The adoption process can be long and taxing. Start off right by learning the basic procedure.
Step 1: Learn the requirements Find out the qualifications to adopt. In the U.S., adoption laws vary from state to state. For international adoptions, check federal regulations and the requirements of the child's native country.
TIP: Requirements for international adoptions by U.S. citizens are usually stricter.
Step 2: Decide your requirements Decide your requirements. Are you open to adopting an older child? Or a child of a different race, a baby with health problems, or siblings? Could you live with an "open adoption," where the birth mother remains in your baby's life?
Step 3: Find an agency Sign up with an adoption agency. Your chances of getting a newborn, as opposed to an older child, will be higher with a private agency than with a government agency.
TIP: Private adoption agencies are more expensive that state-run agencies and may require you to hire a lawyer.
Step 4: Get a resume together Put a resume together, which explains your qualifications for becoming a parent. Include photos and a heartfelt letter to any moms-to-be who decide to be involved in the adoption process.
Step 5: Prepare for scrutiny Prepare to be scrutinized. Before an agency accepts someone, they must pass background checks, be fingerprinted, get a clean bill of health, present their income tax returns and other relevant documents, and prove that their home is suitable for a child. Some states also require prospective parents to complete a parenting workshop.
Step 6: Spread the word While you're waiting to hear from the adoption agency, you can also start your own search: Run classified ads in newspapers and online, and post flyers in hospitals and women's health clinics. Make sure friends and family know you're looking to adopt, too.
TIP: If you find a birth mother on your own, hire an adoption attorney to draw up a contract and handle the financial details.
Step 7: Look into "snowflake adoption" Another option is to look into frozen-embryo adoption, known as "snowflake adoption," where couples that have tried in vitro fertilization donate their unused embryos to would-be parents.
Step 8: Be patient Be patient. The process can take months or even years. But a child is well worth the wait.
FACT: In a landmark study on adopted children, adoptees rated their parents more favorably than did their non-adopted peers.