Who are the families that want to adopt? How does adoption work? What does it take to be an adoptive family? If you're wondering these.

Families Who Want to Adopt

Families who want to adopt come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a single parent, a couple, or a family with existing biological children or adopted children, the hope to adopt is shared by many families. Just as every adoption journey is unique, so are the stories of the families who choose to grow their family through adoption.

Some shared characteristics of families who adopt include those who volunteer, work in the voluntary sector, and those involved in their communities. Older people, men, women who have sought medical help to have a baby, Christians, and Caucasians tend to make up a large percentage of those who adopt, according to the Adoption.org article Who Adopts the Most?

In truth, single parents, young and old couples, LGBTQ families, military families, foster families, culturally diverse families, both religious and non-religious families, second-parent or stepparents, and families with existing biological or adopted children adopt. In many cases, families who want to adopt are well-off financially; however, that’s not always the case. Families who do not have the resources to adopt oftentimes reach out for assistance or consider foster care.

Perhaps it’s more about why these families want to adopt than who they are. There are many reasons these families pursue adoption. Some of these include:

Love to Give. It’s simple. Some families have love to give and are open to and excited by the prospect of sharing their time, love, and talents with a child who needs a family. In some cases, this may be a young family, but other times it may be older parents who might have already raised a family but realize they have more love to give. 

Infertility. Sadly, about 6% of married women aged 15 to 44 years in the US are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying (infertility), with approximately 12% of women aged 15 to 44 years experiencing difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term (impaired fecundity).

In her article My Journey from Infertility to Fostering to Adoption, Carla Carlisle shares this about the long road that led her to become an adoptive mom: “I found my mission to help others who have experienced trauma to find their voices. I share our story to let people know, that while our journey may be vastly different, we are together in this quest. We are loving parents who arrived at parenthood through distinct paths. Look at us now.”

The Desire for a Bigger Family. Other families simply want more than the traditional nuclear family and are looking to grow via alternative means. In her article, 

Should I Adopt Even Though I Have a Large Family?, writer Lita Jordan says, “Should you adopt even if you have a large family? That really depends. However, in the end, it is your own decision. A lot of people will have an opinion about it. Yet, you have to reflect on your own life to make sure that you have the qualifications needed for an adoption agency but also the necessities needed to make your family function the way it should. Take some time to self-reflect and be confident in your decision. Let the opinions roll off your back and know that adoption is a beautiful thing. Ignore the opinions of others and just trust in your ability to know what is best for your own family and your own life.”

What Types of Adoption Should Families Choose?

Hopeful families need to consider what type of adoption they are open to. Some considerations include the child’s age, race, and special needs, and whether the adoption is domestic or international. While some families may be longing to open their home to an infant, another may be more ready and prepared for an older child or teen. The spectrum of special needs also needs to be researched as families determine whether or not they have the necessary resources in place and are open to the challenges that come with this type of adoption. 

Many families are open to the possibility of international adoption, which requires further research and training, including understanding the difference between Hague Convention adoption countries and those who do not participate.

There are several types of adoption, including domestic adoption, foster-to-adoption, and international adoption. 

Domestic adoption is where adoptive parents, birth parents, and the adoptee live within the United States. The entire adoption process, including initial placement, background checks, consent, and finalization, is regulated by state law and policy. “Adoption will change your life forever, adding depth and dimension that you may not even be able to imagine right now,” offers Sandra Benointon. Benointon is the author of Adoption.com’s How to Adopt a Child Guide which runs through the nine basic steps involved in the process.

When a child is placed into a home as a foster child, it is anticipated that they will become legally free, with the possibility of being adopted by the foster parents. Foster-to-adoption involves a lot of requirements, classes, and a willingness to be as flexible and as patient as the waiting children have had to be. In the United States, more than 420,000 children are in foster care, 120,000 of whom are available for adoption, according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Learn more about what it takes to be a foster parent here.

International adoption is where a family legally adopts a child who is a national of a different country. Adoption.com offers a great International Adoption Guide, which covers the gamut of the process, from deciding to adopt internationally to what families need to know about post-placement supervision and reports. Families considering international adoption can visit Travel.state.gov for country-specific information and to learn more about the requirements for bringing a foreign-born child whom they’ve adopted into the United States.

How long does Adoption Take?

