How to adopt a child

Families can pursue several options to adopt a baby: domestic public agency adoption, domestic private agency adoption, international adoption and independent non-agency adoption.

Domestic private agency adoption and international adoption can be costly, may take several years to complete and often involve the input of multiple agencies.

Domestic public agency adoption is less costly, but it can be time consuming and require special training courses.

Independent non-agency adoptions are an easier option. They put control of the adoption in the hands of prospective parents by allowing them to select a birth mother and negotiate the terms of the adoption.

Contact an adoption attorney. Each state makes its own adoption laws, which often require detailed record keeping. Before you begin the adoption process, talk to an attorney about your state’s regulations.

Retain a licensed social worker to complete your home study. During the home study, a social worker will visit your home and assess the physical space to ensure that it is safe, sanitary and suitable for a child. She will interview each member of your family and compile heath and income data. Once the home study is complete, she will prepare a written report summarizing her findings.

Find a birth mother who is willing to place her baby with you. The most common way to locate a birth mother is through word of mouth. Talk to friends, family and coworkers about your adoption plans and ask them to pass along your contact information to any woman interested in putting her baby up for adoption. Some prospective adoptive parents choose to place ads online and in newspapers advertising their intent to adopt a child.

Obtain the birth parents’ consents. Once you have located a birth mother who is interested in placing her baby with you, you will need both the birth mother’s and birth father’s written consent before you can take custody of the child. If you do not know the whereabouts of the birth father, you must attempt to locate him and document those efforts for the court.

File the adoption paperwork with the court. At the time you wish to take custody of the baby, submit to the court the birth parents’ consents, home study report and adoption petition. Although some parents choose to prepare their adoption petition on their own, most rely on an adoption attorney to draft the document.

Get a signed custody order. Once the court has received your consents, home study report and adoption petition, a judge will review the documents and issue a custody order if she approves your request. If the judge has any questions that need to be resolved prior to placement, your family must attend a hearing.

After the court has approved the placement and the child is in your care, a social worker must visit your home at least two to three times to evaluate how you and the baby are adapting to the new arrangement. The social worker will provide reports on these visits to the court.

Following the post-placement visits, the court will assign you a hearing date. At this hearing, the judge will review your case and finalize the adoption, making you the legal parent of your new baby.

If you place any ad in your search for a baby, retain a copy to submit to the court.

If you are adopting a child who was born in another state, you will need special approval before you can take custody of the baby.


In most states, it is illegal to pay a nonlicensed third-party intermediary to help you locate a child. Likewise, it is illegal to give a birth mother money in exchange for her baby. In most states, you may, however, pay for the birth mother’s expenses relating to her pregnancy, such as medical bills not covered by insurance.

How to adopt a child

Although it costs little (if anything) to adopt from foster care, the process of becoming an adoptive or foster parent can be time consuming and requires persistence. On average, it takes from six to twelve months to complete the steps necessary to be licensed to adopt or foster—including submitting an application, undergoing a home study, and attending training.

While some of the steps may seem overly involved or invasive, it is important to keep in mind that everyone is working toward the same goal—ensuring the safety and well-being of children.

Educating yourself

Our website is a good place to start your journey to becoming an adoptive or foster parent. Our introduction to adoption from foster care and the information we provide about the children in care and the resources available to families give families a solid understanding of the process and the children.

Child Welfare Information Gateway has a great list of resources of things to consider before adoption, including how to preparing yourself emotionally and considering openness in adoption.

Many families tell us that one of the best sources of information about adopting or being a foster parent is other families.

  • Find real stories about adoption and foster care on our blog and our YouTube channel.
  • Connect with a community of more than 200,000 families sharing questions, advice, and experiences on our Facebook page.
  • Use our state adoption and foster care information pages to find local parent support groups and other resources in your state.

