Adopting A Baby: A Complete Checklist For Prospective Parents

This guest post is by Paige Knipfer, an adoptive mother.

When I started the process of adopting a baby, I wish I would have had a checklist.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a checklist girl. I love my lists and Post-its! 

Adopting a baby is hard because it feels like you have no control. And the truth is, you really don’t. 

Having a list would have given me a clear picture of what I needed to do and when I needed to do it. 

Although it’s too late for me, I hope that this step-by-step checklist that I put together after we adopted will help give you some semblance of control as you navigate your journey through private domestic adoption. 


1. Choose an agency or attorney

Tip: Do your research and make sure you like and trust your case manager or lawyer. Keep in mind that independent adoption—working through an attorney—is illegal in some states.

Questions to ask:

  • How many couples do you match in a year?
  • What is your policy if the match fails regarding fees?
  • How many failed matches have you had?
  • What’s your background, why do you work or own an adoption agency?
  • What are your requirements for the home study?

Many couples in the U.S. are matched within a year (after the home study is complete), although the majority of placements occur within two years.

2. Complete the home study

  • This consists of a lot of paperwork
  • 18 hours of parenting classes
  • Fingerprinting (be persistent and go to a police station that has a machine instead of ink)
  • Tax records
  • References (it might be nice to get a couple of letters of recommendation too. You can use these in your scholarship applications and parts could be used in your profile).
  • Autobiography
  • Medical physical form from your doctor
  • Proof of employment, insurance (home and vehicle), proof of shots for your pets, marriage, etc.
  • Interviews together, separately, and home inspection

The average couple takes 6 months to complete this stage. (We completed it in a month). The average cost, according to, is $1000-$3,000. We paid $2500.

3. Apply for any and every grant or scholarship you qualify for

There are definitely more scholarships for international and special needs adoption. Also, if you have a religious affiliation, inquire about specific scholarships through your church. We received a $9,000 grant from (We didn’t get it the first time we applied but we did get it the second time. So be persistent).

4. Create a fundraising and/or a GoFundMe page

This would also be a good time to see if your employer offers any adoption assistance or financial matching. If they don’t I encourage you to advocate. Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has a lot of great ideas and key points to start this conversation.

There are also a ton of fundraising ideas for adoption on Pinterest. One of my favorites is Gobena coffee: for every bag of coffee you sell you get $4 towards your adoption (and the coffee is good!) Also know that you cannot qualify for short-term disability through FMLA leave because you have not given birth.

5. Create your adoption profile

Contact a company to create and work on your adoption profile. In my opinion, it’s totally worth it to pay someone to do this for you. Have an idea of what you want to say to a potential birth mom, what sets you apart or makes you unique/different. I did a rough outline on a word document.

Also, have some photos in mind (especially ones with other kids if you can). Send the designer pieces of your autobiography (from the home study) especially when you write about each other as a couple/individual. Your designer should be able to guide you through the process.

6. Contact facilitators

Facilitators help connect hopeful parents with expectant mothers considering adoption. They can help you find a match quicker but you need to careful because there are a lot of very unprofessional facilitators. Also, in some states they’re illegal.

Some facilitators will charge a small fee upfront like $100. Just pay it. Once a match occurs, they will charge an additional $1000-$2,500. If you want a quicker match, it’s worth it.

7. Share your profile

Do it anywhere and everywhere, if you’re comfortable. Honestly, it was nice to get support from family and friends and comments on Facebook etc.

8. Get the baby’s room ready

I found getting nursery ready therapeutic and helpful. I know some don’t.  They find it uncomfortable or don’t want to jinx things. It gave me hope that someday having a baby would happen. Plus, since you can get a call at any time, it’s nice to be prepared!

9. Get “the call” and be matched

In an open adoption, you have the possibility of talking with the prospective birth mom and working with her agency or professionals to finalize the paperwork and start paying fees. We made several payments to the agency (about $5,000 a payment and over $15,000 total).

You will also need to find an attorney to complete the legal work. (We paid our lawyer about $4,500 total which is pretty high, compared to the average attorney’s costs). If the adoption is out of state your agency should be able to help you find an out of state lawyer.

  • Tip: Make sure the match feels right. I know it’s easy to just say yes because you desperately want it work out but don’t compromise on something you’re not willing to live with or follow through on in the future  (e.g. medical issues, openness issues, etc.).
  • If the agency owner/lawyer tries to coach you in any way on what to say, walk away. I’m a big believer that a match will be meant to be when it is. But you need to make sure it’s genuine.
  • Carefully read all the forms you are signing with the agency/lawyer and make sure you understand them. It’s ok to ask questions and each agency will have its own policies you should be aware of.

Payment range from $20,000-$40,000. The average total cost is $28,000.

10. Announce your news family and friends

If you’re comfortable doing it. Some couples will decide not to share the news until the adoption is finalized. We couldn’t do that. Even if the match failed we wanted our family and friends to share in our joy (and sorrow, if it happened).

We made fortune cookies (actually easier than you think via YouTube video) to tell our family and friends in a fun way. Who says adoption can’t be fun?

11. Have a baby shower (or multiple ones) and celebrate!

Again, whether you have it before the baby arrives or afterwards is up to you. Either way, an adoption baby shower is a great opportunity to introduce your child to your family and friends and welcome him or her into your home. In addition to our baby shower, a friend of ours also put on one for us.

Regardless of whether your child’s birthmother takes part in the event, it’s important to support her during this time and build a good relationship.

12. Count down/pack/prepare for baby

Get those final baby items. Pack if you need to travel or go out of the state. Book your flights/hotel etc. Do research about where you are going.

13. Birth of baby

Enjoy. Try to be in the moment. Take pictures. It will be hard because you will want to guard your heart in case the birth mom changes her mind. Try not to worry or stress out about things you can’t control.

14. Court hearing

Make sure to get the adoption decree. Your lawyer should prepare you with questions beforehand and have all your paperwork ready. The date when this will take place will depend on the state you adopt from.

15. Get documents for baby

Get the baby’s medical information transferred to your current provider and apply for a new social security card. Again, your lawyer should be able to assist you with this.

16. Apply for Adoption Tax Credit

Most places will charge you several hundreds of dollars to do your taxes. We used Turbo tax and bought the extra insurance. From our social security number, it recognized right away that we had adopted. Be sure to keep records and receipts of all adoption payments. The credit can be broken up into several years but altogether you should get back about $13,000.

I hope this checklist helps. If I could add another item to this list I would say find others who have gone through the experience of adopting a baby, whether they be family, friends or co-workers.

Also, seek out articles and support groups where you live. I found it very helpful to find other people I could relate to, vent to, and ask for guidance. It’s always nice to get another perspective, and to this day I’m still close to many of these people.

Paige Knipfer is a trainer for a financial institution, an adoptive mom, wife, mentor to a high school student, volunteer, and avid traveler (Semester at Sea alumni). She loves to share her adoption experiences and assist anyone interested in learning more about the process @PaigeKnipfer.

Photo Credit: Abby Tindale, MaeFlower Photography

Do you have an open adoption story? Email us or find out more about how to share it with our community.

Help us remove the stigma surrounding open adoption. Like us on Facebook.