Millions of women face unplanned pregnancies every year. If you are deciding what to do about an unplanned pregnancy, you have a lot to think about. You have three options — abortion, adoption, and parenting.
Whether you're thinking about placing a child for adoption, you're helping a woman decide if adoption is right for her, or you're just curious about adoption, you may have many questions. Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask when considering adoption. We hope you find the answers helpful.
How Can I Know If Adoption Is the Right Option for Me?
We all have many important decisions to make in life. What to do about an unplanned pregnancy is an important and common decision faced by women. In fact, about half of all women in the U.S. have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives.
If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, and you do not want to have an abortion or be a parent, you can give birth and let someone else raise your child. This is adoption. It is a permanent, legal agreement in which you agree to place your child in the care of another person or family.
Women choose adoption because they care about themselves and their families or their future families. The most common reasons a woman chooses adoption are
- She is not ready to be a parent.
- She cannot afford to raise a baby.
- She feels that raising a baby now would make it too difficult to work or go to school.
- She doesn't want to be a single parent.
- She feels too young or too immature to raise a child.
- She believes adoption is the best chance for her child to be well-cared for financially and emotionally.
Every woman's situation is different, and only you can decide what is best in your case. If you're trying to decide if adoption is the right option for you, you may find it helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages. Think about what advantages or disadvantages are most important to you. Consider how you feel and what you think about adoption, what you want for your life and for your family or future family.
Some Things to Ask Yourself If You Are Thinking About Adoption
- Am I ready to be a parent?
- Can I afford to be a parent now?
- What would it mean for my future if I had a child now?
- Can I accept not being my child's primary parent?
- Does adoption feel like what I should do, not what I want to do?
- Would I consider abortion?
- Is someone pressuring me to choose adoption?
- Am I prepared to go through pregnancy and childbirth?
- Will I be able to cope with the feeling of loss that I may have?
- Do I have people in my life who will help me through the pregnancy and adoption process?
- How do I feel about other women who choose to place their children for adoption?
- How important is it to me what other people will think about my decision?
Think about what your answers mean to you. You may want to discuss your answers with your partner, someone in your family, a friend, a trusted religious adviser, or a counselor.
Are There Different Kinds of Adoption?
Yes, there are different kinds of adoption and different ways to arrange for your child to be adopted.
There are two types of adoption — "open" and "closed."
- Open adoptions happen when the birth parent and adopting family have some contact. The birth mother selects the adopting family. She can find out about their values, lifestyle, and religion. Their ideas about discipline and the educational opportunities they can offer may also be important to her. She and the adoptive parents may choose to form a relationship. It may include ongoing visits with the child, phone calls, pictures, or visits. Women may choose open adoption in order to be reassured by meeting the child's adoptive family or by getting updates as the child grows.
- Closed adoptions, or confidential adoptions, happen when the birth mother and adopting family do not have any information about one another. Closed adoptions are becoming less common. Women may choose a closed adoption in order to have more privacy.
Finding Adopted Children or Birth Parents After a Closed Adoption
Sometimes adopted children or birth parents will want to find each other later in life after a closed adoption. Adoption registries may be able to help you connect with your child. Some adoption agencies will help birth parents and children find each other. But this does not always happen, so if you think you will want to have some contact with your child, consider planning an open adoption.
There are different ways to arrange for an adoption:
- Agency adoptions happen with the help of a state-licensed agency that connects the birth parent with the adopting family. The agency can help arrange for pre- and post-adoption counseling and hospital arrangements for the birth, and can provide help with legal matters. Agency adoptions can be open or closed adoptions, but they are most often open. The agency can help you select the adoptive parents and help you set up plans for future contact with the adoptive family.
- Independent adoptions are handled through a lawyer. These lawyers are sometimes called "adoption attorneys." It is a good idea to have your own lawyer to represent your best interests. In an independent adoption, you can still receive counseling and guidance through a local adoption agency, if you choose.
- Adoption by a relative happens when someone in the birth parent's family adopts the child. This is also called "kinship adoption." You and your relative can work with an adoption agency, lawyer, or your state department of human services to arrange the adoption. Family members must meet all the same legal requirements as any other adoptions. Even if your child is placed with a family member, you will have no more parental rights than if you had placed your child with strangers.
Adoption is legal and binding whether it is open or closed, and no matter how it is arranged. All adoptions must be approved by a judge in a family or surrogate court.
Adoption laws are different in every state. An adoption counselor or lawyer can tell you about the laws in your state. In most states, minors do not need a parent's consent to choose to place a child for adoption. You can also find out if there are laws in your state that allow contracts between birth and adoptive parents for ongoing visits. Be sure to read everything very carefully and talk with your lawyer before you sign any papers.
During your pregnancy, you have the right to decide on adoption and change your mind later. If you choose adoption, you will have to sign official "relinquishment papers" after your baby is born.
What About the Baby's Birth Father?
The laws about birth fathers are different from state to state, so talk with an adoption counselor or lawyer about what rights a birth father has in your state. You may need his consent in order to plan an adoption.
Who Can Help Me with Adoption?
An adoption agency can help you answer any questions you might have. When you look for an adoption agency, ask questions to make sure they are a good fit for you.
You might want to ask:
- Will using your services cost me anything?
- Do you offer counseling or support groups for birth mothers and birth fathers?
- How do you screen the adoptive families you work with?
- Will I be able to meet with adoptive families?
- If I choose an open adoption, will you help me stay in touch with the adoptive family?
- Can your agency help with prenatal care or delivery costs?
- Do you work with families looking for babies of different races and ethnicities? Are there families interested in adopting babies with special medical needs?
- What are the birth father's rights in my state?
- If I choose adoption, when is my decision final?
If you are interested in an independent or family adoption, you can contact your state, county, or local department of family or child services, or your local Planned Parenthood health center for resources. They may be able to help you locate a social worker or other adoption counselor who can guide you through the adoption process.
How Soon Do I Have to Decide?
Some women start planning their child's adoption early in their pregnancy. Others begin it later in pregnancy. Some even begin the adoption process at the hospital after the baby is born.
Whether you decide to parent or place the baby for adoption, it's very important to get prenatal care early in the pregnancy to make sure you have a healthy pregnancy.
No adoption is final until after the baby is born and you have signed the papers agreeing to the adoption. After signing these papers, you may be given a limited period of time during which you may change your mind. After that, few adoptions are reversed by the courts.
In some cities, temporary foster care may be available for the children of women who need more time to decide between adoption and parenting. Laws about foster care vary from state to state. To find out more about foster care, talk to someone at your state, county, or local department of family or child services, or at your local Planned Parenthood health center.
How Will I Feel After the Adoption?
Many women who make this choice are happy knowing that their children are loved and living in good homes. And they feel empowered in their role as birth mother. But some women find that the sense of loss is deeper than they expected.
You may feel some grief after the adoption is complete. Or you may be reassured by knowing that your child is in good hands. A range of emotions is normal. And your feelings may be complicated for a while.
It's a good idea to find counseling to help you work through your feelings. This can be important during the adoption process as well as afterward. If you work with an adoption agency, they can often provide counseling for you. If you have an independent adoption, you can still receive counseling and guidance through a local adoption agency. No matter which type of adoption you pursue, it's important to find people who will support you during and after your pregnancy.
Where Can I Get More Information About Adoption?
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