Adoption is a legal process in which all-parental rights and responsibilities are transferred from one set of parents to a couple or individual who has agreed to assume those rights and responsibilities. Adoption is an opportunity to provide a stable environment and a loving family for a child in need.
The process of adoption is not governed by a single set of national laws or guidelines. Adoption laws vary from state to state, and adoption groups and agencies may have different policies and guidelines as well.
Be prepared to ask questions and get as much detailed information as possible from the very beginning of your journey, and be flexible as you move through the process. There is no one route for families to follow on their way to becoming adoptive parents.
There are several ways in which you can complete your adoption. You can:
- Use a public agency
- Use a private agency
- Use an attorney or other intermediary
Adopting through an agency is the most traditional route to finding a child. A public agency is the local branch of your state’s or county’s social service department. Many private agencies have religious affiliations, but this does not mean that they work exclusively with families of that religion. Public and private agencies retain custody of children who are awaiting adoption, if the birth parent has not selected an adoptive family before relinquishing parental rights.
Sometimes, adoptions can be arranged without an agency between a pregnant woman and the adoptive parents, or through an intermediary, such as an attorney. If you elect to use a lawyer or intermediary, make certain you feel confident in their ethics and their knowledge of adoption law.
State laws govern the process of adopting a child and these laws vary across the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a National Adoption Information Clearinghouse which provides a directory of adoption agencies, support groups, and statewide services and other helpful information such as legal considerations for adoption.
Contact the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse with any questions:
National Adoption Information Clearinghouse
330 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20447
Phone: or (888) 251-0075