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.
Some people choose adoption when faced with a pregnancy. Information and support is important, but the decision is personal and only you know what's best for you.
There are different ways to go through the adoption process. Here are the facts about your options and info on where to get help and support.
Why do people decide to place their babies for adoption?
If you're facing an unplanned pregnancy, you're not alone. About half of all women in the U.S. have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives, and some decide to give birth and place their baby for adoption. Adoption is when you give birth and then choose someone else to parent your child. It's a permanent, legal agreement where you agree to place your child in the care of another person or family permanently.
You are in charge of your choice. There are many families throughout the country that are hoping to build their families through adoption. There are laws in every state guiding adoptive families and protecting you, so it's important that you speak with an adoption agency or attorney. The decision to place a child for adoption is personal, and you're the only one who can make it.
Everyone has their own unique and valid reasons for choosing adoption. Some of the many different reasons people decide to place a child for adoption include:
- They're not ready to be a parent.
- They can't afford to raise a child.
- They don't want to be a single parent.
- They want to be the best parent possible to the kids they already have.
- It's not a good time in their life to raise a child.
- They want to finish school, focus on work, or achieve other goals before parenting a child.
- They're not in a relationship with someone they want to parent a child with.
- They believe adoption is the best chance for their child to be well-cared for.
- They're in an abusive relationship or were sexually assaulted.
- They just don't want to be a parent right now.
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 choosing adoption. But every person's situation is different, and only you can decide what's best in your case.
Here are some things to ask yourself:
- Do I feel comfortable letting someone else parent my child?
- Do I believe my child will be treated well by the adoptive parent(s)?
- Do I feel I can't care for a child now?
- Would I consider abortion or parenting?
- 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?
- Will I feel okay if I visit my child and their family 2 or 3 times a year, or possibly never see them again?
- Do I have people in my life who will support me through my pregnancy, birth, and adoption process?
There can be lots of stuff to consider, and it’s totally normal to have many different feelings and thoughts when making your decision. 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.
Who can I talk to about adoption?
Talking with your partner, someone in your family, a friend, a religious advisor, 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.
An adoption agency can give you information and help you think through your decision. Many family planning clinics (including your local Planned Parenthood health center) have specially trained staff that can give you accurate information about all your options and other resources. The staff at your local Planned Parenthood can also refer you to adoption agencies or other resources in your area.
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 things to look for when you check out adoption agencies:
- They have an authentic, transparent, unbiased website.
- They listen to you.
- You're treated with dignity and respect.
- They don't judge you.
- They have fact-based answers to your questions and support you no matter what you choose to do.
- When you make your choice — no matter what it is — they'll help connect you with the resources you need.
If you're having a hard time finding someone in your life to talk with, check out Backline or The National Pro-Choice Adoption Collaborative. Both offer free hotlines that give you a confidential space to talk about your feelings about your pregnancy. They'll give you judgement-free support no matter what you decide to do.
How does it feel to place a baby for adoption?
It's really normal to have a lot of different feelings after placing your child for adoption. Lots of people who choose adoption are happy knowing that their child is living with a family who loves and cares for them. They may feel empowered as birth parents, because the decision they made helped give their child a good life.
Some people find that the sense of loss is deeper than they expected. It's totally normal to feel grief after the adoption is complete. You might also feel reassured and relieved. Having many different feelings is very common, and your feelings might be complicated for a while.
Talking with a counselor who's experienced with adoption and talking with other people who've been through adoption can give you support and help you work through your emotions, both during and after the adoption process. If you work with an adoption agency, they may provide counseling. If you have an independent adoption, you can request counseling through a local adoption agency.
No matter which type of adoption you decide on, it's important to find people who will support you during and after your pregnancy and the adoption. You can also call Backline and The National Pro-Choice Adoption Collaborative for judgement-free support anytime.
What are the different types of adoption?
There are 2 kinds of adoption: open and closed.
Closed adoption (also called confidential adoption) is when the birth parent(s) and adoptive family have limited or no information about each other, and they don't stay in contact after the adoption process is finished. People may choose closed adoption in order to have more privacy.
