How to Adopt a Child: Qualifications and Approval

The process of how to adopt a child in the United States is a legal procedure involving the transfer of legal responsibilities and rights of a birth parent to her child, to the adoptive parents. The orders to execute legal adoption comes from the local court system as mostly governed by the laws in your state.

The government drafts the entire adoption process to ensure the welfare, protection, and safeguarding of adopted children.

According to statistics by Children’s Bureau (an Office of the administration for children and family, ACF.) 125,000 children were waiting to be adopted as in 2018, a year-on-year increase from the previous 7 years.

The major questions readers ask when they send us an email is:

  • how do I adopt a child
  • are there adoption agencies near me

This article will expose all you need to know about child adoption and more.

With that said, there are also basic federal guidelines that all the states have to comply with. Implementing this whole setup falls in the hands of the court system.


Central Premise of Adoption Laws

Child adoption laws in the United States are meant to look out for the adopted children and their future. Adoption is the service done for the child. It is not done primarily for the interest of the adoptive parents.

Consequently, state regulations require a rigorous process for transferring a child from one parent to another. Figuring out how to foster a child in your state involves, first and foremost, making sure that you are qualified to do so.

These regulations are not meant to give people a hard time. Rather, they are intended to ensure the adopted children are properly taken care of and raised within minimum standards and regulations by the prospective adoptive families. as required by every state.


Important Questions on How to Adopt a Child

You must first tackle particular vital questions before you can adopt a child. These matters will most typically involve concerns on eligibility. As also stated earlier, it varies from state to state. Since all agencies are not built equally, not all are capable of delivering in every state and city.

To Adopt with an Agency or Do it Yourself?

There are 2 major routes to every adoption, either you consult and hire a good adoption agency or you source for all requisite adoption forms and do it yourself. Each one has its merits and demerits, just like every effort in life.

Click here for a list of adoption agencies we recommend for our readers,
Want to do it yourself with adoption papers? Then click here.

Adoption Process

The Adoption Process can be overwhelming

  1. How old do you have to be to Adopt a Child?

Age requirements can vary significantly, as stated by recent documents from the Child Welfare Information Gateway. (the congressionally-mandated and funded information service of the United States Children’s Bureau; Administration for Children and Families, United States Department of Health and Human Services).

While some state adoption laws stipulate a minimum age of 18 for adoptive parents, others peg it at 21. A few other states set the bar at 25. Some have not stipulated any age limits.

However, in most states, you have to be at least 18 years older than the child you’re trying to adopt. For instance, if you plan to adopt a three-year-old toddler, you must be at least 21 years old. That is the minimum requirement.

It can be a problem if you are 25 years and trying to adopt a child who is 12 years old. The only way that can happen is if you are 30 years while filing for adoption.

Ensure that you check your local state adoption laws and regulations regarding the minimum age gap between the child and the prospective adoptive parents. There are slight variations to the age requirement across all 50 states.

1a. Over Age?

It’s instructive to mention here that there are a few states that may disallow prospective adoptive parents who are over a certain age.

Thankfully, the list of adoption agencies we recommend to our readers comes with state-specific age requirements. So these agencies already have this sorted out. Please click on your state of residence below to see state-specific requirements for child adoption.


  1. How does the Adoption Process start?

If you are in your mid-30s and thinking of putting up your baby for adoption, the process starts when you contact an adoption agency. The institution then acts as an intermediary who will facilitate the whole adoption process for you.

Keep in mind that the procedure can be complicated and lengthy because there’s a lot of paperwork to be accomplished. Also, you have to go through a mandatory counseling process. Different states have different regulations regarding this. You cannot circumvent this because it’s been put in place to ensure that you are entering into a decision that you have carefully thought through and considered.

It can be kind of confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time adoptive parent. For birth parents looking to put up a child for adoption, the whole process can be quite emotionally taxing on top of everything else.

If you are a divorced woman in your 30s and wish to adopt, you can submit your intent to an adoption agency to let them know that you are an adoptive parent to whom they can match a foster child. The same applies to married couples of different ages.

The key is to contact an adoption agency as a necessary first step. They will walk you through the process as they also find an adoptive child whom they can match with your particular preferences.  When they do, the prospective parents have to go through further screening.


  1. How long does the Adoption Process usually take?

The truth is, it depends on both parties: both the birth and adoptive parents. The fastest that it could take is a few months. For particularly complicated adoptions, it can take a few years.

Each case is unique because it’s the combination of different backgrounds for both the birth parents and the adoptive family. The parents giving up their child for adoption will go through a process to be clear about the rights that they are giving up regarding their child. On the other hand, the adoptive parents will also be rigorously checked for their background to evaluate their eligibility. The time table for this screening and assessment will vary from case to case and will impact how quickly the adopted child will be placed in their care, assuming they qualify at all.

3a. Parental Preferences

Also, if adoptive parents have specific preferences as to a child’s age, race, or whether they want to have contact with birth parents, this can add quite a bit of time to the whole adoption process. The matching involved will take into consideration all these things and the birth parents’ priorities in terms of the adoptive family of choice.

3b. Financial issues

Additionally, if they have budget constraints, this can also limit their ability to qualify for placement. Every step in the process will likely require funds, and if there is a difficulty securing this, the adoption will be delayed.

3c. Bureaucratic issues

There are also bureaucratic issues to keep in mind on top of all the requirements and procedures. There are several steps in the evaluation and assessment of the adoptive parents and birth parents putting up their child for adoption. The whole process is also under the supervision and strict governance of the relevant state authorities.

