Resources to Guide Your Adoption Journey

No matter where you are on your adoption journey, you may have a lot of questions.

Below you’ll find a collection of resources that will help you understand the adoption process, how the foster care system works, and how to adopt from foster care in your state.

Adoption Center’s Resources

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Two mothers hug their adopted daughter
Adoption 101

Adoption Glossary

Get a complete glossary of adoption-related terms and acronyms.

two parents teach their adopted child how to ride a bike
Adoption 101

Financing Adoption

Learn how to finance an adoption and discover available resources that may help cover adoption costs.

Two parents lay on a picnic blanket with their adopted daughter
Adoption 101

Who Can Adopt?

Get information about who can adopt and general qualifications of adoptive parents.

A family of two parents and two children make sandwiches together at a kitchen counter
Foster Care 101

What is Foster Care?

Understand what foster care is, how it works, and how you can adopt a child from foster care.

Two parents take a selfie with their adopted son
Adoption 101

Types of Adoption

Learn about the types of adoption, the difference between open and closed adoptions, and how to adopt members of your family.

A smiling multi racial family sits in the park with their adopted daughter
Adoption 101

Adoption Laws

Learn about the different adoption laws and how they may affect your adoption journey.

A multi racial family walks along the beach holding hands
Adoption 101

10 Steps to Adoption

Understand the main steps involved in the adoption process, including how to find an adoption agency and what to expect during your adoption home study.

Adopting from Foster Care in Your State

Foster systems are managed by state governments so each state’s process is a little different. Here are a few resources to help you understand your state’s process.

If you have a question about the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or Delaware foster care and adoption systems, we’re happy to help. Just head to our contact page and drop us a note.

Frequently Asked Questions About Adoption

General Questions

What services are available before adoption?

During the preparation for adoption, as you complete your home study, an agency social worker counsels you and provides information and support. Sometimes social workers will refer families to special interest groups for a particular child's needs. They may also provide information on adoptive parent support groups. These may be general or specific to a certain type of child or family.  

Family preparation classes are offered by some agencies and required by others. Our Foster Family to Forever Family course is available at Adoption Learning Partners.

What services are available after adoption?

After placement, many agencies offer post-adoption services. These can include support groups, individual and family counseling, workshops on specific parenting topics, and ongoing contact with your social worker. If a child was receiving therapy or special schooling before the adoption, those services will usually continue. Your workplace may also offer referrals for needed services through an employee assistance program.

What is a home study?

A home study is a series of meetings with a social worker to provide more in-depth information about adoption and help prepare an applicant for parenting an adopted child. The home study process varies from agency to agency. Some conduct individual and joint interviews with both members of a couple; others conduct group home studies with several families at one time. Most ask applicants to provide written information about themselves and their life experiences.

Agencies also require certain documents: a marriage license, birth certificate, medical report, criminal check, and child abuse clearance. Personal character references are often requested. The home study includes at least one visit to your home by an agency worker. The time it takes to complete the home study will vary from one agency to another, but families who are interested in children with special needs are usually given prompt attention.

How long does the adoption process take?

The adoption process can take anywhere from a few months to several years.

There are two stages in the adoption process: pre-placement and post-placement. Placement is when the child enters your home. Pre-placement describes the time before and post-placement the time after.

There is a pre-placement waiting period for all adoptions. The time frame varies with the type of adoption you're pursuing and depends on how quickly you finish your home study. With a completed home study in hand, the process to adopt a child with special needs can often proceed quickly and be completed within a few months. The wait to adopt a healthy infant is typically between two and seven years.

After placement, your agency will supervise your family for a legally-mandated length of time before your adoption can be finalized. This post-placement time period is generally no less than six months from the time of placement.

How can I meet other adoptive families?

Your social worker may be able to connect you with other adoptive parents or an adoptive parent support group in your area. Some agencies will pair a waiting family with a "buddy" family who has already adopted a child with similar circumstances. Others sponsor their own parent groups. The North American Council on Adoptable Children provides a searchable database of parent support groups throughout the United States and Canada. Select Post-Adoption Services on their website at You can also meet other families online.

How does the adoption process work?

How the adoption process works depends on your state and the types of adoption you’re exploring. No matter where you are or who you want to adopt, you'll need to work with an adoption agency, complete a home study, apply to adopt a child, wait to be selected, meet the child, receive a placement, and finalize the adoption. You can learn more about the adoption process here.

How can I begin the adoption process?

This guide provides an overview of the adoption process. Here are some tips to help you get started with the first few steps.

  • Visit our online course on family preparation.
  • Contact us for an information packet, sent by e-mail, including a list of adoption agencies in your state.
  • Call several agencies on the list and ask them to give you information about their programs.
  • Select an adoption agency to help you complete a home study.
  • Connect with a parent support group in your area.
  • Visit libraries or search online to read books and magazines on adoption.
  • In addition to the adoption agency you will be working with, you may contact other adoption resources to learn about available children.
How can I adopt an infant?