Contacting a local agency

To get started or find out more about adopting in your particular state or territory, contact your local public agency and/or one or more private agencies:

  • Public agency services are usually free or very low cost—and often reimbursable. Public agencies may suggest or require becoming licensed to foster before adopting and will explain to you the reasoning behind this. In short, even if you only intend to adopt, which is permanent, and are not interested in providing temporary foster care, being approved to both foster and adopt can expedite the placement of a child with you for the purposes of adoption. Find out more about foster parenting and the cost of adoption from foster care (usually nothing when done directly through a public agency).
  • Private adoption agencies guide you through the adoption process in much the same way that public agencies do. Their services may include helping you complete a home study, providing training, helping you find and secure a placement, and identifying or providing support services after adoption. They usually charge for these services up front. Some or all of the fees may be reimbursable.

You can search for local agencies in your state or contact us. Our adoption specialists can help you find contact information for your local public agency and also provide contact information for private adoption agencies in your area that will work with public agencies.

Read the article on our blog, “Five Questions to Ask When Interviewing Agencies” to learn more about selecting an agency to work with.

Attending an orientation meeting

When you contact a local adoption and foster care agency, you will most likely be invited to attend an orientation meeting where you will find out more about:

  • Children in foster care
  • Roles and responsibilities of adoptive and foster parents
  • The process you will need to go through to adopt or foster
  • Next steps to take on the journey to adoption or becoming a foster parent

If you attend an orientation meeting, all you need to do is:

  • Show up with an open heart and mind.
  • Ask questions and listen carefully to what the presenters say.
  • Take notes on things such as what you have to do next, who your important contacts are, and when the next meeting will happen.

During orientation, you may hear for the first time the real challenges involved with being a foster parent and adopting a child from foster care. It’s natural to become conflicted as your emotions rise to the surface. You don’t have to make any major decisions at this point. The only thing you need to do is decide whether you want to continue to explore becoming a foster or adoptive parent.

Children of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds are waiting to be adopted in Massachusetts. When you make the choice to adopt, you have the chance to start or expand your own family and give a child in need safety, stability, and love. The process is similar when you apply to be a foster parent.

How to apply Apply to adopt a child


If you have questions and would like to be contacted by the DCF Foster/Adoptive Parent Recruitment Unit you can complete a request to be contacted.

By mail

If you are unable to complete the online process you may print the Foster/Adoptive Parent Application and mail it to:

DCF Recruitment Unit
600 Washington St., 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02111

By phone

Contact DCF to let us know that you’re interested in adoption. Call (800) 543-7508.

Next steps for Apply to adopt a child

Pass a background record check.

DCF will conduct a background check on everyone in your home over the age of 14.

Pass a DCF household physical standards check.

A social worker will visit your home for a Physical Standards Check. We verify that your home has working safety equipment, such as working smoke detectors, and that the living and sleeping quarters in your home provide adequate space, privacy, and safety for all family members.

If your home does not meet one or more of our standards, you are given time to comply and we will do a follow-up visit.

Attend the Massachusetts Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) training program.

Check the training schedule to pick a date that works best for you.

A MAPP social worker writes a license study.

A social worker from your MAPP program will:

  • Visit your home and meet with household members
  • Request and check personal references
  • Write a license study that describes your family and recommends what adoption situation would be a good fit for you

DCF reviews your home study and approves you and your family for one or more children.

When DCF approves your application to adopt a child, they’ll start work to find a child who could thrive in your family. Learn more about the placement process to adopt a child.

More info for Apply to adopt a child

You can attend an adoption informational meeting to learn more about how you can help change the life of a child through adoption. Check ahead to see if you need to RSVP before attending.

Thinking about adopting a baby in Maryland? If so, you probably have a flux of questions rushing through your brain. As a lot goes into the Maryland infant adoption process, this is completely normal. Adopting a baby is a life-changing step, and sometimes just knowing how to adopt a baby in the U.S. can help immensely when it comes to making the decision to do so. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the steps to finish a baby adoption in Maryland.

As always, please feel free to call American Adoptions at 1-800-ADOPTION with any questions about adopting with our agency.

