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If you’re considering private adoption, it’s important to understand the adoption process.  Adoption laws are different in every state, so it’s also important to learn what the laws are in the state where you give birth and, if different, the state where the adoption will be finalized.

What happens in the adoption process?

The private adoption process can vary because each state has its own adoption laws, and each adoption professional might have their own way of doing things. Here are the general steps:

  1. Counseling to explore your pregnancy options. 
  2. Prenatal care to help you have a healthy pregnancy while you make your decision.
  3. Signing paperwork that starts, but doesn’t require you to complete, the adoption process.
  4. Learning about the emotional and legal aspects of placing your child for adoption.
  5. Sharing information about yourself and the other parent with the adoption professional you’re working with.
  6. Discussing the type of family you’re seeking for your child and deciding whether you want to meet or develop a relationship with them before you give birth.
  7. Reviewing profiles of prospective adoptive parents (PAPs), interviewing them if you want, and choosing.
  8. Making a plan for how you want your birthing experience and time at the hospital to go, and how much time you want to spend with your child after they’re born.
  9. Giving birth.
  10. Signing paperwork that allows the PAPs to have your child in their care and custody. In some states this is the legally binding consent to adoption.
  11. Giving your child to the adoptive parents.
  12. If not yet signed, completing final consent to adoption.

The private adoption process can vary because each state has its own adoption laws, and each adoption professional might have their own way of doing things. Here is what you can expect at different stages of your pregnancy and decision-making process. 

If you’re early in your pregnancy, or having a first conversation with an adoption professional, make sure you:

  • Get full options counseling that names and explores all of your pregnancy options (abortion, adoption, and parenting) free from any pressure or shame. 
  • Get the referrals you need to be safe and healthy while you’re exploring your pregnancy options. 
  • Get parenting information and referrals for support services if you’re considering parenting your child.
  • Are able to talk about your reasons for considering adoption without pressure or bias.
  • Get information about what to expect emotionally, practically, and legally in the adoption process. 
  • Are considered and addressed as an “expectant parent” who is considering adoption, not a “birth parent.” A birth parent is someone who has consented to an adoption and ended their parental rights.
  • Are treated with respect and dignity.

Remember, only you can decide what’s best for you. 

If you’re later in your pregnancy, or are sure that you’ll be placing your child for adoption, make sure you:

  • Are given the referrals and resources you need to continue to have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
  • Continue to get support to prepare for the emotional, practical, and legal aspects of the adoption process.
  • Are given information, resources, and encouragement if you decide you want to parent your child or are still considering parenting your child. 
  • Are able to discuss what you’re looking for in a prospective adoptive family — for example, their location, race, age, religion, whether they’re already parenting, their reasons for adopting, and the kind of contact they want to have with you after adoption (open vs. closed).
  • Are able to view profiles of prospective families that meet what you’re looking for and are able to see more if you’re not satisfied with your options. There are far more people waiting to adopt a baby than there are babies being placed for adoption. As long as there is at least a few weeks before you give birth, you should be able to find parents who feel good to you. If you have very specific criteria or your child will likely have a lot of medical and developmental needs, you may have to make some compromises.
  • Have the option to interview as many prospective families as you would like in a way that feels comfortable (phone, video, in person, etc). You can also choose a family without interviewing them first. The professional you work with can help you plan what questions to ask. The prospective families will have questions for you as well.
  • Are able to choose a prospective adoptive family. Choosing a family does not commit you to placing your child with them for adoption. You have the right to change your mind without pressure, guilt, or fear.

What kind of paperwork will I need to do? 

If you decide on adoption, you’ll have to do some paperwork before doing more serious planning. This paperwork may include: 

  • Permission for the adoption professional to get records confirming that you are pregnant, and information about your health and your fetus’s development.
  • Permission to share your information with prospective adoptive parents (PAPs). You can withhold your full name or contact information, but it will include non-identifying information about you, the other parent, and your pregnancy.
  • Forms where you share history, health, and social information about you and the other parent.
  • A list of expenses you need prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) to cover, if this is allowed in the state that you and the PAPs reside in

Here are some things to keep in mind as you go through this process:

  • At this stage, you’re not required to sign anything committing to adoption.
  • You have the right to have any and all documents explained to you and to make sure that you fully understand anything that you sign. 
  • Ask if a document is legally binding before you sign it. You may not be able to change your mind after signing, so it may be better to wait to do anything until you’ve had time to really think about any decision you’re being asked to make. 

Will I get financial support throughout the adoption process? 

You may have certain living and pregnancy expenses paid for during your pregnancy and for a limited time after the birth. The adoption professional you work with may be the one paying you, but it’s usually the prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) who are actually providing the money. 

Covered expenses may include:

  • Pregnancy and birth-related medical and hospital costs. ƒ 
  • Living expenses during your pregnancy, like rent, food, utilities, transportation, etc.
  • Counseling fees.
  • Attorney and other legal fees.

In most states, these expenses are considered a gift, which means you’re not legally obligated to pay them back if you change your mind and decide to parent your child or make another arrangement for your child. However, in a few states you may be legally required to pay the money back. Ask the adoption professionals you work with about the laws in your state and research them here

You have no obligation to place your child for adoption, even if you’ve gotten financial help. You can change your mind for any reason at any time before you sign your consent to the adoption

Read more about the regulation of private adoption expenses.

Search private adoption expenses laws by state.