Planning to expand your family with an adoption? Since being declared official and legal way back in 1850s, adoption is a widely accepted way of growing or creating a family. Statistics show that in the United States, more than 135,000 children are adopted each year. Celebrities besides Angelina Jolie, such as Sandra Bullock and Katherine Heigl have garnered media attention when they adopted their kids.

There is no question that adoption is a noble deed, and being able to provide a loving, caring foster home for a kid is a joyful experience. Since adoption is a lifelong, serious commitment you need to make to another human being, there are various factors to carefully consider before you begin the process of adoption.

  1. Where should you adopt from?

If you already have a reference or know the child you want to adopt, you have laid the foundation for the adoption process. But if you are wondering where to adopt from, it is good to visit the government website on adoption services Child Welfare Information Gateway, which gives a state wise list of foster care centers and licensed adoption agencies. There are other independent resources as well that offer detailed information on the adoption laws of each state, and the federal laws common to all states.

  1. Are you eligible to adopt a child?

The legal age at which you are eligible to adopt differs across the states. In at least six states, the legal age for adopting a child is 18. In Colorado, Delaware, and Oklahoma the age requirement for parents who want to adopt is 21 while it is 25 in Georgia and Idaho.

As for resident status, some states like Delaware, Minnesota, and Georgia require that the adoptive parents be a resident of the particular states. But for most other states, there are no resident requirements.

Most states also require the adoptive parents to be at least 10 years older than the child being adopted. The law does not make it mandatory for you to be married to be eligible to adopt. Whether married or divorced, widowed or single, you would be eligible to adopt, provided you meet the other criteria. But, some states do require the adopting parents to be married for at least two years before considering adoption.

  1. Is consent required?

Although in the US, adoption is mostly governed by state laws, some federal guidelines do state that the consent of the biological mother or father as applicable is necessary. Also, if the child being adopted is more than 10 years old, his or her consent is also necessary.

  1. What does the process involve?

Once you select your adoption agency or foster home, there are a number of processes that need to be completed before you can finally call the child your own.

Apart from a detailed review of your application and your eligibility, a social worker or a licensing specialist will interview each member of your family. The process, called the “home study” can take between 3 to 6 months.

  1. What does it cost?

The costs vary depending on the nature of adoption, as in whether you want to adopt from a foster care system, an international adoption agency or a domestic adoption agency. Most agencies also offer support services including pre adoption counseling and education preparation, support throughout the adoption process, medical documentation and legal documentation.

The adoption process can be as smooth as possible with all the support and help from various agencies. It is good also to be mentally and emotionally prepared to handle all the challenges that come your way to complete the adoption!