Whether you find yourself unexpectedly expecting or you have come to a place in your life where you are not financially, physically, or emotionally able to parent a child, considering placing your child for adoption is a selfless act. There may be many reasons parenting a child is not possible for you at this time—and no one answer is right. Considering adoption means you are weighing all your options so you can make the best choice for yourself and your child when the time comes.

  If you are researching the answer to the question, “How do you put your child up for adoption?”, this article will walk you through the steps of placing both an infant and an older child for adoption. It is important to note, however, that many agencies will not facilitate the domestic placement of a child over the age of five. In these instances, it is best to involve your state and local social services department. These departments can also assist in financial and medical assistance and can help you figure out what support options are available to you. A complete list of all state social services departments can be found here.

Understand What Adoption Is and Is Not

Adoption is the legal termination of the birth parents’ rights and the granting of those rights to the adoptive parents. Though many adoption triads choose to have some form of an open relationship, adoption is not reversible. Once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents assume all financial, emotional, and physical responsibilities for the child and the child will be legally viewed as having all the rights of a child, “as if (the adoptive child) had been born to them (the adoptive parents).”

  Adoptions do not occur because the birth parents do not love the child. Rather, choosing to place a child for adoption is one of the most selfless, loving acts, you can commit. Choosing adoption means you are choosing a better life both for yourself and your child. This is why you should try using the term “placing your child for adoption” instead of “putting a child up for adoption”. Adoption is a caring decision, so try to use positive adoption language

Within the United States, tens of thousands of adoptions occur every year. Adoption is not rare and in fact, it is reported that one out of every 25 American families has an adoptive family member. The United States has a long history of adoption and there are many different types of adoptions. There is private domestic adoption, which is the placing of an infant with an adoptive family (typically at birth). There is also international adoption, where a child is adopted to or from a different country than the child’s origin. Stepparent adoption is also common. Another possibility is adoption from foster care, where a child placed into foster care by the state then is adopted. One can also choose kinship adoption in which the adopted child is related biologically to their adoptive parents. The adoptive parents may be a cousin, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or even a sibling of the expectant parent.

Most expectant parents who choose adoption choose either private domestic adoption or kinship adoption. While kinship adoption is much less prevalent than private domestic adoption, kinship care can be a good solution for those parents considering placing an older child up for adoption. In kinship care, the child is temporarily placed with a family member through a temporary guardianship. It is generally thought that this is the best first step before considering placing an older child for adoption.

Consult the Birth Father

No matter what your situation is, the birth father or the expectant father has rights. When considering, how to place your child for adoption, it is important to consult the birth father or the expectant father and to express your desires to place your child for adoption. In most states, a man is presumed to be the expectant father if he has been married, or attempted to marry, the expectant mother. Proof of paternity is gauged through DNA tests and many states have a putative father registry. If the expectant father is not in the picture, the first step will be to see if he is listed on the putative father registry. If he is not, or the state in which you reside does not have a putative father registry, then every attempt must be made to locate him. For most expectant mothers, this step may be handled by your adoption agency or adoption facilitator. 

If, for any reason, you feel uncomfortable sharing the news of your pregnancy and your decision to place the child for adoption with the expectant father, an adoption attorney or your social worker may do so on your behalf. If the expectant father disagrees with your decision to place your child, he will need to prove his ability to parent the child. In most states, the expectant mother has more rights than the expectant father, and may still choose to terminate her parental rights without the consent of the birth father. If the expectant father chooses to terminate his parental rights, he can typically do so at any time prior to the birth of the child and within 60-120 days after the birth of the child. The expectant mother may not terminate her parental rights until after the child is born.

Because domestic adoption is mandated on the state level, and not the federal level, every state varies in its adoption laws. These adoption laws include everything from the birth fathers’ rights, to whether adoption facilitators are allowed, laws on advertising with regards to adoption, expenses permitted by the expectant mother to be reimbursed by the prospective adoptive parents, when a birth mother can consent to an adoption and whether post-adoption contracts are legally enforceable. One of the steps when considering “how do you put your child up for adoption” is to consult a state-licensed adoption attorney who can walk you through the specifications with regards to adoption in the state where you currently reside. 

Choose an Agency or Choose Independent Adoption

The next step in putting your child up for adoption is to consider whether you want to work with an adoption agency or pursue an independent adoption. An independent adoption is much like it sounds, in that the adoption takes place independently of an adoption agency. An adoption attorney will still need to be engaged, as the final adoption will take place in a court of law, but an adoption facilitator may make attorney recommendations, or you may identify a state-licensed attorney independently. While some birth parents say they like independent adoptions in that they may foster a closer relationship with the prospective adoptive parents, pursuing an adoption without an adoption agency does have its drawbacks.

