If you’re pregnant and considering adoption, adoption hotlines can answer your questions and even help you in an emergency placement situation. They can be a key source of learning for medical professionals seeking help with assisting their patients, parents seeking information on how to help their pregnant daughter, or women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Most adoption hotlines are affiliated with adoption agencies, though, so you should realize when you call one that you’ll be assisted through that specific agency and will be introduced to their hopeful adoptive families by one of their adoption professionals. Very few adoption hotlines exist for the sole purpose of educating people about their adoption options. In plain black and white, adoption hotlines can offer you the exact same information you can receive from calling any adoption agency. In fact, you’re likely calling an adoption agency when you call an adoption hotline.

Adoption hotlines are not crisis pregnancy centers, which exist simply to help you find parenting or adoption resources and can potentially point you to an adoption agency they feel comfortable referring you to.

From Hotline to Agency

The most important thing to know about agencies is that there are non-profit agencies and for-profit agencies. If you look up an adoption hotline, dig into their website a little to see what agency they’re affiliated with. Or, if you call, ask outright what agency they’re with. Ask if they’re a non-profit or a for-profit, and take the time after you hang up to look them up on a search engine and read all the reviews on them. All agencies are different, and not all are run by good-hearted people who have your best interests (and your baby’s best interests) in mind. So read the reviews carefully. For-profit agencies make money off your crisis, so try to find a non-profit whose practices align with what makes you feel most comfortable. Any agency can be called to answer any questions you have, even if they don’t have an adoption hotline. Any agency will be happy to walk you through what your options are, what they can offer you, and what the process of working with them would look like.

Calling vs Researching

Calling an adoption hotline can be more confusing than simply researching adoption agencies in your area (seeing if they’re non-profit or for-profit, reading all the reviews, and making a short list of the agencies you’d be willing to work with). Often you can see an agency’s hopeful adoptive families before you even call them. But when you call an adoption hotline, you’re more likely to get roped into working with an agency you haven’t done your due diligence on before getting invested in them. That can lead to a lot of regret down the road. Placing your child for adoption is such a life-changing and serious time in your life that it deserves all the planning and forethought you can give it. That includes finding the right agency—not just the right couple. It’s the agency that will take care of your pre- and post-placement needs. Each agency will treat you differently, so choosing the right one for you is extremely important.

Choosing Whom to Call

Whomever you choose to call—an adoption hotline, a crisis pregnancy center, or an agency—you’ll be able to ask the same questions. If you’re pregnant and considering adoption, if you’re hiding a pregnancy, if you’re wondering how last-minute adoption plans work, if you need an emergency placement, if you’re trying to keep your child out of foster care, if you’re seeking a very specific type of adoption, or if you need help with drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, any three of these resources can help you. A crisis pregnancy center is the option most likely to be non-biased in terms of how you should place your baby for adoption (they can point you to an adoption agency or would be supportive of you finding a family more organically, like online, via social media, or through friends) because they are simply invested in the promise that you give your child life, whether you choose to parent or place that child. An agency is going to be invested in you making a placement plan through them, but the services they can provide include any situation you may find yourself in.

Adoption hotlines are the unknown. You may stumble across a great agency that uses a hotline as one additional way to help you find them. Or you may get the uneasy feeling that I felt when I clicked around to a dozen or so adoption hotline pages myself. The biggest piece of advice you should take to heart during this process is to go with your gut. Ask as many questions as you can. Don’t work with an agency unless they give you pre-placement options support and post-placement grief counseling and require their hopeful adoptive couples to receive extensive adoption education. Don’t work with an agency that sees you as a source of income; choose an agency and family who make you feel like a person worth being valued, concerned about, and included in every single part of the adoption plan. Your voice matters in this whole process, and the work you put in to finding the best resources on the front end of the adoption will be invaluable down the road, as you find a family for your baby, grieve placement, build a relationship with that family, and work together to heal and grow so your baby has a life full of love from all of you.