Agency Adoption Explained

A mother and father posing for a picture with their adopted son at the kitchen table

Adoption can be a wonderful way to start or grow your family and there are many roads to get there. Agency adoption — public or private — is one path. Both agency types have systems in place to help match you with a child. This is an advantage for military parents who may not have time to research options, or for those who want some extra support through the process. There are some differences between public and private options, of which you should be aware before deciding.

Public agencies


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Public agencies are run by states, often through a department of social, human or family services. With this option, keep in mind that:

  • Most children are school age.
  • Children have often spent time in foster care.
  • Many infants available for adoption have special medical needs.
  • Social workers usually determine who adopts a child.
  • Final cost to parents is negligible.

Private agencies

When considering a private agency, consider that:

  • Some have religious affiliations.
  • More infants will be available.
  • The birth parents will likely be involved in identifying adoptive parents for their child.
  • Cost to parents can vary widely.

Another advantage of an agency adoption is that all prospective parents will receive counseling. Birth parents are often counseled by agencies as well.

Choose wisely


more about how the Department of Defense's Adoption Reimbursement Program can help you cover the adoption expense.

Take some time to:

  • Talk to friends who have adopted and get recommendations.
  • Attend orientation meetings at several agencies.
  • Request a copy of adoption agency regulations from the department that licenses adoption agencies in your state.
  • Call your state's department of social, human or family services to see if any complaints have been filed about the agencies you are considering.
  • Contact the Exceptional Family Member Program — if you are considering adopting a child with special needs — and discuss the support available to you.

There are other options available to you as well. Explore more by reading about independent, identified, international and open adoptions.


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