Go to Content Go to Navigation Go to Navigation Go to Site Search Homepage

What is adoption?

Adoption is the permanent and legal transfer of parental rights from a child’s biological parent(s) to adoptive parent(s). 

Adoption has complex and lifelong impacts on everyone involved: the adopted person, their birth parents and families, and adoptive parents.

Why do people consider adoption?

If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, you’re not alone. Nearly half of pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unplanned. Some of those people will continue their pregnancy and ultimately  place their child for adoption. 

This section will discuss private adoption. Private adoption does not include adoptions from child welfare/foster care, also known as the family regulation system, where the state decides whether or not a child can stay with their family of origin. 

You are in charge of your decision. It can be a complex decision and legally, you are the only one who can make it. There are different laws in every state guiding the adoption process. 

Research shows the number one reason pregnant people consider adoption is a lack of financial resources. If you want to parent your child or want to consider the option of parenting but feel you can’t because you don’t have enough resources, there is help, like the Family Preservation Project and government assistance programs.  

Some of the other reasons pregnant people consider adoption include: 

  • Parenting other children and aren’t sure how to meet the needs of another child
  • Lack of emotional and/or physical support or fear of losing existing support 
  • Lack of housing or housing is unstable
  • Do not feel ready or prepared emotionally to be a parent
  • No desire to be a single parent 
  • No desire to raise a child with the biological father/non-birthing parent
  • Life goals may be interrupted by parenting 
  • Pregnancy is a result of sexual assault
  • Living situation isn’t safe due to domestic violence or other danger
  • Feel there is not enough time to figure out how to parent before giving birth 
  • Don’t want to have an abortion 

When do I have to decide about adoption?

Your timeline for making a decision depends on your needs and situation. Some people start planning their child’s adoption early in their pregnancy. While others give birth, take their child home, and either decide to parent or place the child for adoption at a later date. If you need parenting resources while making this decision, Family Preservation Project and government assistance programs can help you.

You can’t sign consent to adoption papers until after your child is born. Once you legally consent to an adoption by signing adoption papers, some states allow a very short window of time to change your mind. But many states don’t. You can find those laws here. Adoption is a permanent, legal agreement. 

It’s a good idea to talk to a nurse or doctor about your pregnancy as soon as possible so you get the best medical care available to you. The staff at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center can provide expert care and support, no matter what you decide.

What can I think about to help me decide?

Family, relationships, money, school, work, life goals, personal beliefs, and the well-being of your future child — most people think carefully about all of these things before deciding to place their child for adoption. Every person’s situation is different, and only you can decide what’s best in your case.

Here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Would I consider abortion or parenting?
  • Do I feel comfortable letting someone else parent my child?
  • Do I feel I can’t care for a child now?
  • If I had access to certain resources would I feel more able to parent my child?
  • If some of the barriers to parenting are temporary, are there people or resources who could help me in the short-term?
  • Is someone pressuring me to choose adoption?
  • Am I ready to go through pregnancy and childbirth?
  • Am I prepared to cope with the feelings of loss I may have?
  • How will it feel to have limited or no contact with my child as they grow up?
  • How will I cope with having no legal rights to make any decisions for or about my child?
  • Do I have people in my life who will support me through my pregnancy, birth, and adoption process?

There is a lot to consider, and it’s totally normal to have many different feelings and thoughts throughout the process. That’s why it’s important to get factual, non-judgmental information about your pregnancy options. Support from other people you trust can also help you figure out if adoption is right for you and, if you continue your pregnancy, your child.

Who can I talk to about adoption?

Talking with your partner, someone in your family, a friend, a trusted community member, or a counselor can be helpful when you’re making a choice about an unplanned pregnancy. Lots of people lean on others to help them with their decision. It’s good to choose people who you know are supportive of you and won’t be judgmental. Research shows that people who place their child for adoption are more likely to feel accepting of their decision when it was truly theirs, and not pressured by the advice or opinions of others.

No one should pressure you into making any decision about your pregnancy, no matter what. At the end of the day, only you know what’s right for you.

Here are some resources for one-on-one, accurate, and non-judgemental options counseling with adoption-knowledgeable staff: 

How do I find and evaluate adoption information?

It’s hard to find trustworthy information about adoption online, because most of the information is on adoption agency websites or other organizations that promote adoption above other pregnancy options. The majority of private adoption agencies in the United States are anti-abortion. They’re not required to give you accurate information about your pregnancy options, including your rights as a pregnant person considering adoption. 

Adoption agencies, attorneys, and facilitators are highly motivated to find pregnant people who are willing to consider adoption because that’s how they stay in business. There are more than a million people in the U.S. looking to adopt a baby and only about 20,000 infants who are placed for adoption each year. This creates competition. 

Some agencies spend up to tens of thousands of dollars per day on internet ads to find pregnant people in need of support. Most agencies charge prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) a lot of money to advertise and introduce them to pregnant people considering adoption. This can lead to misinformation and pressure to make adoptions happen. 

