Everything you need to know about adopting

Nov 16, 2021

You’ve decided you want a child—and that you want to adopt. Congratulations! Adoption is one of several routes to parenthood. There are so many things to learn, so much vocabulary to understand and mountains of paperwork to sort through. If you’re looking to find out how to adopt a baby, this is a guide to help you on your journey with some of the most frequently asked questions about adoption.

What are the different types of adoption?

There are several types of adoption arrangements, all of which usually have quite a few variables, frustrations and emotional things to consider.

Private adoption: Usually the most expensive route to adoption, private adoption is mostly done through adoption agencies. The birth parents place the child with the agency, and the agency places him or her with the parents. It can also be called “infant adoption” or “domestic adoption.”

Private adoption (also called agency adoption) can be very expensive and difficult, and in some cases can take years. There are open adoptions where the birth parents have involvement, and closed adoptions, where they don’t. Those decisions are made between birth parents and families, with the facilitation of the agency.

International adoption: International adoption is where prospective parents adopt from another country, sometimes from an orphanage. People sometimes choose international adoption because the waiting times and costs associated with them are less than private adoption and happen on a more predictable schedule, but it’s not an expedited timeline. Not all countries allow international adoption. Some countries that do are China, Ethiopia, South Korea and Ukraine, to name a few.

Adoption of foster children: Adopting children from the foster care or child welfare system is another type of adoption. There are over many children waiting in foster care for a loving home, but it’s not always a quick path, either. The main goal of foster care is to reunite foster children with their families, and when that isn’t an option, then adoptions happen. Newborns are the most requested age for fostering. The average age of a child in foster care is 8.

Relative adoption: Relative adoption, or sometimes called kinship adoption, is when a member of the birth parents’ families adopts a child into their own. They take on full legal custody of the child.

How much does it cost to adopt a baby?

You might be wondering how much it costs to adopt a child. There is no direct answer, as a lot of factors play into it, especially what kind of adoption you are considering. A private adoption can cost upwards of $75,000 on the high end for using an agency. Agencies provide a lot of guidance, care and even legal expenses in some cases.

By comparison, international adoption can be as “low” as $20,000.

Regardless of the type of adoption, you and your partner should discuss your financial situation, potential expenses (including schooling) and more to find out if adoption is right for your family.

Can you adopt a baby for free?

Technically, yes. Foster care adoptions are funded by the state. That does not mean that they are completely free, however. There are legal fees involved that vary wildly, as well as home study fees. Parents who adopt from the foster care system do get subsidies, but it’s not enough to cover the cost of a child for his or her lifetime needs. Foster parents do foster the child before adopting, so you do get some payment for doing so before the actual adoption takes place.

Can you adopt a newborn baby quickly?

Newborn babies are the most coveted of all adoptions, and of course, it depends on the type of adoption. According to the National Adoption Foundation, newborn babies in private adoptions can take two to seven years; international adoptions around six years, although adopting a child with special needs can get you fast-tracked; and foster children are relatively quicker, but it still can take 6 to 18 months. (Remember, the goal of foster care is to reunite the child with family, so newborns are rare.)

Can you adopt older children?

When referring to adopting older children, it usually means through international adoption and an orphanage, or through foster care. The average age of an international adoption also varies from country to country; the United Nations cites that the mean age is between four and six years old. For foster care, the average child is 8 years old. Private adoptions usually are for newborns or infants, but not always.

What are the emotional implications of adoption?

Keep in mind that adoption is not just a legal contract; it can also be an emotional rollercoaster given the money, time and commitment to the process that is involved. Take care of yourself emotionally so that you can be the best parent possible for your child when your time comes.

Remember, parenthood is a massive undertaking, whether you’re pregnant or adopting, but it’s an absolutely rewarding one.