So far as domestic adoption goes, the legal process of adopting, from application to finalization, can be a lengthy one. It may take six months or more from the time you apply before a child is placed in your home; it will take at least three to twelve months after that before the adoption may be finalized in court, according to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. 

Eligibility for Families Who Want to Adopt

While their makeup may be different, all families who want to adopt are subjected to similar adoption processes, whether they choose domestic or international adoption. Determining eligibility is based on the assessment of hopeful adoptive families and the preparation between them and social workers or agencies.

For domestic adoption, “In general, any single adult or a married couple jointly can be eligible to adopt. In addition, a stepparent can adopt the child of his or her spouse if the spouse has legal custody of the child. In Vermont, a person may adopt the child of his or her partner,” according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Other factors include eligibility by age and residency. For more on state laws on domestic adoption click here.

With international adoption, each country has established rules and requirements for adoptive families, similar to the unique rules and requirements set by states. Typically, these include restrictions on parental age, marital status, health, number of other children in the home, and more. In most cases, countries require that families travel to meet and pick up their child. In other cases, they may require that a family fosters the child inside the birth country for a period of time before an adoption is allowed to proceed and/or finalize. The United States has its own list of requirements for families interested in international adoption. These can be found here.

All prospective adoptive families must follow a similar path to adoption consisting of the following:

Researching to determine what type of adoption best suits your family: Don’t assume that one type of adoption is like another. Every adoption is as unique as the birth family, adoptee, and adoptive family involved. Read the books, watch the videos, listen to the podcasts, take the training, talk to other adoptive families, and speak with adoption counselors. Learn about adoption before choosing adoption. 

Choosing an agency or adoption attorney: Make sure to research agencies before signing on. Not every agency is a good fit. It’s imperative to meet with agencies and attorneys and ask the right questions to make sure that you have common ground.

Completing the pre-application and home study: The first order of adoption business begins with completing a whole lot of paperwork. You will complete paperwork from Day 1 right up to when your home study is submitted (before the dreaded downtime, otherwise known as the waiting period).

Making it through the waiting period: While the home study and paperwork and training may have felt like a lot, you’re going to miss it once it’s all said and done. At this point, it’s a waiting game while the agency attempts to match you with a child. 

Receiving an offer or placement: Congratulations! You’ve been matched! Now is a time of great joy as well as a time for reality to set in that you are about to welcome a child into your family. 

Completing the legal process: Completing the process can look different depending on the type of adoption you choose—domestic, foster vs. private, or international. In all cases, you can expect paperwork, a hearing (or a few hearings), and more paperwork followed up by finalization.

Preparing your home: Although it appears last on this list, many families start preparing their homes (at least mentally and emotionally) before that first pre-qualification application form has been signed and submitted. It’s time to seriously think about how to best welcome and transition a child to their new surroundings. Even with infants, there is much to be done to ensure a child will feel welcome and secure in their new forever home.

How do Families Who Want to Adopt Afford Adoption?

While most adoptions from foster care are free, other types of adoption can be expensive. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, working with a private agency to adopt a healthy baby or adopting from another country can cost $15,000 to $40,000. Intercountry adoption can run between $20,000 to $50,000.

Adoption.com’s Affording Adoption page features links to dozens of articles to help families to learn about resources available to them, including adoption loans, adoption grants, employer-provided adoption benefits, military benefits, and the adoption tax credit.

The good news is that families who want to adopt tend to find a way to make it work. Some families save up for years, others host garage sales, and still others take advantage of technology and social media to create their own Gofundme pages.

How do Families Prepare for Adoption?

Families who are interested in adopting a child should be ready to research and prepare well ahead of applying for and completing a home study to adopt a child. Adoption is a life-changing decision not to be taken lightly. 

According to the Adoption.org article How Should I Prepare for the Adoption Process?, “Preparing for an adoption may very well be one of the most important things you will do as part of your adoption journey—with the obviously more enjoyable end goal of finalizing said adoption to be united with your child and live ‘happily forever family after.’ No matter what type of adoption you choose, taking the time to prepare is critical to ensuring that your experience is a positive one—and not just for presentation day, but for the well-being of your family and, most importantly, your adopted child.”

If you are interested in literature to prepare you for adoption, check out this adoption reading list here.

No matter the family and no matter the reason for waiting to adopt, families who want to adopt intend to provide a forever family for a child who needs one.

Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists ready to help you get started on your adoption journey!

Susan Kuligowski

Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she's not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.