What to Know About Domestic Infant Adoption

Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on May 04, 2022

There are many different kinds of adoption in the U.S., one of them being domestic infant adoption. It’s also known as domestic adoption or birth mother relinquishment adoption. If you’re considering adopting a baby, here’s what you need to know about this type of adoption.

What Is Domestic Infant Adoption?

In the United States. the most widely known kind of adoption is domestic infant adoption. This is when the birth mother or parents voluntarily give up their parental rights and agree to place their child in the home of an adoptive family. Birth parents can give their parental rights over to:

  • Adoption service providers
  • Public adoption agencies
  • Private adoption agencies
  • An attorney

In this kind of adoption, both the baby and the prospective parents are living in the U.S., rather than the baby being adopted from a foreign country. In most infant adoptions, the birth mother or parents choose the adoptive parents for their baby.

Most of the domestic infant adoptions that take place today are somewhat open, if not completely open. In open adoptions, the birth parents keep in contact with the child and adoptive family throughout the child’s lifetime. Both families have to sign a contract agreeing to the degree of openness and the terms of the adoption. This enforceable contract is called a post-placement contact agreement.

Closed adoptions, or adoptions where the birth family has no contact with the child after the adoption, are on the decline. In recent decades, after research and study, behavioral experts agree that keeping an open relationship between the birth and adoptive families is much more beneficial for both the child and the birth parents.

Who Can Adopt a Baby?

When it comes to baby adoption, each state has its own laws that specify who is eligible to adopt. Generally speaking though, any single adult or married couple has the potential to be eligible to adopt. In some states, there are no more requirements beyond this. Other states have more specific qualifications.

Adoption agencies and services work hard to make sure that babies are placed with loving families. This means that families can be of any race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Single parents and same-sex couples are given the same consideration as heterosexual married couples.

At what age can you adopt a child? Depending on where you live, there could be an age requirement for adoptive parents, so it’s best to consult specific information for your state. In seven states and Puerto Rico, the minimum age to adopt an infant is only 18 years old. In Colorado, Oklahoma, and Delaware, you must be at least 21 years old. Georgia and Idaho state that adoptive parents must be at least 25.

What to Know About Domestic Infant Adoption

The process for adopting a baby is different depending on the agency or program and the state where you live, so it’s important to get specific information if you’re considering a domestic infant adoption or placing your baby in an adoptive home.

One thing to note is that the number of babies being placed for domestic infant adoption has decreased over the years. In most cases, there are more adoptive parents waiting for a baby than there are infants that are available to adopt. If you’re considering a domestic infant adoption, know that the waiting period can be quite lengthy.

Private domestic infant adoption is less common than international adoption or adoption through foster care. There’s no exact count, but it’s estimated that there are only between 10,000 and 20,000 private domestic infant adoptions each year. Experts think that reasons for the decline in infant adoptions could be due to the changes in attitudes towards single motherhood or the availability of effective options when it comes to contraception.

Adoptions through foster care are federally regulated, whereas domestic infant adoptions are overseen by the state. This means that there isn’t as much data available as there is when it comes to other kinds of adoptions, and there isn’t as much oversight. It’s important to look carefully into agencies or attorneys when beginning the domestic infant adoption process to avoid exploitative practices that some online agencies may use.

How to Adopt a Baby

Beginning the adoption process will look different depending on the kind of agency that you choose and where you’re located. However, these are some basic guidelines about what you can expect.

Creating a profile. Many agencies will ask adoptive parents to create an adoptive parent profile. This is a portfolio that is also referred to as a “Dear Birthmother Letter” that lets birth mothers learn more about prospective parents. These profiles contain basic information, photos, and a statement about why the family wants to adopt a child. These profiles are really helpful when a birth mother is deciding with whom to place her child.

Applications, interviews, and home studies. If adopting through an agency or service, you will likely have to go through an application process that involves interviews. Some agencies also require adoptive parents to take the U.S. Infant Adoption training course. This 12-hour course provides information to adoptive parents on a variety of helpful topics, including:

  • Creating a relationship with the birth parents
  • The legal process
  • Attachment styles and issues that can arise
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Grief and loss
  • Interactive adoption panels

Next, there will be a home study. The purpose of the home study is to evaluate the prospective parents so that the adoption agency can better understand their home life and suitability for a birth family. The caseworkers associated with the adoption agency gather information about the family to make sure that the home is fully prepared to meet the new baby’s needs.

Fees. Domestic infant adoption is a big financial commitment as there are several fees outside of medical and adoption assistance. The cost can vary greatly depending on the agency or attorney used, the services provided by the agency, and if any travel is involved. The average cost of an independent domestic adoption through an attorney is $38,000. The average cost of an adoption through an adoption agency is around $43,000. Some agencies may charge on a sliding scale that’s based on your income.

Show Sources


Adoptions Together: “Domestic Infant Adoption.”

Child Welfare Information Gateway: “Adopting Infants Domestically Through a Licensed Private Agency or an Attorney (Independent Adoption.”, “The Adoption Home Study Process.”, “Who May Adopt, Be Adopted, or Place a Child for Adoption?”

Creating a Family: “Domestic Infant Adoption.”

Mathematica: “It’s the Wild West: Private Domestic Infant Adoption in 2020.”

MN Adopt: “Adoption: Getting Started.”

A New Beginning: “Infant Adoption.”

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