As an expectant parent, there are many questions you might have while considering adoption. How does adopting a child work? Where do I start? Who do I talk to? Do I need money? If so, how much? How will members of my family feel? How will I feel?

When you want something of great worth or of value to you, you will go to any lengths to find it. There may be hurdles to jump, tunnels to crawl through, or mountains to climb to reach your final destination. When considering placing a child for adoption, the journey can be both long and rewarding. In this case, the ultimate goal is finding a loving, caring family for your baby. There are several steps required to ensure the legality of the process and to ensure, as much as possible, the happiness and contentment of everyone involved.

Let’s Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Let’s look at it like a scavenger hunt. When you start the “game,” you have a goal in mind: to find the treasure at the end. You rarely take your eye off the goal and will continue to move along until you reach it. At the first stop, you will receive a clue. In order to advance, you must meet the requirements at each destination along the way. Of course, the circumstances will be different for each person on this journey. Some steps may take longer to complete than others. That’s okay. You may even stray off the path for a time while you consider your options. That’s okay too. Remember, this is a life-changing event that will affect a lot of people. Making a decision like this is not an easy task. So here we go!

Clue #1

Facing the challenge of an unplanned pregnancy. What are your options? In today’s society, there are several choices here. You might parent the baby and raise her or him yourself or with help from others, place the child for adoption, or terminate your pregnancy. What does each of these choices offer? The decision is important to both you and your unborn child. To make an educated decision, you should know how all the options work, especially how does adopting a child work?

  • Let’s investigate what it would be like raising the baby yourself. There are many things that should be considered. Do you have the resources necessary to care for a baby? If you are a student, you may want to finish school. If you are employed, will your boss allow time off to care for a young child? Without a job, you won’t have any income. Is the baby’s father involved, and if so, does he want to be a part of the baby’s future? Are you physically able to meet the needs of a newborn, especially if she has medical needs of her own? You may feel pressured by family members to parent the baby, but you must remember that this is your decision, not theirs. 
  • Another option is abortion. This is a very complicated and personal decision. This option should involve a doctor with medical knowledge who can safely perform the procedure. It is a moral decision that only the expectant mother can make.
  • The other option is adoption. This choice requires you to legally relinquish all parental rights over your baby to someone else. If open adoption is the chosen route, then boundaries and guidelines will be put in place for the safety of all involved.

The events leading up to the adoptions of my two children who were adopted were very different. Our family first decided to adopt after a long, four-year struggle with secondary infertility. We had two, beautiful, biological daughters, ages 6 and 8, but wanted to add to our family. My husband and I went through several tests to find a reason for our inability to reproduce to no avail. I completed three months of fertility drugs and two attempts at artificial insemination, resulting in an infection, but not a pregnancy. Shortly after, we decided to pursue adoption. We had talked about it briefly before, but my husband felt strongly that the rest of our family should come from adoption. 

We started working with a local attorney, but nothing felt right. We went ahead with the home study and all the necessary paperwork that needed to be done despite the feeling. My sister had connections to a law firm that dealt with adoption, and we sent them our profile along with our “Dear Expectant Mother” letter. The staff made sure every birth mother (it was before all the language changes) saw our profile. Within two weeks, we had been chosen. However, the expectant mother wanted an open adoption and desired to meet right away. She was four months pregnant and wanted to make a decision soon. The concept of open adoption scared us. We had had a previous open adoption opportunity and had declined the chance to be a part of it, but this time was different. We immediately made plans to drive six hours to meet her. We were all very nervous about the first meeting and asked a lot of questions. By the end, she had chosen us! Watching her as she faced this decision was heartbreaking. Although she knew she could not care for this baby, they shared a deep, innate connection, and she loved him. How does adopting a child work? For an expectant parent, adoption works when love and compassion for someone you love are placed above your own needs or desires. 

After waiting a very long, five more months, my husband got a call saying the baby had been born. My husband and I were not together; the girls and I had been on vacation. He showed up late at night to surprise us. We had not shared our plans to adopt with anyone, in case it didn’t work out, so family members were a little confused when we packed up and left. Six hours later, we met our baby boy. Our child’s sweet birth mom was tired and very weak. It had been a difficult delivery, as he weighed over nine pounds. We first saw him in the infant ICU. The most beautiful baby boy you had ever seen. Later that night, I was given the opportunity to feed him his first bottle. The next morning I arrived while his exhausted, caring birth mother rocked him. She asked me if I wanted to hold him because she was very tired. I was deeply touched by her words and took the baby from her. I can only imagine the heartache she was feeling.