Be aware that online adoption searches sometimes result in referrals to fake health providers that call themselves crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which -pressure pregnant people to choose adoption instead of abortion.

CPCs look like real health centers, but often have no doctors or nurses on staff and deliberately mislead people — hiding fact-based, medical information on your pregnancy options. The kinds of "clinics" are run by anti-abortion activists who have a harmful agenda: to scare, shame, or pressure you out of getting an abortion, and to tell you lies about abortion, birth control, and sexual health. Many pressure pregnant people into placing their children for adoption, and some CPCs have direct working relationships with adoption agencies.

Trustworthy resources for adoption information:

All Options - Adoption Resources

Family Preservation Project: Adoption, Make an Informed Choice

Pact an Adoption Alliance: Information for Pregnant People

MPower Alliance: Information for Pregnant People

How to evaluate adoption information:

  • Doesn’t mention abortion or parenting as valid options
  • Provides information about all of your pregnancy options
  • Frames adoption as the best option
  • Acknowledges the complexities of making this decision
  • Promises adoption is a “better life” for you and your child (no one can guarantee this)
  • Acknowledges the inherent grief and loss in adoption
  • Talks about adoption as always and only positive
  • Refers to you / the other parent as pregnant person, expectant parent or simply a person / parent
  • Refers to pregnant people as “birth parents” while still deciding
  • Acknowledges that you have valuable things to offer your child
  • Focuses on what adoptive parents have that you don’t (typically money)
  • Focuses on your needs and the needs of your potential child, rather than the hopes of the potential adoptive parents
  • Focuses on how you can benefit people who want to adopt, giving them the “gift” of a child
  • Shows you profiles of prospective adoptive families when you are ready or if you search for them specifically
  • Immediately shows you profiles of people waiting to adopt when you did not request or search for them

What can I expect emotionally when I’m considering adoption?

People consider adoption for many different reasons, and have lots of different feelings about themselves, their pregnancy and circumstances, and their child. When pregnant people consider adoption, it’s  most often a result of lack of financial resources and support, not because they don’t want or love their child. This can make the experience of considering adoption very challenging and complex for many people. Whatever your experience is, it is valid and there is support available to you. 

Here is a range of possible experiences and feelings you might be having:

  • scared, sad, angry, or regretful that you’re in a position where you have to consider adoption 
  • disconnected from your pregnancy
  • very connected to your child while pregnant
  • uncertain about adoption throughout the entire process 
  • as though you have no other choice, but would prefer to parent 
  • quite certain about adoption once you have decided
  • a mix of certain and uncertain (depending on the day) or somewhere in between
  • at peace and believing this is the best path forward
  • feeling positively about some aspects of the adoption process, even though the situation as a whole is very difficult 
  • feeling extremely negative and just wanting it to be over
  • able to find meaning and purpose in making decisions you believe will give your child a stable and happy life 
  • overwhelmed, out-of-control, or in denial and struggling to make decisions, sometimes waiting until after you have given birth to take concrete action
  • feeling pressure, guilt, or shame because of other people’s opinions about your pregnancy and about what you should do
  • loved and supported to make whatever decision is right for you

Considering adoption is a complex and often very difficult process. It can be a confusing time and there is a big range of emotions, even feeling differently day-to-day or conflicting feelings at the same time. No matter your emotional process, it's important to seek support from loving, caring, compassionate, and non-judgemental sources. Many people report that speaking with birth parents and adult adoptees were some of the most helpful sources of information and support during this time. Others preferred one-on-one time with a counselor or mental health professional.

Got Questions? Chat with an Expert.

Chat online to get answers about pregnancy, birth control, emergency contraception, STDs, and abortion.

Chat Now

What are My Pregnancy Options?

Think you might be pregnant?

Read This Blog

This website uses cookies

Planned Parenthood cares about your data privacy. We and our third-party vendors use cookies and other tools to collect, store, monitor, and analyze information about your interaction with our site to improve performance, analyze your use of our sites and assist in our marketing efforts. You may opt out of the use of these cookies and other tools at any time by visiting Cookie Settings. By clicking “Allow All Cookies” you consent to our collection and use of such data, and our Terms of Use. For more information, see our Privacy Notice.

Cookie Settings

Planned Parenthood cares about your data privacy. We and our third-party vendors, use cookies, pixels, and other tracking technologies to collect, store, monitor, and process certain information about you when you access and use our services, read our emails, or otherwise engage with us. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences, or your device. We use that information to make the site work, analyze performance and traffic on our website, to provide a more personalized web experience, and assist in our marketing efforts. We also share information with our social media, advertising, and analytics partners. You can change your default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of required cookies when utilizing our site; this includes necessary cookies that help our site to function (such as remembering your cookie preference settings). For more information, please see our Privacy Notice.



We use online advertising to promote our mission and help constituents find our services. Marketing pixels help us measure the success of our campaigns.



We use qualitative data, including session replay, to learn about your user experience and improve our products and services.



We use web analytics to help us understand user engagement with our website, trends, and overall reach of our products.