Placing a child for adoption is one of the hardest decisions a mother might make. The emotional toll of complicated decisions can snowball into what feels like a mountain of overwhelming stress. While I cannot tell anyone how to feel or how to expedite the emotional healing process, I can help break down the process of placing a child for adoption. Hopefully, by breaking down a few definitions and options, as well as what a typical adoption process looks like, a little of the stress will be alleviated. 

Types of Adoption

When you are faced with an overwhelming situation, it can help to know exactly what your placement options are. In this case, there are two main types of adoption that you should explore first: open and closed

Open adoption allows you to choose the adoptive family. You can meet with them to discuss how they plan to raise the child, should you choose to go through with the adoption. These adoptions often lead to ongoing relationships between all members of the adoption triad

A closed adoption is when the birth family and adoptive family have little to no information about each other. This is very common with international adoptions (adoptions taking place between different countries). With a closed adoption, the families rarely meet–if ever–and an ongoing relationship is rarely ever formed.  

Additional Methods

Agency adoptions involve working with a state-licensed adoption agency. A good agency will inform you of all your options with no bias, and after exploring them with you, they will honor your decision. The agency should assist in all steps of the adoption process including hospital arrangements, paperwork, legalities, and building familial relationships. Some may also offer counseling or therapy. If you would like a place to start, there are good agencies you could potentially look into, such as the Gladney Center for Adoption

Independent adoptions are done by working with individual adoption attorneys rather than large agencies. Adoption attorneys are lawyers that are specially equipped for adoption cases. If you think you want to choose this option but don’t know where to start, you can ask for guidance and consultation from a local adoption agency. 

Kinship adoption is when a biological relative adopts the child. Sometimes this happens when a parent is court-ruled as unfit to care for them (they may be struggling with something and unable to fully care for the child). However, this is something that you can simply choose to do if you want. You and another relative can work together alongside an agency or attorney to discuss the adoption. Note that your family members still have to meet the same requirements as any other adoption, and once it is finalized, you–the birth parent–will have no legal or parental rights to the child. Even though it is an open adoption of sorts, you are still going through with an official adoption. 

What to Look For 

Now, what can you look for in an adoption agency? It’s best to think about what you want from this process in detail before you start the search. Here are some questions you can ask both yourself and the potential agency to get started: 

  • Does my family have to know about my decision? 
  • How will the agency help me stay in touch with the adoptive family? 
  • Can this agency provide medical and other costs? 
  • What are my rights as they pertain to adoption? What rights does the birth father or other biological family have? (This can vary depending on where you live.)
  • Can I get ongoing counseling/guidance? 
  • How much will the adoption services cost?
  • How are adoptive families chosen? 

Process Breakdown

Okay, now that you’ve started looking into your options for placing a child for adoption, let’s learn about the process itself. This will be a very general breakdown of what a typical adoption process could look like. Note that everyone’s experience will be different and catered to their own specific circumstances, so this is just a brief overview of the usual steps. 

Step 1: Select an Agency

Even if you decide to work through an attorney, there may be times when you want to also work with an agency for guidance. Take time to assess your needs and research what agencies can provide for you best. Start someplace local, then if those options are not what you’re looking for, move further along. You can use the aforementioned tips to guide you. 

Step 2: Make a Plan

Whether it’s the agency-provided adoption professional or the lawyer you choose, the next part of the placement process will be you working alongside them to create an idea of where you want this adoption to go. What kind of adoption will it be? What are the next steps for you? How can you get started? These officials should listen to you, clarify your options, and then work out the specifics with you. This is also when they will start helping you through the paperwork you will need to submit. If you are planning to place an unborn child for adoption, they will help you work out a hospital/medical plan as well. 

Step 3: Finding a Family 

If you choose a closed adoption, then the paperwork and finalization might have been the last steps for you. However, if you choose an open adoption, your next steps are to find the family you think would best suit your child. You can go look through adoption profiles to find families that match the particular goals you want. For example, if you know you want your child to be raised within a particular religion, you may search for families specifying that religion. You will also discuss deeper details such as siblings, pets, environments, and even parenting techniques to ensure that you find a good match. Once you think you’ve found one, you can begin meeting with them and getting to know them. 

Step 4: Choose Your Relationship

After deciding on a match, know that you can decide the extent to which you interact with them. You can keep it wide open with regular visits and communication with both the adoptive parents and your child. You can also decide to have limited to no visits, but with occasional updates through your adoption professional. This will be a discussion between you, the adoption professional, and the adoptive parents, but ultimately you have the most say in this choice pre-placement. 

Step 5: Give Consent and Finalize

Once you feel like you have found a family that matches well and everything else has been put into order, the last thing is to give your official, legal consent for the adoption. This will not happen until after the birth of the child. This step includes relinquishing all legal rights to the child and giving those rights to the adoptive family. Several months later, the adoption will be finalized by a judge. If you choose an open adoption, you will still continue to maintain a relationship with the adoptive family after finalization. 

No matter how much we break down the steps or give out tips or advice, the process of placing a child for adoption is stressful. That is inevitable, however unfortunate. Yet I hope that by reading something like this, it may have started someone on a beneficial journey of knowing what their options are–and thus helped them to reduce some of the overwhelming feelings surrounding it. If you are considering placing your child for adoption, there are more answers to your questions available to you.

Mahli Rupp was adopted at 9 months old. She is an avid reader who loves to write and attempt other arts such as drawing, painting, and singing. She is almost always willing to share her experiences in adoption and answer questions whenever she can. Mahli will begin college as an English major and hopes to use her writing skills in whatever path her life brings. When she isn’t huddled in her bedroom with a good book or movie, you can find her hanging out with friends or in a bookstore.