Open adoption is when the birth parent(s) and adopting family meet each other before the adoption, and continue to build a relationship as the child grows up. Most adoptions in the U.S. are open. Sometimes there's a lot of communication between the families and sometimes there's little, but in open adoptions the child always knows of the adoption.
In open adoptions, you choose who adopts your child and you learn important things about them like their values, lifestyle, educational backgrounds, and religion. You develop a relationship with the adoptive family, and there's often a legally enforceable agreement for ongoing visits with the child.
Birth parents and the adoptive family decide together what kind of relationship they want to have, and how often visits, phone calls, and updates happen. People may choose open adoption if they want to be able to pick their child's adoptive family and be in their child's life.
What are the different ways to place a child for adoption?
The adoption process can happen a few different ways.
Agency adoptions are when a state-licensed agency gives you pregnancy options counseling. It's important to work with an agency that's unbiased and will honor you as you explore all of your options and decide which one feels right to you. If you choose adoption, you choose from a pool of carefully screened families. The agency assists you and the family as you build a relationship. The agency also helps you make hospital arrangements for the birth, and gives you guidance on legal matters. Some agencies provide ongoing counseling and relationship guidance over the years.
Independent adoptions are handled through lawyers. These lawyers are sometimes called "adoption attorneys." It's best if the biological parent(s) have their own lawyer to represent their best interests. If you choose independent adoption, you can ask for counseling and guidance through a local adoption agency.
Adoption by a relative happens when someone in the biological parent's family adopts the child. This is also called "kinship adoption." You and your relative(s) 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 adoptive family would. Even though a family member adopts the child in an open adoption, birth parents have no more legal and parental rights than if they had placed their child with strangers.
Your state, county, or local department of family or child services, or your local Planned Parenthood health center, have resources on adoption. They may be able to connect you with a social worker or other adoption counselor who can help you through the adoption process. Also, The National Pro-Choice Adoption Collaborative specializes in providing unbiased, in depth options counseling and open adoption services. You choose from a large pool of diverse families who genuinely want to have an ongoing, extended family relationship with you. They also provide lifelong counseling and guidance.
How do I find an adoption agency?
You can get help finding adoption agencies in your area through your local department of family or child services, or your local Planned Parenthood health center, Backline, or The National Pro-Choice Adoption Collaborative.
An adoption agency can help guide you through the adoption process. When you're picking an adoption agency, it's a good idea to ask lots of questions to make sure they're a good fit for you.
- Will using your services cost me anything?
- Do you offer counseling or support groups for birth parents?
- If I'm under 18 does my family have to know I am considering adoption?
- How do you screen the adoptive families you work with?
- Will I have a large, diverse pool of qualified families to choose from?
- Will I be able to meet with adoptive families?
- Do the adoptive parents want a lifelong relationship with me that includes ongoing visits?
- Do you provide ongoing relationship guidance?
- Will my child know who I am even if I choose not to visit?
- Will there be a legally enforceable post-adoption contact agreement that outlines the number of ongoing visits?
- If I choose an open adoption, will you help me stay in touch with the adoptive family?
- Can your agency help with medical costs for prenatal care and giving birth?
- Do you work with families who want to adopt babies with a different race and ethnicity, or special medical needs?
- What rights does the birth father have in my state?
- If I choose adoption, when is my decision final?
How do I find birth parents or an adopted child after a closed adoption?
Sometimes adopted children or birth parents want to find each other later in life after a closed adoption. Adoption registries may be able to help you connect with your child, and some adoption agencies will help birth parents and children find each other.
It's not always possible to connect birth parents and adopted children after a closed adoption. So if you think you'll want to have some contact with your child, an open adoption is probably a better choice for you.
What are the laws surrounding adoption?
Adoption is legal and binding. All adoptions must be approved by a judge in court.
Adoption laws are different in every state. An adoption counselor, agency, or lawyer can help you understand the laws where you live. Be sure to read everything very carefully and talk with your lawyer and/or adoption agency 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'll have to sign official "relinquishment papers" after your baby is born.
In most states, minors do not need a parent's consent to place their child for adoption.
The laws about birth fathers vary. Depending on the rights a birth father has in your state, you may need their consent in order to plan an adoption.
Some states allow contracts for ongoing visits between birth parents and adoptive families.