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.