Adoptive Families, the award-winning national adoption magazine, is the leading adoption information source for families before, during, and after adoption.


The Adoption Process

The timeline below walks you through the practical process of adopting a child, from making the decision to finalizing your new family. Click on the links within the chart to learn much more about each step.

Please note, the time frames indicated in the chart below are averages only. You may take much more or less time at each step, especially during your initial research and decision-making period.


Timing Objective Tasks Finance

1-3 Months

Learn about adoption


3-6 Months

Make preliminary decision about type of adoption

Understand financial implications of types of adoption. See sample budgets on the Sample Adoption Budgets page, and check out AF's guide to financing adoption.

6-9 Months

Complete homestudy

  • Discuss homestudy questions with your spouse/partner/family members.
  • Collect documents (references, birth certificates, tax returns, marriage certificate, divorce documents)
  • Work with your homestudy provider on tasks specific to his or her process.

0-$200 for copies of documents. $750-$3,000 for the homestudy fee.

Start steps to be matched with a child

Typically one-third to one-half of parent preparation fee due at start of homestudy, half due at end. With international, visa and documentation fees average $1,500-3,000. If agency adoption, half of child placement fee is due at this time.

9-36 Months

Receive child referral (international) or birthmother selection (domestic)

  • Arrange for referral documentation review by adoption medicine specialist. Find out what questions to ask and signs to look for with our guide to adoption medicine.
  • If independent, make arrangements for payment of birthmother expenses, per your arrangement and as allowed by state law. Make payment arrangements with medical providers.

If agency, final half of child placement fee due now. Birthmother's medical, legal, living and/or counseling expenses will be paid from this time until the birth of the baby.

12-40 Months

Placement of child or birth of baby

Outstanding agency fees, if any, and travel expenses, if any, due now. International fees and expenses due now. If independent, birthmother's hospital expenses due now (baby's medical expenses likely covered by your medical insurance).

18-30 Months

Finalization of adoption (domestic newborn or foster)

  • Arrange for post-placement reports, as required.
  • Select attorney for final court hearing, or learn how to represent yourself.

If foster adopt, assure that adoption assistance agreement is in place before finalization and check the availability in your state of reimbursement for one-time expenses. Post-placement fees average $300-$1,000; finalization costs with attorney are typically $500-$2,000.

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