You have a number of options available for adopting infants or toddlers, especially if you're open to adopting children of a different race or with disabilities. They include agency adoption (both public and private), private adoption, identified adoption, inter-country adoption, and foster adoption. You can learn more about the types of adoption here.

Whatever option you choose, you will need to complete the home study process to be eligible to adopt. We suggest that you contact a number of agencies to learn about their procedures for approving families for adoption. Here's more information about the adoption process.

Can my spouse adopt my child?

For this type of adoption, begin by contacting an attorney. You can find one through your local bar association, by searching the internet, or by contacting the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys at 202-832-2222 or

Can I adopt a child in a different state?

Yes. The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) removes geographic barriers to adoption by requiring that states not delay or deny a placement if an approved family is available outside the state.

Can I ask for more information about the child I want to adopt?

Most children's agencies can provide more information about a child than they're able to include on a flyer, newspaper article, or website description. However, some of the child's information is considered confidential, and workers may want to share it only with those families they are seriously considering as adoptive parents.

Once you have been selected for a particular child, adoption agencies are required to share with you any information they have about the child, with the exception of identifying information about the birth family. Unfortunately, they may not always have a great deal of information, especially if a child has lived in several foster homes. It's important to ask for whatever is available, including medical reports, results of psychological or educational testing, and information about early development.

Can the biological parents come back to take the child?

In order for a child to be adopted, the birth parents have to relinquish legal parental rights. With most agency adoptions, a child is already legally free for adoption before a placement occurs. While cases where a parent changes their mind are highly publicized, they don't happen very often. Once the adoption has been finalized, the biological parents have no legal tie to the child.

Who are the children in foster care that are ready for adoption?

About 120,000 children in the US need permanent homes. Most children ready for adoption live in foster or group homes because their parents were unable to care for them. Some of these children have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. Most are school-aged or older. Some are also siblings who need to stay together.

How does foster care differ from adoption?

Foster care is meant to be an alternative shelter for a child when the parents are unable to provide care. If the child can't return home, their case manager works to put together a plan to help them find a new home. Adoption is often a great option.

Foster parents may be able to adopt eligible children in their care through a foster-adopt program with their agency. Most adoptions in the United States are by children's foster parents. Starting as a foster parent is also one way that you may be able to adopt a child, but you are not required to be a foster parent in order to adopt.

While some agencies approve a family simultaneously for both foster care and adoption, a foster care home study and an adoption home study are not always interchangeable. If you're thinking about foster-adoption, it's important to inquire how your agency handles this.  

If you wish to become a foster parent, the National Foster Parent Association may be able to help.


What will it cost to adopt?

Costs of adopting a healthy infant through a private agency or attorney in the US range from several hundred dollars to $30,000 or more. Inter-country adoptions are also costly. Families pay between $10,000 and $20,000 in fees, which may not include travel and living expenses while in the foreign country.

It's not costly to adopt a child from foster care. Often the agency has a sliding fee scale, and frequently there is little or no cost. Following the adoption, children may receive subsidies to cover the medical and other necessary expenses, although the family is still likely to incur other costs, over the years, as they raise their child.

You can get more information about financing adoption here.

Is there financial assistance to help me adopt?

Under both state and federal assistance programs, adoptive parents of children with special needs are eligible for a one-time payment of non-recurring adoption expenses. Such expenses include reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, and other expenses.

A growing number of companies and government agencies are offering adoption benefits. These may include a financial reimbursement for legal expenses, agency fees, medical expenses, post-adoption counseling, and other expenses, as well as paid or unpaid leave time and help finding resources and referrals. Check with your employer to find out your company's policies.

Loans and travel assistance may also be available through banks or travel agencies. For more information on loans and grants, you may want to contact the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) at 800-470-6665 or

Learn more about financing adoption here.

Is there a tax credit for people who adopt?

Federal legislation increases tax credits and exclusions for all adoptive families. The Hope for Children Act provides an adoption tax credit of $10,000 for all adoptions from 2002 and thereafter, and a tax exclusion of up to $10,000 for employer-provided adoption benefits, effective in 2003. Learn more about tax benefits for adoptive parents by visiting the IRS.

Can I receive financial assistance after adoption?

A child's eligibility for adoption assistance is based on the child's need and not that of the adoptive parents. Most children with special needs are eligible for financial assistance, also called subsidies. Sources of assistance may be federal or state funds. It's important to discuss subsidies with your social worker and local social services department and to have a written adoption assistance agreement prior to adoption. Many children also receive Medicaid medical assistance.

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