  When you choose to work with an adoption agency you gain access to all the connections and support networks that the agency you select has. For a large national adoption agency, such as The Gladney Center for Adoption, expectant parents have access to around-the-clock support. There are expectant parent support groups, birth parent support groups, local caseworkers, and access to a ton of prospective adoptive parent profiles so you can find the best fit for you and your child. Additionally, a good adoption agency will help you facilitate financial support during your pregnancy, assist with your adoption attorney (most large agencies have adoption attorneys on retainer who are available to answer any and all questions you may have), and even offer support post-placement through vocational and educational aid. Remember, it costs you nothing to place your child. 

Choose a Prospective Adoptive Family

Another question that comes up when contemplating, “How do you put your child up for adoption?” is how to choose prospective adoptive parents. It can be daunting to consider what is most important to you in prospective adoptive parents, but a good adoption agency or adoption facilitator will help you walk through different prospective adoptive parent profiles and help you think about what you want and what you don’t want for your child. Consider if religion is important to you, or the race or ethnicity of the prospective adoptive parents, or if you are open to single-parent households or same-sex couples. Do you want your child to be raised in the city, in the country, or somewhere in-between? What hobbies do you hope your child pursues? Do you hope your child plays sports or that they are into the arts? If so, see what parent profile resonates with you.

Take some time and read through different profiles. Profiles are made up of photos, essays, and even videos so you can get a sense of what life with the prospective adoptive parents would be like for your child. What stands out to you? In their parent profiles, prospective adoptive parents will share their views on parenting, if there are other children currently in the household, how many children they would ideally like to have, and what kind of relationship they would like to have with you. This last question is one you should evaluate ahead of time, and that may evolve throughout your pregnancy or as you come into contact with the prospective adoptive parents. In the United States, semi-open and open adoption is increasingly the norm, meaning that there is some contact between the birth parents, the adoptee, and the adoptive parents post-placement. This contact may come in the form of letters, or emails, or phone calls, video calls, or even in-person gatherings. It just depends on the level of comfort of each member of the adoption triad. And no two triads and no two post-adoption contact plans are the same.

  Once you have identified potential adoptive parents then your social worker or adoption facilitator will reach out to them. Depending on your level of comfort, you may exchange emails with the prospective adoptive parents, speak on the phone, video chat, or even meet in-person. The goal is for each of you to really get to know the other. Remember, adoption is a lifelong journey, so ask any and all questions you may have and take the time to feel one another out. If it’s not a good fit, that’s okay, there are plenty of other prospective adoptive parents to consider. And if it is a good fit—congratulations! You just found the second part of your adoption triad.

Place Your Child

For many expectant parents consider, the actual placement and adoption is often a source of confusion. For domestic infant adoption, your adoption agency will help you develop a hospital plan so everyone is on the same page of what to expect on your delivery day. On your delivery day, you may choose anyone you like to be in the room with you and you may choose the level of contact you have with the baby after the child is born.

After the child is born, the baby may either remain with you or move to the care of the prospective adoptive parents. Depending on your state’s adoption laws, you may consent to the adoption either immediately after the birth, 48-72 hours after the birth, or a week after the birth. Once you consent to the adoption you may still choose your mind and decide to parent, but after a certain period of time (which may vary from one week to one month, depending on your state’s adoption laws) consent will become irrevocable and you will officially become a birth parent.

For those parents considering older child adoption, the journey to placement is similar and the laws of your individual state (with regards to when you can reverse your decision and when your decision becomes irrevocable) remain the same. But for older child adoption, it is typical for the placement itself to occur more gradually. 

Depending on the age of the child, several meetings will take place between you, the child, and the prospective adoptive parents before the final placement occurs. In fact, the child may spend a few nights with the prospective adoptive parents, before moving in with them permanently. This allows both you and the child the time necessary for such a transition and allows every member of the adoption triad to plan for future contact. And just as in domestic infant adoption, if at any time during this transition process you choose to change your mind and decide to parent, that will be okay too. In this instance, your social worker will help you navigate whatever financial and social resources may be available to you so you can be the best parent you can be.

  Finally, as you consider how to place your child for adoption, remember that adoption is a lifelong journey. Though you may choose to place your child, they will always remain in your heart. And that is a beautiful thing.

Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller, and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. Her amazing transracial transcultural family was created through adoption from China and India. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and “is this really us?!” whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.