Adoption is a complicated process; these are only the basic steps.

TLC

What you need to do before bringing home your new adopted baby.

When you adopt through an agency, there are several steps you have to complete. In addition to the basics described below, other steps may be necessary — it depends on your particular needs and those of the child and the birth parents.

1. Select an adoption agency. You'll choose between a private agency and a public one. Each option has its benefits, so do lots of research before making your final decision. Make sure you find out about the agency's fees and what the schedule is for paying them.

2. Complete the application and preplacement inquiry. When you contact an agency, you may be invited to attend an agency-sponsored orientation session. You and the other applicants will learn about the agency's procedures and available children, and you'll receive the application forms. The agency will review your completed application to determine whether to accept you as a client. If they accept you, you'll probably have to pay a registration fee at this point.

Next comes the preplacement inquiry, also known as the "home study" or the "family assessment." The home study (required by state law) evaluates you as a prospective adoptive family, and it evaluates the physical and emotional environment into which the child would be placed. It's also a preparation for adoptive parenthood. You'll have a series of interviews with a social worker, including at least one interview in your home. During this process, the social worker will help you consider all aspects of adoptive parenthood and identify the type of child you hope to adopt. Some agencies use a group approach to the educational part of the adoption preparation process, creating a built-in support group among adoptive families.

Many of the questions asked in the home study are personal and may seem intrusive if you're not expecting them. These questions are necessary for the social worker's evaluation of you as a prospective parent. Some of the questions are about your income, assets, health, family relationships, and the stability of your marriage (if married). Physical exams to ensure that you are healthy are usually required. Some states require that prospective adoptive parents undergo a fingerprint and background check to look for felony convictions for domestic violence or child abuse. A home study is usually completed in a few months, depending on the agency's requirements and the number of other clients.