To say that there are going to be many eyes looking through your adoption paperwork would be an understatement indeed. This reality is why the guidance and facilitation of an adoption agency will prove to be worth every penny if you decide to go the adoption route.

  1. Adopting a Child from another country

There are variations of adoption. Generally speaking, adopting a child from within the United States can take quite a while, depending on what your preferences are.

On the other hand, if you wish to adopt a baby from another country, this is not necessarily a shortcut as far as the processing speed goes. In many cases, the opposite is exact since the waiting time substantially increases. This fact is due to the reality that the number of families giving their children up for adoption across countries has decreased over the years.

So, it partly depends on which country you are thinking of adopting a child from. Many nations have passed rules, regulations, and formal laws that give in-country adoption higher priority than putting children up for adoption by families outside of their lands.

If you are thinking about getting a child beyond the United States borders, think twice. It will likely be a long-winding process as you wait for the availability of adoptive children. However, it is not an impossible task as there are adoption agencies who are specialists in international adoptions. They assist parents who are bent on taking children from other nations.


  1. What does the Adoption Education Process involve?

Once you start the process by contacting an adoption agency, both parties (birth and adoptive parents) go through training and counseling.

5a. Parents rights

The counseling for birth parents involves a discussion about their rights and what they should expect once they place them. On the adoptive parents’ side, they are trained on what they should prepare for in the process. They also learn how long it would take, what kind of factors are involved, and how to proceed. It also means ensuring that they fill out the proper paperwork to comply with local and state rules.

5b. Home assessment

The adoption agency is required to also do a home study. It is a thorough assessment of the adoptive family, culture, environment, neighborhood, and lifestyle as a family unit. When the agency has generated a comprehensive evaluation of the family based on several home studies, accomplishing all the necessary documentation ensues. There are legal procedures to be followed, and the adoptive family has to wait for the agency to achieve a good match.

The final word for any adoption comes, of course, from the government. Most states require a court order for approval to be definitive and completely legal.


    6. Must I be married to adopt a child?

The adoption agency used and state of residence are two serious determinant factors in adopting a child as an unmarried person. Some state laws stipulate couples be married for a certain number of years to qualify for adoption. We have in our adoption recommendation database, agencies that specialize in securing adoptions for both the married and unmarried.


    7. Can Single Parents Adopt a Child?

Sure yes! So long as they meet other requirements stipulated above, there is nothing that should stop single parents from adopting a child in all 50 states. However, it’s necessary to inform your agency that you are a single parent.

While there are specialist single parent adoption agencies, you must not settle for them if you don’t feel like. There are pros and cons involved. Providing the necessary information makes things a lot easier for all parties. For one, it enables the agency to keep the facts handy while working for you to adopt a daughter or son.

Child adoption

    8. Adoption by gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people

LGBTQ couples can adopt jointly in all 50 states usually in the form of joint adoption. This unification came as a result of several rulings by the US Supreme Court.

However, there are states that are legislating on making it easier for organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexuality. This simply translates that, whereas you are within the laws to adopt as an LGBTQ person or couple, you may be refused service by a private organization or agency.

However, be aware there are adoption agencies that are LGBTQ-friendly, and we have them in our recommendation list also.


    9. What will disqualify you as an Adoptive Parent?

Since there is an extensive background check involved, if you are found to be ill-equipped to take care of a child, your request for adoption will be denied. It generally takes the form of a criminal record or a history of child abuse.

Let is be stated here also, that successful adoptions can also be terminated. ACF stated that in 2018 alone, the parental rights of 71,000 adoptive parents were terminated.

9a. Health issues

Other disqualifying factors involve health issues that you may have. It includes both physical as well as mental health. If you have an emotional condition, like instability or mental health issues, you may be disqualified as an adoptive parent.

9b. Financial ability

They will review your finances as well. The state is going to determine whether you are financially capable of supporting your new child.

9c. Lifestyle

Another discrediting factor that can vary from case to case involves lifestyle issues. If the adoption agency or the government authority in charge of the process determines that you have a lifestyle that may pose a risk to your prospective child, this may also prohibit you from adopting a child.

All of these are not meant to restrict anyone who has the best intentions in adopting a child. However, they are meant to make ensure the best interest of the adoptees. As mentioned earlier, the rules and regulations governing all the procedures are to ascertain that every adopted child is the most that will benefit from his placement with an adoptive family.



As adoptive parents, the most burden lies on your shoulders since you are the very people who will take responsibility for the life of the child until he comes of age and becomes independent. This obligation is a huge task and is not taken lightly. As a result, there are certain qualifications that you need to meet and specific factors that rule you out as eligible parents who have the purpose of looking after every adopted child’s welfare.

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How to Adopt a Child

  • The entire adoption processes are made to ensure the wellbeing of adopted children.
  • While a majority of adoption laws are state-specific, there are basic federal laws that all states are bound to incorporate into their own laws.
  • Adoptive parents are required to be a minimum of 18 years and at least 19 to 25 years older than a child to be adopted.
  • The adoption process starts by contacting an agent who acts as a facilitator.
  • Issues like parental Preferences, financial ability, and bureaucracy can cause child adoption to linger between a few months to years.
  • International adoption can even take longer as nations tighten their cross-border adoption laws.
  • Both birth and adoptive parents will undergo mandatory counseling to know their rights, obligations, and requirements by law.
  • The home of the adoptive parents will also be assessed to ensure it poses no risk to the child.
  • No, you must not be married, single parents can also adopt a child.
  • Yes, LGBTQ people are also allowed to adopt, though some agencies may refuse them service.
  • Health challenges, financial incapability, and an untoward lifestyle may lead to refusal of child adoption.
Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.


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