varies by state. 

Phase 4: Post Placement 

Once baby is placed with their adoptive parent(s), the post-placement period begins. The exact requirements of this will vary but will involve follow-up home visits by a social worker over a period of time. Once all post-placement requirements have been met, the adoption can be finalized. 

This is just a rough outline of what you can expect if pursing domestic infant adoption. It’s important to remember that there is variation to all of this, depending on the agency, the state, and particular circumstances of each adoption. Once you’ve identified and have begun working with an agency, they will provide information specific to your situation.

For more stories like this one, read about Jessica’s journey. If you’re struggling with infertility, please consider joining the Lansing Mom Infertility and Loss Support Facebook Group.


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