Understanding the Adoption Process

At Progyny, we understand there are many ways to have a family, and for many, adoption may be the chosen path. About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year and 1/3 of Americans have considered adoption as their pathway to parenthood. Understanding the adoption process can be confusing, but we break it down for you below.

Types of Adoption

Whether you are considering adoption to build your family or have already started the process, it is important to explore which path is right for you and your family. Adoption can be a complicated and expensive process, and the length of time it may take to match with a child will on depend on the type of adoption. Depending on the state you live in or what adoption agency you use, you may also have to factor in age and marital status, as well as your sexual orientation. For more information on LGBTQ adoptions see here.

Whether you choose a private domestic adoption of a newborn; international adoption of an infant, toddler, or adolescent; or foster to adopt at all ages, it is important to consider:

  • Age of the child you would like to adopt
  • Health history of the child
  • Prenatal care and habits of the birth mother
  • State laws regarding the termination of birth parents’ rights
  • Waiting time until the child is in your home
  • Openness of relationship after the adoption is finalized (open or closed adoption)
  • Estimated out of pocket costs

It’s important to note that although international adoptions were very popular, they’ve become much rarer as countries have made the process harder or banned it outright. In 2004, at its peak, 22,986 children were adopted from overseas versus only 2,971 in 2019. Additionally, international adoptions can be impacted by travel bans or restrictions, most recently related to COVID-19. If adopting from overseas, look into whether the country is Hague Convention partner, which aims to protect children and safeguard adoptions.

If you are Progyny member, contact your Patient Care Advocate (PCA) for more information on your options and the adoption process.

Starting Your Journey: Choosing an Adoption Agency or Attorney

Once you’ve decided adoption is right for you and your family, the first step is finding an agency or lawyer.

It’s important to find a fully licensed institution that is the right fit for you. Remember, adoption agencies should always put the needs of the child first. Finding the right agency can be difficult but it’s important to consider what you want from your agency. Here are some questions to ask when exploring an adoption agency and attorney.

Compliance with State Regulations

These questions can help you decide if the professional or agency is established in their practice and up to date with state regulations.

  • Is there an attorney on staff who is licensed by the state bar?
  • For agencies (which are held to a lower standard than law centers/firms), is there a person from the State’s Department of Social Services on staff? If not, what is the organization’s relationship to the Department of Social Services?
  • Independently, you should check to see if the adoption entity has a negative record with the state bar or Department of Social Services.

Fees and Expenses:

Use these questions to determine the cost of adoption and if the adoption entity has any un-advertised, hidden costs.

  • How much will the entire process cost? Do you pay everything up front, or will there be additional charges as you progress through the adoption process?
  • Is everything absolutely free for the birth parents? How much will you have to pay for the birth mother’s expenses, on average?
  • Are the costs required of the adoptive family on a sliding scale based on income, or are they a flat rate for everyone across the board?
  • Is there a fee for the home study?
  • Do they supply a breakdown of all fees and costs of the program prior to engagement?


Some or all of the things listed below could be a consideration with some adoption entities, so make sure you understand whether you are eligible to adopt with them, or whether you might have to undergo a longer wait time as a result of any of these factors. You should also ask about the screening procedures adoptive families must go through, as they usually vary at least slightly from organization to organization.

Are you eligible to adopt, given your:

  • Socio-economic status?
  • Status as a newly married couple?
  • Status as partnered but not married?
  • Status as a single parent?
  • Age?
  • Gender identities and/or expressions?
  • History of serious diseases or illnesses?
  • Religious identity?
  • Military status?

The Wait List

Learn how you can gauge the time you may have to prepare for your new child physically, mentally, and financially.

  • What does the waiting list look like?
  • How long does one typically have to wait before even being considered?
  • How is this waitlist managed and how often is it updated?

Open vs. Closed Adoption

Understand whether an open adoption (contact with the birth parents) or closed adoption (no contact with the birth parents), may be the best option for you and your family.

  • Do you offer open adoptions, closed adoptions or both?
  • To what extent does the adoption entity facilitate the relationship the birth parents can have with the adoptive families? 

The Child

Asking specific questions about the child can help you better prepare physically and mentally for their highly anticipated arrival.

  • Will you be able to choose the sex, race, or age of the child?
  • If adopting a child who has already been born, do you get to choose the age of the child?
  • Is adopting a child with special needs an option for you?
  • Would you be interested in adoption siblings or just one child?

The Birth Parents

Knowing basic information about the birth parents can help you better choose whether to agree to an opportunity and to better prepare your home for the child.

  • How does the adoption entity find birth parents?
  • How are they taken care of prior to the adoption process? Are they given post- adoption support as well?
  • How are birth mothers evaluated?
  • How are birth mothers matched with adoptive families?
  • What happens if you decline an adoption opportunity?
  • What happens if a birth mother changes her mind?


Counseling can help ease the tensions often found in adoption, such as commitment issues, financial stress, and emotional wellness. Ensuring that your professional has these resources available to you makes the adoption process healthier for everyone.

  • What counseling services do you offer? What is the cost to birth parents (if any) and is it available for adopting families as well?
  • What are the qualifications of the available counselors?
  • Does the counseling offered to the birth mother extend to options outside of adoption?


Communication is the number one way to ensure a good relationship. Keeping a connection with both the birth parents and your adoption professional is essential for a happy and successful adoption.

  • Can the birth parents get into contact with the adoption entity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in case of emergency?
  • How often can you expect to communicate with the birth parents and with the adoption entity? How frequently will you get updates about the status of the matching process?
  • What is their preferred means of communication, and how long does it usually take to get a response?

There are many factors to consider when choosing to adopt and finding the right support is key to navigating the process. Today, many employers offer even adoption reimbursement programs to cover some of the costs of the adoption process. Reach out to your HR team or dedicated Progyny PCA to learn more, or learn how you can advocate for stronger family building benefits within your own organization.

Additional Resources

Adoption is confusing and understanding the adoption process can be difficult. If you’re a Progyny member, your dedicated PCA can help guide you through and answer any questions you have. If you’d like to read further, check out the resources below:

Help Us Adopt


Creating a Family