We rely on your tax-deductible donations to support our mission. Donate online →
Most Policy Initiative logo
Browse Research TOPICS

Private Domestic Adoption

Written by Dr. Sarah Anderson
Published on January 23, 2024
Research Highlights

There were about 20,000 private domestic adoptions in 2020.

A juvenile court must approve an adoption.

In private domestic adoption, adoptive families pay for all expenses related to the adoption.

Private adoptions account for 20% of domestic adoptions.

There are three types of domestic adoption: kinship, public, or private. Kinship adoptions occur among blood relatives. Public adoptions are done through the foster care system. Private adoptions are done through private businesses and are usually infant adoptions (Children’s Bureau 2022). Among private domestic adop-tions, sixty to seventy percent of adoptive parents were matched with a birth mother within a year (Adoptive Families 2018). Current wait times may be longer due to COVID-19 (Gift of Hope Adoption, personal communication). In 2020, there were 95,306 domestic adoptions:

  • 60% public
  • 20% step-parents
  • 20% private (not including step-parents; NCFA 2022).


The adoption process is well-regulated in MO.

Private domestic adoptions are usually carried out by an adoption agency or an adoption attorney. The first step for prospective adopters is a home study which includes documentation, in-home visit, and home inspection (RsMO 453.070). Once the home study has been completed, if the adoptive parents do not already know the birth mother, a profile of the adoptive family is created. The birth mother selects the adoptive family from their profile. Before adoptive parents take physical custody of a child, a written report regarding the child (e.g., family medical history, details about siblings) and the home study report must be filed with the juvenile division of the county court (RsMO 453.026).

In MO, the birth mother must wait at least two days after the birth to terminate parental rights and consent to the adoption. The birth father must also terminate parental rights and consent to the adoption (RsMO 453.030).

To be considered the birth father, the man’s name needs to be on the birth certificate, they need to be married to the birth mother, have acted as a prospective father (e.g., providing financial support, attending doctor’s appointments), or filed for paternity in court within 15 days of the infant’s birth. If he meets any of these categories, his consent is needed for the adoption (RsMO 453.030). However, if the birth father is unknown, consent is not needed (RsMO 453.040).

Next both parties attend juvenile court of transfer of custody, consent to terminate parental rights, and the petition for adoption is submitted (RsMO 453.030). Before the adoption is finalized, adoptive families must complete a few more steps.

  • After 6 months, a postplacement assessment to ensure child welfare is conducted (RsMO 453.077).
  • Adoptive parents must meet the unique legal considerations for Native American children and those born in other states (RsMO 210.565; 453.500).
  • Adoptive parents must account for all money spent on the adoption (RsMO 453.075).

At the finalization hearing, adoptive parents are given the decree of adoption. The finalization hearing is also the last moment a post adoption contact agreement (PACA) between birth parents and adoptive parents can be filed and approved by the court (RsMO 453.077, 453.080). A PACA is an agreement between the birth parents and adoptive parents on the amount of contact (letters, phone call, visits) that he birth parents and child will have. A PACA is enforced by the court (RsMO 453.015).


Private adoptions are expensive.

Nationally, the average cost of private domestic adoptions from 2010 to 2021 was about $33,000 (Hanlon 2022). Adoptive families are respon-sible for all costs related to adoption. According to RsMO 453.075, adoptive families may pay for

  • medical expenses relating to the birth and the infant
  • counseling for the birth parent or child
  • preplacement and placement assessments
  • legal expenses, court costs, and travel of the birth parents related to the adoption
  • living expenses (food, gas, rent, clothing) of the birth parents and child
  • other expenses the court deems reasonable

The average amount spent by adoptive families is found in Table 1. These averages compare a 2-year period, rather than a 10-year period as described earlier. As such, the numbers may vary. All payments must be accounted to the court (RsMO 453.075). Payments to the birth parents for things outside of this scope are defined as child trafficking (RsMO 568.175).


Table 1. Results from self-reported survey data of 1,061 U.S. adoptions finalized in 2016 and 2017. Table from Adoptive Families 2018

Works Cited 

Adoption and Foster Care, 453 RsMO § 005-170 https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneChapter.aspx?chapter=453 

Children's Bureau An Office of the Administration for Children & Families. (2022, June). Planning for Adoption: Knowing the Costs and Resources. Retrieved from Child Welfare Information Gateway: https://cwig-prod-prod-drupal-s3fs-us-east-1.s3.amazonaws.com/public/documents/s_costs.pdf?VersionId=ji7qZPkNbcPRF7RIMY.jfDldoEWiAgZY 

Editorial Team. (2018). Adoption Cost and Timing in 2016-2017. Retrieved from Adoptive Families: https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/resources/adoption-news/adoption-cost-timing-2016-2017-survey-results/ 

Ehlen, E. (2024, January 12). Gift of Hope Adoption. (S. Anderson, Interviewer) 

Koh, E., Daughtery, L., & Linder, A. (2022, December). Adoption by the Numbers 2019 2020. Retrieved from National Council for Adoption: https://adoptioncouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Adoption-by-the-Numbers-National-Council-For-Adoption-Dec-2022.pdf 


Most Policy Initiative logo
238 E High St., 3rd Floor
Jefferson City, MO 65101
© 2024 MOST Policy Initiative | Website design and development by Pixel Jam Digital
Privacy Policy
chevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram