Having spent over a decade guiding families through their journey of adopting a child, I know how much information is out there. Even after all these years working as an adoption program director at a private international and domestic adoption agency, I still find myself learning something new every day.

If you’re brand new to the idea of adopting a child, one Google search can send you into information overload. If adoption is something you have been considering, know that you do not need to go into it knowing it all! By breaking your research and decisions down piece by piece, the process of getting started will feel far less overwhelming.

Private adoption vs. adopting through the state

The first thing to consider is whether you want to do a private adoption through an agency or attorney, or an adoption through the state. Private adoption and adopting through your state’s foster care system are completely different. Each has its own separate process, so it’s important to know first which route you want to take. To learn more about adopting through the state, read through the adoption section of your state’s web page to see if it is right for you (for Massachusetts, click here). 

Domestic vs. international

If you do choose private adoption, another consideration is whether to adopt domestically — within the US — or internationally. One of the biggest differences between the two is the age of the children eligible to be adopted. Children available internationally are typically over the age of 2. Most domestic adoptions are of newborns. Also, there is almost always birth parent involvement in a domestic adoption, whereas closed adoptions are more common when you go international. Rather than researching various countries or looking at attorneys and agencies, direct your research next to the general differences between domestic and international adoption. Once you have made that basic decision, you can decide on the details.

Choose a home study agency

The next point of research is finding a home study that is licensed in your state. A home study is legally required for all adoptions. It is twofold. First, it allows a social worker to determine that the parents will offer a safe, stable, and loving home. It also allows the family to get all their questions answered, learn more about the adoption process, and learn about parenting an adopted child. To get started on a home study, you do not have to have made every decision. Though you will need to have those details in place before the home study can be completed, you just need to know that you want to adopt in order to get started. Your social worker may even be able to help you make detailed decisions as they get to know your family.

Breaking these decisions down will help make getting started a little less overwhelming. It also helps to talk to friends and family who have adopted, or meet with an agency to gather information. Whichever path you take, somehow children have a way of ending up with the family that is meant to be theirs.