The wait is lengthy, but it is the cost of adoption that turns out to be the most daunting issue for some families.
That's why many couples are increasingly relying on public appeals and crowdfunding websites to help them pay expenses of bringing home the children with whom they've fallen in love. With costs now approaching $30,000 to $40,000 for agency fees, home studies, court costs and travel, every possible way to raise money is being considered: gift boutiques, proms, benefit concerts, yard sales, silent auctions, carnivals and web-based fund drives.
Helping fund an adoption even became a project for a class at Westminster College, which put together a money-raising campaign to benefit an adjunct professor's efforts to adopt a second child.
When they adopted Mia, their first child, Josh and Mandy Anger both worked full time and were able to save $40,000 to cover costs. Mandy Anger now supports the family as a professor in Westminster's master of professional communication program, while Josh Anger is a stay-at-home dad which has made saving that sum for their second adoption more challenging. They were $5,500 short of their goal when Anita Boeira, a fellow Westminster instructor, decided helping the Angers would be an "awesome" project for her social media marketing class.
Boeira set up a fund on GoFundMe.com, which has raised more than $1 million for adoption and fertility campaigns since its inception in May 2010, while students set about publicizing the project through social media.
"To be successful, you need more than immediate family and friends" to contribute, Boeira said, and crowdfunding is a "very effective tool." The "Mia Wants a Little Brother" campaign, launched in mid-May, raised $1,000 before the class ended in June and has since brought in another $200.
"We were really surprised at how generous people were and how many people we were just acquaintances with or didn't know at all contributed and thrilled!" said Mandy Anger, who plans to keep the campaign going for about another month.
Not all experts approve of this new approach to covering adoption expenses.
David Hardy, a Utah attorney and fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said relying on others to help pay costs raises a red flag.
"If you are looking to others to pay expenses, the question becomes: 'Do you have enough solvency to raise a child?' " he said.
While agency-based and international adoptions may be a financial stretch for some families, there are other less costly alternatives such as private adoption, adopting through foster care or pursuing an adoption through organizations typically faith-based that subsidize costs, Hardy said.
But Jacob Anderegg of Lehi called that concern "ridiculous."
"Who says in order to have a child you have to have so much money in the bank?" said Jacob Anderegg, a state representative. He and his wife Julie, parents of three biological children, decided to adopt after visiting an elementary school associated with an orphanage while in China for a study-abroad program.
"To us,it was very clear we had children in China and to that end, solvency for raising children is not even an argument," he said. "There are many more means than financial in providing for a child. ... It's as much in the capacity and ability to love and nurture as it is in the ability to financially provide."
When they started their first adoption in January 2006, Jacob Anderegg comfortably provided for his family through his real estate and construction company. As the process dragged on, the Great Recession hit and "I went from making very decent money to making almost nothing," he said.
They were able to cover most expenses through savings but by 2011, when they were finally matched with a child, they were about $17,000 short of expenses associated with picking up their daughter Elizabeth "Lizzie" Lan Grace Anderegg, then nearly 2.
"We started a cause on Facebook and began telling our story," Jacob Anderegg said, "and had generous people we've known throughout our lives who just started donating."
In all, they received about $5,000 via donations on social media. They raised another $3,600 through a "Second Chance" prom attended by about 60 couples. A benefit concert featuring Jon Schmidt, a classical new age pianist, brought in another $1,600.
"We just started whittling away at what we were deficient," Jacob Anderegg said. And soon, "we had all the money we needed."
They brought Lizzie home from China last July. Though listed as a special needs child, Lizzie has thrived and shows no sign of any problems, Jacob Anderegg said.
"If you spend any real time with us, you see that Lizzie is an Anderegg," said Anderegg, who describes the adoption as a spiritual experience for his family. "I know she came through a different means, but she is definitely my daughter."
Now the Andereggs are in the process of adopting another special needs girl who they've named Ellie Mei, and once again they are coupling savings with donations from the community. They have held a family carnival, been beneficiaries of a 5K race and are planning another benefit concert with Schmidt on Aug. 3.
"We went into this more financially prepared than we were last time, but the costs are more than we expected them to be," said Jacob Anderegg, who figures the adoption will total about $39,000. "The vast majority of adoptive families are having to do [this] because the typical person who is willing to adopt isn't made of money and costs associated with adoption are very significant. We are trying to be good people and follow the promptings we've been given to make our family complete."
Stephanie and Harlan McCoy of Saratoga Springs also have been surprised by the generosity of friends and strangers in their quest to grow their family.
Unable to have children of their own, the McCoys decided after a lot of soul-searching and prayer to adopt children already born and in need of a family. It took 18 months and all their savings about $31,000 for the McCoys to adopt Gabe, now 4, in 2009 from South Korea.
In addition to two rummage sales, "we worked, worked, worked, every day, every weekend, two, three jobs at a time," said Stephanie McCoy, who then worked for a home-health company and operated a natural-products cleaning business with her husband. Harlan McCoy also had a photography business.
In September 2011, the McCoys moved from Florida to Utah in search of a good place to raise children and to be closer to family. They began saving for a second adoption, undaunted by added financial challenges that came when Stephanie McCoy was laid off from her job.
On New Year's Eve, Stephanie happened to be searching around the Internet when she came across Luke's photo and bio on the website of Children's Home Society and Family Services, based in Minnesota.
"I knew from that night we were going to adopt this little boy," said Stephanie McCoy, who has been a stay-home mom since being laid off from her job.
It's been a nonstop whirlwind ever since as the McCoys set about filing paperwork and raising $41,000 to bring home Luke, now 1. Harlan McCoy is working several jobs, they sold their second car and dropped cable service. And they once again are turning to friends, family and supporters for help.
"We are rich in love. We have that in abundance. But at this point, it really takes a village," Stephanie McCoy said.
The McCoys were officially matched with Luke in January and have made an initial payment of $24,000, funds largely raised with the help of friends and family through gift boutiques, online and silent auctions, yard sales and donations. They've been approved for a $5,000 matching grant from Brittany's Hope, a nonprofit that aids families adopting children with special needs, which will bring them closer to their goal.
"We were just rejoicing when we would see $5 come in," said Stephanie McCoy. "It humbles us, it really does. At one point, we didn't think we were going to be able to come up with what we needed in order to get Luke here, but with the love and support of the community, we did. He is ours and we can't wait to bring him home."