Step 1: Decide to complete a baby adoption in Maryland.

Naturally, the first step in the baby adoption process is to definitively decide that you do indeed want to adopt a baby in Maryland. If this is something you’re still thinking about even as you read this article, that’s totally normal. It’s a big decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s not uncommon for couples to have struggled with infertility for years before deciding to adopt, and fully grieving that infertility first is extremely important. As soon as you’ve become as enthusiastic about adoption as you would have been to have a biological child, you’ll be ready to adopt a baby in Maryland.

Step 2: Choose an adoption agency.

Once you’ve decided to adopt a baby in the U.S., the next step is to choose the adoption professional that will guide you through the process. Of course, we’re partial to our own staff at American Adoptions, but you should make sure any agency you consider offers the following services:

Round-the-clock counseling for pregnant women who are considering adoption for their babies or considering their unplanned pregnancy options

Advertising for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies who might consider adoption

Cost estimates that include financial protection in the case that an adoption situation is disrupted

Contact coordination between birth parents and adoptive parents

Step 3: Begin the Maryland infant adoption process.

If you do end up selecting American Adoptions as your adoption agency, you’ll complete three steps with us before you can actively begin looking for adoption opportunities:

Complete an adoption home study. A home study is essentially an assessment of your readiness to adopt. It will consist of three phases: the documentation stage, a home inspection and interviews with each member of your family.

Complete an Adoption Planning Questionnaire. This is a form that will help you to communicate with your adoption preferences with your adoption specialist. For example, you’ll indicate your comfort levels with things like medical conditions, contact with a child’s birth parents, cultural background and more. Remember, the more flexible you are with these adoption preferences, the more likely that you’ll find an adoption opportunity within the quoted wait time.

Complete two types of adoption profiles. With American Adoptions, you’ll complete both a print profile and a video profile. A print profile is a pamphlet that allows a pregnant woman to learn the basics about your life. If she’s interested, she can then watch your video profile, which will allow her to see how you interact with each other and get a sense of your real personalities. If she’s interested in meeting you, your adoption specialist will arrange a conference call. If everything goes well, you might have found your adoption opportunity!

Step 4: Find babies available for adoption in Maryland.

After the above steps are completed, you’ll be considered an active family with American Adoptions. This means prospective birth mothers will begin to see your adoption profiles, and all that is left for you to do will be to wait for one to choose you. This can be a difficult time, as it is essentially a waiting game. However, we recommend that you stick to a regular routine and try not to let it affect your daily lives as much as possible. We promise; the call will come!

Once you have connected with a pregnant woman considering adoption, it will be time to form a relationship with her. We recommend some degree of openness, or communication, in every adoption situation, as it benefits everyone in the adoptive triad. Think of her as another member of your family!

Step 5: Finalize your child’s adoption.

After you’ve left the hospital with your baby, there is one step left in the Maryland baby adoption process. To receive your child’s final decree of adoption, you will attend a finalization hearing in your county. A Maryland judge will hear your case, ensure that the adoption is in the child’s best interests, and finally, make him or her a legal and permanent part of your family.

Please call 1-800-ADOPTION for more information about baby adoptions in Maryland with American Adoptions.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

The adoption and foster care process may take some time, but the rewards are well worth the effort. You will find there are many resources available to you, and we recommend that you become involved in as many ways with the foster and adoption community as you feel comfortable.

State contact information

Raise the Future
Adoption specialist
Kelly Farrier
303-755-4756, ext. 202
[email protected]

Evie Sorensen
Recruitment coordinator
303-755-4756, ext. 299
[email protected]

Foster and adoption licensing requirements

In order to adopt or foster in Missouri, you must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be in good physical and mental health
  • Complete a child abuse and neglect check and criminal record check including fingerprints
  • Have a stable income
  • Live in an apartment, condominium or home as long as it meets licensing standards
  • Be willing to participate in and complete a free training and assessment process
  • Be a part of a professional team willing to voice perspectives and concerns
  • Be willing to partner with the child’s family

You can be single or married, with or without children in your home.

Costs to foster and adopt

It does not cost to foster or adopt.

Agency contact and orientation information

Parent support groups

Information on Missouri's children

There are over 13,000 children in foster care in Missouri; 1,500 of these children have no identified adoptive parents. You can also learn more about children and adoption resources at the Missouri Heart Gallery website.

How to adopt a child

Thank you for your interest in foster care and adoption in North Carolina. NC Kids can help you get started and assist with fostering or adoption. There is an incredible need in our state for qualified and dedicated foster and adoptive parents. When children enter foster care the primary goal is to help families resolve their challenges and reunite safely. However, when that is not achieved children can become free for adoption. For more information about how children enter foster care and the requirements for becoming a licensed foster parent please view the Foster Parent Orientation video.

When a child is unable to be reunified with their biological family, other permanency options are explored including adoption. Every child available for adoption deserves a “forever family.” If you are interested in providing a safe and loving home to a child and you have patience and wisdom to share, you could be the perfect parent for a child who truly needs you.
Children waiting for adoption include:

  • Children with special needs such as physical, mental and emotional disabilities
  • Sibling groups
  • Teenagers
  • Minority children especially African American males

Additional information about how to become a foster or adoptive parent, frequently asked questions and information about the types of children who need foster and adoptive homes and resources for current foster and adoptive families can be found by exploring this website and reading North Carolina’s “You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be a Perfect Parent” brochure found at the bottom of this page.

About NC Kids

NC Kids helps prospective families navigate the initial stages of foster care and adoption. We connect children in need of adoptive homes with families by:

  • Featuring waiting children on this website and the national Adopt US Kids website. These websites identify legally free children who are awaiting adoption.
  • Maintaining a central database of children available for adoption and families who are interested in adopting children from the foster care system.
  • Providing matching services for waiting children with pre-approved families registered with NC Kids.

We also provide:

  • Foster care and adoption support services.
  • Community outreach and support services for recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive families and technical assistance to County Departments of Social Services and private Child Placing Agencies.

NC Kids works with agencies, children and families. We are not an adoption or foster care agency and do not make any decisions about child placement.
Recommended questions to ask when selecting a licensed child-placing agency for foster care and/or adoption.

Alert: On Sept. 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Immigration Legal Resource Center et al. v. Wolf et al., 20-cv-05883-JWS, preliminarily enjoined DHS from implementing or enforcing any part of the USCIS Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements Rule.

While the rule is preliminarily enjoined, we will continue to:

  • Accept USCIS forms with the current editions and current fees; and
  • Use the regulations and guidance currently in place to adjudicate applications and petitions. This includes accepting and adjudicating fee waiver requests as provided under Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapters 10.9 (PDF, 2.86 MB) and 10.10 (PDF, 2.86 MB) .

For more information, please refer to the Federal Register notice, dated Jan. 29, 2021.

COVID-19 Impacts on Intercountry Adoptions

Because of the current (COVID-19) pandemic, USCIS has received inquiries from concerned parents who are at various stages of adopting children from abroad and bringing children to the United States. We are committed to working with prospective adoptive parents to assist them as much as we can.

For more information visit the Adoptions and COVID-19 section on our USCIS Response to COVID-19 webpage.

Each year, thousands of U.S. citizens adopt children from overseas. This is known as an intercountry adoption.

Adopting a child from another country is often a complicated journey, and the information on this site is designed to help you as you move forward.

We strongly recommend you find a lawyer to help you with the adoption process. How long the process will take varies, and depends on issues such as whether surrenders are filed, notice needs to be given, or a home study needs to be completed. When you file your paperwork, ask the adoption clerk for a timeline for the next steps.