Two days later, we all met at the attorney’s office where we would take our baby home. Our child’s birth mother wanted to be sure he was going home with the adoptive family she had requested. I remember wondering to myself, “how can we feel so much joy as we watch her sadness?” I would often picture her or think of her when I was rocking him to sleep or during different life events. It must have been bittersweet for her to know that she did her best to provide a loving, stable environment for her child, but also feeling the emptiness inside as part of her heart drove away. We kept in contact through the attorney until our son was 18 when we connected on social media. Our son has met his birth mother and been to visit a few times. She married and had more children. We continue to have the same relationship that we have always had, and now, he knows the person who loved him more than she loved herself.

Our daughter, who was adopted, came to us through the foster care system. Therefore, we don’t have all the answers to questions about her birth mother. We have since connected on social media, but they do not have a relationship. I’m sure her choice was a difficult one, and she lives every day in hopes that her child is being loved and cared for. 

Now that you have explored your options a bit, you have some of the information you need to make a decision and move on to clue #2.

Clue #2

Making your final decision moving forward. While it is important to make a decision, you are entitled to change your mind if your situation changes. After weighing your options, if you choose to place your child for adoption, then you should ask yourself, “What does adopting a child look like?” This opens up many new decisions such as which type of adoption do you pick? There are several choices. You may choose private adoption, open or closed adoption, or work with an adoption agency. The Internet is a great source of information. You may also find it helpful to talk to others who have been in the same or similar situations.

Clue #3

You are ready to make your own adoption plan and, if necessary, choose a family for your baby. The agency or attorney you have chosen will help you with this part of your journey.

Clue #4

It’s time to deliver the baby. Don’t be alarmed if your emotions go wild. You might experience feelings you didn’t know you had. The one thing that will remain the same is the love you feel for this baby. His welfare is all that matters now. As you contemplate your decision, you might not know if you have made the right choice. You may look back to the day when you asked, “What does adopting a child look like?” Hopefully, seeing your child in a happy, healthy family will bring joy and peace to your life.

You have almost completed the scavenger hunt. All along this journey, you have been filled with different emotions. From time-to-time, you have likely questioned your choices. You might have gone back to clue number one more than once and repeated the steps a number of times. As you approach the finish line to find your hidden treasure, it might be with great anticipation and anxiety. You may look into the sweet baby’s eyes and see his or her future. You may cry tears of sadness. Or you may cry tears of happiness and hope. Hope for a bright future for all of those involved. The journey may not have gone as planned, most things rarely do. But you can feel confident in your decision. 

The Last Clue

As you see the new parents arrive with excitement in their eyes, the answer to the question, “How does adopting a child work?” will fill your heart and soul. You have participated in the hardest game of your life and have come out a winner. 

The Prize

You place the baby in her new parent’s arms and watch their faces light up when they realize that they have also won. The baby is the biggest winner of all. There is so much love surrounding him. You feel relief and sadness at the same time, but your real journey is just beginning.

The treasure at the end of this scavenger hunt can only be claimed by you: you can write your own story. You have learned to navigate through what may be the biggest challenge you will ever face. “How does adopting a child work?” will be seen on your face every day as you reflect on this experience and what you learned along the way. It hasn’t been easy. But you did it! You will rise from this experience a better person than when you started.

How Does Adopting a Child Work?

Adoption can be a blessing to all those involved. But no matter what part you play in it, it will be bittersweet. Life’s not always going to happen the way you wanted or planned. Life throws us curveballs, and it is up to us to choose whether to swing or strikeout. There might be moments when you feel empty inside or overcome with grief. There might also be times when you feel happy and excited about the life you created and the chance of life that you gave that sweet, innocent child who had no one but you to make this decision for her or him. You have made a selfless, courageous sacrifice. So I ask for one last time, “How does adopting a child work?” The answer is up to you.

Considering adoption? Choose a family to adopt your child. Visit Parent Profiles on or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.

Cindy Hill has seen all sides of the adoption triad throughout her life. At the age of 9, she watched as her sister placed her baby for adoption. She married her high school sweetheart who had two adopted siblings and later adopted two of their six children. Adoption is a blessing in her life. Cindy and her husband recently sold their home of 26 years and became empty-nesters. They currently live in a destination trailer on their oldest daughter’s property along with their two dogs and a small herd of cattle. Cindy’s hobbies include going to garage sales, decorating, teaching piano lessons, spending time with grandchildren, and writing. She is a Teacher’s Aide in the Science department of a charter school.  She and her husband also enjoy traveling together. Writing gives Cindy a chance to reflect on life and look at it from other points of view as well.