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Private adoption in the U.S. is broken. This may be the fix.

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Private adoption in the U.S. is broken. This may be the fix.

Many private adoption practices are old. It’s time to modernize the system.

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Private adoption in the United States is broken, outdated, and expensive, but it doesn't have to be. 

There are nearly 2 million families waiting to adopt a child. But for many, an outdated adoption system is keeping them from the opportunity to provide a child with a loving home. 

Erin Quick discovered this firsthand when she and her husband embarked on their own adoption journey. "I was desperate," she says. "I wanted to be a mom so bad."  

She had no idea just how complex and expensive adoption would be. The "archaic" adoption industry makes it "nearly impossible to have a happy, safe, ethical adoption," she says. As a result, families and children who would benefit from adoption are shut out of the process.

These challenges led Quick, a two-time adoptive mother, to start PairTree, a digital platform that simplifies adoption for birth mothers as well as adoptive parents. She believes adoption will  always be emotionally complex, but the process doesn't need to be complex. 

PairTree is bringing families together by making the adoption process transparent and affordable.


A birth mother named Iris used it to find a family for her child. Jon and Carl connected with a birth mother about adopting a child.

"Our goal is to connect adopting families and expecting parents to the adoption professionals and services they need to healthily navigate private adoption," says Quick. "We believe that the internet has the power to transform adoption."

Private adoption has been broken. PairTree's innovations help fix it

Quick has wanted to be a mother for as long as she can remember, but she and her husband struggled with infertility for years. 

"I think it was our third miscarriage that my husband and I just looked at each other, and we said, 'Stop, it's not working,'" Quick says. 

They decided to pursue adoption, but they had no idea it would be so complicated and expensive. "I was in a basement of a church," says Quick, "and a woman was saying, '$60,000,' and I was like, what is this? It just felt like stepping back in time."

She did some research and learned her experience wasn't an anomaly. "Adoption has become an industry," she says. "Typical fees associated with private adoption in the United States today, to adopt an infant, is $50,000-$60,000. And the typical timeframe to privately adopt is 12-24 months." 

PairTree is using technology to make this emotionally heavy process easier to navigate, cheaper and more personalized by connecting birth moms and adoptive families that share similar values.

Quick believes technology can transform the system. "One of the things that I saw right away," she says, "is that no one is using technology to put the two people that need to find each other together in an ethical, safe way." 

So she built a tech platform that brings every element of the adoption process into one place. PairTree cuts out expensive industry middlemen and provides free education, research, and ethical adoption professionals, so each family can be in control of their own journey. For example, the app allows birth mothers to find the right family for their babies. Mothers are able to search through profiles of prospective adoptive parents nationwide. 

Quick says that there are now multiple paths to adoption. People just don't know about them. "You can have control over your own process, and you can decide at what point to involve certain adoption professionals to make it work for you and your budget."

"There is nothing easy about adoption," says Quick. "It's incredibly complex. The emotional weight of adoption is always going to be complex. The process in which people path through adoption doesn't have to be as complex as it has been."

Two families, lost in the adoption process, found a path with PairTree

Jon and Carl are adoptive parents who couldn't afford to adopt a child until they found PairTree. Jon says that to him, "Adoption is providing love for a child who really needs it." He says PairTree made adoption more realistic financially.

"You don't have to be blood-related to be a family," says Carl. "No matter what, that child will be our family, but we were starting to look at adoption loans." He explains that PairTree tries "to keep it close to the cost as if someone were to go to the hospital and give birth." 

"Our profile's out there," Carl says, "but it's not until a mother says, 'Oh, I feel comfortable with them, let me reach out,' and then we can start to communicate, which I think is very cool because then it does empower the mother." 

Iris has appreciated the opportunity to choose her baby's family. She says, "on PairTree, you're reading so many profiles, seeing so many pictures. You just message the families you like. The first family I found on PairTree was the one."

Now that she has chosen the family, she has started to build a relationship with the new parents.  "My plan is for them to be there at the birth," she says, "and I'm planning on doing an open adoption, so the family will stay in contact, and the child will know who I am." 

PairTree is on a mission to bring as many families together as they can, by helping families adopt for a fraction of the cost and offering complete transparency on their adoption progress. They're already collaborating with existing agencies that are looking for opportunities to modernize their approach. And they're expanding their reach through HR companies around the country to provide adoption benefits in the workplace.

Iris used PairTree to contact her baby's adoptive parents about starting to bond with the baby already. "I shot them a message on PairTree myself, saying, 'Can you guys make audio recordings of your voice?' because you have belly headphones, so the baby can start to learn their voices." 

Jon is looking forward to seeing his partner with a child in his arms. "I know that having a child is going to probably reveal a lot about ourselves that we don't know right now," he says. "I had a dream about us being in the backyard, and I was imagining him in the backyard with a baby girl." 

Quick describes PairTree's mission: "We want to affect positive, lasting change in adoption. And, because we have this incredible honor of getting to talk to some of these families on both sides and at various stages, I think we now feel a pretty weighty responsibility because it's bigger than any of us thought it would be, and it's too important to not be better." 

PairTree is supported by Trust Ventures, a venture capital firm supported by Stand Together Trust that invests in startups tackling our country's greatest challenges.

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