To begin the process, you’ll need to submit these forms:

Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to file:

  • If you’re married: A certified copy of your Marriage Certificate. This is available from the Registry of Vital Records or from the city or town where you were married.
  • If you’re divorced: A certified copy of your Divorce Judgment. You can get this from the Probate and Family Court where your divorce was filed. You’ll need the names of the people, the approximate date of the divorce, and, if you have it, the docket number. The fee is $20 for a certified copy plus $1 per page for every page except the first. Learn more about how to get a copy of your divorce record.
  • If you’re asking the court to waive the home study: Motion to Waive Investigation Report of Department of Children and Families (DCF).
  • If you’re adopting a child whose birth mother wasn’t married and the birth father hasn’t signed a surrender: Affidavit from DCF Regarding a Search of the Parental Responsibility Claims. This is a document DCF will provide to you.
  • If either of the parents gave up legal rights to the child: Surrender forms. The surrender form must be in the correct format. A parent can’t surrender a child until 4 days after the day of birth of the child to be adopted. It must be signed in front of a notary public with 2 witnesses watching, and the birth parent must have chosen at least 1 of these witnesses (see G.L. c.210, § 2 for more information.)
  • If a court ended the legal rights of one or both parents: Certified copies of Judgments from Other Legal Proceedings. You’ll need to get a copy of the court judgment from that court.

Please note that other documents may be required from additional agencies. See the “Related” section for more information.

In addition to filing these forms, you must respond to a Federal and Central Registers of Missing Children Search Request. The court will send this to you after you have filed the other forms. You must then send your response to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF will then perform a search and make sure your intended child wasn’t reported missing.

Some forms may not display properly in your browser. Please download the forms and open them using Acrobat reader. For more information, please see What to do if you can’t open court PDFs.

Fees for File for adoption

There is no filing fee for an adoption. However, you will need to pay the sheriff or constable for providing notice. These costs will vary.

How to file File for adoption

In person

Generally, you should file your adoption with your local Probate & Family Court. Sometimes adoptions are filed in Juvenile Court or in District Court. Adoptions are only filed in Juvenile Court when they have a pending case involving that child, usually through a care and protection case that moves to a termination of rights case. Gloucester and Brookline District Courts retained their jurisdiction over juvenile matters, but they are exceptions to the general rule.

By mail

Forms may be mailed to your local Probate & Family Court. Sometimes adoptions are filed in Juvenile Court or in District Court. Adoptions are only filed in Juvenile Court when they have a pending case involving that child, usually through a care and protection case that moves to a termination of rights case. Gloucester and Brookline District Courts retained their jurisdiction over juvenile matters, but they are exceptions to the general rule.

Next steps for File for adoption

Give notice

The court will tell you if you’re required to give notice, and provide you with a citation. After you file your forms, “notice” must be given to:

  1. Everyone whose consent is required if they haven’t already provided written consent to the adoption
  2. DCF if the child who’s being adopted is under 14
  3. A father who wasn’t married to the mother of the child at birth is entitled to notice if he has filed a claim with DCF saying that he’s willing to accept responsibility for the child, or if a court has declared him to be the father.

The citation tells the people listed that you’ve filed for adoption and what will happen next. You need to arrange to have the papers “served.” See Service of Process for more information.

Home study

Within 30 days after receiving notice, DCF will conduct a home study and file a report with the court. The home study may also be conducted by a licensed adoption agency. The adoptive parents may have to pay a fee.

The home study can be waived by the court when one of the petitioners is a parent of the child who’s being adopted.


You’ll have a hearing before a judge who will consider your petition for adoption. The judge considers “the need of the child for loving and responsible parental care and all factors relevant to the physical, mental and moral health of the child.” If the judge allows the adoption, the judge may also approve a name change if requested.

The judge may order visitation between a child and their biological parent after the adoption is complete, if doing so is in the best interest of the child and also respects the adoptive parents’ interests. The judge may also order visitation between a child and their biological siblings after the adoption.

Adopting a child is one of the most important decisions in a family’s or couple’s life. Having a new family member to love and care for can be very rewarding. Couples ask many important questions when thinking about adoption. One of the most important questions they must consider: How much does it cost to adopt a child?

According to The Child Welfare Information Gateway adopting a child in the United States can cost $45,000. This cost should not scare parents from attempting to adopt. It is important to remember that the cost varies depending upon how the parents choose to adopt and that there are grant programs available to help with the cost of adoption. Parents may choose to adopt a newborn, a foster, or an international child.

How to adopt a child

In the case of a newborn, the cost to adopt a child can range from $8,000 to $45,000. The cost of adopting a newborn may include compensating the mother for her time and medical bills. Some states allow for 6 months of fees. Thes fees can include everything from maternity clothes to cell phone bills and lost wages. The cost will rise if there are any legal disputes.The actual cost depends on the state requirements and the agreement between the birth mother and new parents.

The cost to adopt a child, especially a newborn from another country can cost between $15,000 and $45,000. This includes the cost of travel and possibly even having to live in a country for a month or two. Different countries have different requirements. Therefore the costs can vary depending on the country. There are standard legal legal fees including filing for citizenship for the child.

If you really want to share your home with a child and you don’t mind adopting an older child, adopting a foster child is a great option. The cost to adopt a child from a foster home can be as little as $2,500. Remember that there are very few babies available through foster care. Generally the age of a child that you will get from Foster Care will range from 3 to 18 years old.

Opening your home to a child in need is a very generous and wonderful thing to do. It seems wrong to have to pay to love a child. However, ensuring that a child is placed in a safe and loving home requires the services of multiple professionals. These costs include legal fees such as lawyers, courts and background checks. There are other expenses such as home studies, medical cost and travel expenses. The cost to adopt a child via private adoptions is paid for by the adoptive parents. When adopting from foster care these same expenses exist but they are covered by the taxpayer.

In any type of adoption these are the basic expenses:

➢ Evaluation and training of prospective parents.
➢ Child abuse and criminal background checks for all adult members of the household.
➢ Medical evaluations.
➢ Cost of childbirth including prenatal and postnatal care.
➢ Payment for the child’s initial medical cost.
➢ Legal representation for the adoptive and birth parents.
➢ Court cost as determined by the locality.
➢ Living expenses for the birth mother.
➢ Post adoption counseling for the birth parents.
➢ Post-adoption monitoring of the new parents.

There are other potential costs when adopting a child domestically or internationally. For a domestic adoption a parent may or may not use an agency. The cost of using an agency will be discussed in the next section. These are the special potential costs related to both international and domestic adoption:

➢ Parents must network to find birth parents (with no agency).
➢ Travel to meet birth parents and/or receive the child.
➢ Cost to live in another state or country until final approval to take full custody of the child is received.
➢ For domestic adoptions a possible return trip to finalize the adoption.

International adoptions have some unique costs. They may require multiple trips to finish the paperwork. They may even require a temporary residence in the child’s country of origin. There are also special legal fees that may be required. These fees include passports, visas and naturalization of the child. The parent will have application fees and other fees from the local government. Depending on the country there may be unusual medical costs. The parents may need to make donations to local orphanages or child welfare agencies in order to support the child until the adoption is complete.

Choosing to use an adoption agency will add to the final cost of the adoption process. However, the peace of mind from the support gained from the agency may be money well spent.

Using an agency ensures that the prospective parents are able to more easily navigate the adoption process with the help of experienced professionals. An adoption agency helps parents avoid costly mistakes that could impede the whole adoption process. Adopting through an agency also increases the opportunities to get grants and loans to help offset the cost of the adoption.

Before signing with an adoption agency it is important to ensure that they are in fact a reliable agency. A reliable agency should be licensed and they should have their licensing information available to parents. Make certain that the license is current. A search on the internet will reveal if there are any outstanding complaints against the agency. It is extremely helpful to have a good agency walking you through the adoption process. It is equally devastating to fall prey to a disreputable agency.