The process of adopting a child or making an adoption plan for a child is important to understand. Many families have been richly blessed because of the decision to adopt a child and the decision to make an adoption plan for a child. Before making a decision to adopt or to make an adoption plan, it will be helpful to understand the process.


State adoption laws vary, but most prospective adoptive families typically follow these steps to finalize an adoption:

  • Educate yourself and your family members about adoption.

  • Decide on the type of adoption you wish to pursue (domestic, infant, special needs, transnational, kin).

  • Determine all adoption-related expenses and finances; determine all costs associated with rearing a child.

  • Find an adoption agency.

  • Complete an adoption application.

  • Begin the home study process with a licensed practitioner from the state in which you reside.

  • A home study is required of all persons who wish to adopt a child. A person licensed to conduct home studies must complete the home study. This licensed practitioner meets with prospective adoptive parents and their children to determine whether or not the home and family are suitable for the child’s best interests. The final home study evaluation includes a written assessment of the personal background(s) of prospective adoptive parents and their children, including emotional maturity, financial stability, health status, the quality of relationships with each other and background checks. If you need to have a home study conducted, click here to find a list of current, licensed practitioners or click here to find an agency licensed in Iowa to perform adoptions. 

  • Adoption placements are overseen for at least six months after a child joins his/her new family. Adoption agencies, licensed adoption investigators or the Department of Human Services perform these follow-up meetings.

  • After the six-month waiting period, the adoptive family will appear before a judge, who will make the final decision to join the child and the adoptive family. At this point, the birth parents’ parental rights will be terminated and the adoptive family will become legally responsible for the child.

  • There are fees that are typically paid for by the adoptive family when a child is adopted in non-foster care cases. These fees may include: paying for the birth mother’s and her child’s hospital bills, legal fees for the finalization of the adoption, the home study, court costs and any other pre-arranged fees the families agree to prior to the adoption.


In most cases, there are many options and decisions that birth and adoptive family members can make before an adoption is finalized. These options include the following levels of openness between families:

  • Closed Adoptions: Birth parents and adoptive parents choose to not have any contact with each other.

  • Semi-Open Adoptions: Birth parents and adoptive parents decide on the amount of communication and type of relationship each family will have with one another. Typically, a third party, such as an attorney or an adoption agency, receives information from one family and provides non-identifying information (photos, drawings, health information) to each family.

  • Open Adoptions: Birth parents and adoptive parents agree on the amount of contact between each family and the child. Some choose to talk on the telephone, others celebrate birthdays together and meet regularly and others choose to only exchange information for special occasions.

In most infant adoption cases, the decision regarding what type of contact will occur between the birth and adoptive family members is a decision made between the families. Other types of adoption have similar options, but in some cases, the court decides on the level of openness between families.

Adopting From Foster Care/Becoming a Foster Parent: 


Foster care adoptions are very similar, but typically the state pays for the court costs, legal fees and hospital bills. To find information on foster parenting or to adopt from foster care, please go to:

Reuniting With Birth Family Members:

In Iowa, once an adoptee is at least 21-years-old, the adopted person may file an affidavit with the court to have adoption records opened. The court will decide whether or not to open the records. 


For more information about finding birth family members or unsealing adoption records in any state, visit our tab, "Find Family Members."