Adoption is something you may have heard of before, or it could be a completely new concept for you. Either way, you may not know where to even begin researching. You may know someone who has adopted a child from work or church, or maybe one of your friends. You may know someone who has placed a child for adoption as well. As a whole, it can be a very intimidating and scary process for anyone. It is important to do your research and to be wholly educated on the topic before making a decision. Right now, however, you’re probably wondering, what is adoption?
In a basic sense, adoption is defined by the Lexico Oxford dictionary as “the action or fact of legally taking another’s child and bringing it up as one’s own, or the fact of being adopted.” In a more specific sense, a woman who is pregnant–regardless of circumstances–can decide to place her child. This means that the legal guardianship of the biological parent will be terminated, and another person will be determined by the legal guardian of the child.
Before we get into the specifics of the other important things you need to know, please know that there is no right or wrong way to begin thinking about placing a child for adoption. It is perfectly normal to have lots of questions, to be unsure of what choice is the right one to make, or to feel confused. By the end of this article, however, you should feel a bit more confident about your knowledge regarding adoption.
Types of Adoption
Generally speaking, for the purposes of this article, there are two main types of adoptions: open and closed.
Open adoption means that the birth parent will still be able to be a part of the child’s life, just not as the legal guardian. Open adoptions can be found in many different forms; it is important to remember that no adoption is the same. Some families may choose minimal contact, which may mean that there will be occasional updates through pictures (printed or on social media), letters, phone calls, video chats, or something of that nature. Other families may want to take a more involved approach where there are visitations and more consistent communication. Again, the structure of open adoption is based upon what works best for and is agreed up by both families.
Semi-open adoptions also fall under the category of open adoption; however, communication is usually facilitated by an entity outside of the adoptive or biological family such as the adoption agency the families worked with.
Closed adoption is one where there is no communication between the adoptive parents and biological parents, or the adoptee. Usually, these adoptions are present when one or more parties request a level of privacy about their identity for multiple reasons. The adoption records will be sealed, meaning that the adoptee will not have access to the identity of the biological parents or any medical or personal history. The birth parent usually does not contact the adoptee either. However, these situations can vary on a case-by-case basis. In the past, particularly during the baby scoop era, the records (including the adoptee’s original birth certificate) were sealed indefinitely by the state.
Other types include:
- International – A child from another country is adopted by a family in another country.
- Domestic – A child is adopted in the same country that they were born in.
- Kinship – A child is taken in and adopted in by a member of their biological family or close friend.
- Foster – A child that is currently in the foster care system is adopted out of foster care by a family.
Check out this brief article that provides more facts about the differences between open and closed. Additionally, this article provides an added short description of the aforementioned types of adoptions.
When debating on whether adoption is the right choice for you, make sure to consider all your options. Expectant parents may choose this route for a wide variety of reasons, including financial instability, a major life change, or health. These are mentioned solely to provide you with some examples that are common, not to persuade you to choose adoption if you happen to be experiencing one of the aforementioned things. Ultimately, it will be up to you, and only you, to make the decision of whether to place your child for adoption. Do whatever you believe is best for you and your child.
Now that we’ve gone over the different options and some reasons some people choose that option, let’s talk about the role of an expectant parent. As an expectant parent, you are the beginning of the adoption process. Most adoptions are facilitated through an adoption agency, especially if the child is a newborn or an infant. Agencies can be large or small and are located all across the world, depending on the route you choose. In addition, you will have a decision in your preference for the kind of adoptive parents and the family that you want for your child. For many expectant parents, this helps to alleviate some of the anxiety around the adoption process; it gives the expectant parent control over one aspect of their child’s future.
Once the adoptive family is selected and matched with an expectant parent, the two families usually decide collaboratively on how the next steps will proceed. For example, whether open or closed adoption is chosen, other important details are decided after the matching process has occurred. Overall, whatever you decide is best for your child will have an impact on not only their life and your life but also the adoptive family that you choose. Adoption is a lifelong process once it has been finalized, and it is important to remember that.
How the Process Works
As mentioned earlier, you will most likely work with an adoption agency to set up the adoption. Once you select an agency that you want to work with, you will meet with them and discuss important aspects of the adoption such as why you are choosing this method, what type of family you envision adopting your child, and how you want to arrange a contract between you and the adoptive family. Ultimately, the agency will be the liaison between both parties until the adoption is finalized. They will also keep up with all the records both the adoptive family and the birth parents provide. Once the child is born and the last proceedings of the adoption are completed, the adoption will be finalized. A finalized adoption means the birth parents will have to terminate their rights in order for the adoptive parents to assume legal guardianship.
Adoptive families have to complete several steps before they are eligible to adopt a child, most of which the adoption agency will facilitate. However, the most important thing is the home study. This is usually completed by the adoption agency. Sometimes, a social worker familiar with adoption will become involved to provide a professional opinion. They are most often affiliated with the adoption agency that you choose to work with. For more information you should be familiar with how adoptive parents are evaluated before they are matched with an expectant parent, see this article.
Many expectant parents may worry about the financial burden that adoption could be for them. In some cases, the adoption agency will work with the birth and adoptive parents to work the medical costs of the birth into the adoption contract. More frequently, however, the adoptive family will pay for either the legal and the medical costs, or both. As always, however, each adoption is different and should be treated as such. If possible and to be safe, ensure that you have health insurance that could cover some of the costs.
Things to Remember
Additionally, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind as you go through your journey as an expectant parent:
First, deciding to place a child for adoption is a decision that can make you experience a roller coaster of emotions. It is perfectly normal to feel scared, apprehensive, or nervous. Being aware of your mental health throughout the process is extremely important. It is perfectly normal and even encouraged, to seek counseling or therapy at any point during the adoption process. Many therapists even specialize in this area of adoption, so there is a host of well-trained counselors, therapists, psychologists, and social workers that can help you navigate the complicated feelings associated with adoption. Exploring different articles or books are also a good way to find out different ways to handle the anxiety that you may be experiencing. In this article, a birth mother describes how she felt when she was considering adoption. She emphasizes the fact that there are so many people who have been in the exact same situation that you are right now.
In addition, finding others who have shared your experience may be helpful to you. Having a support system can provide a sense of comfort, especially during a difficult time. This link will take you to forums that allow expectant and birth parents to converse and support each other on a wide variety of topics. You are also able to post on the forums if you do not find a topic that you can relate to.
Secondly, be aware that there are many myths and untrue things that are often told to birth mothers during the adoption process. Finding credible and unbiased sources will be crucial in your search for information. By doing this, you will be protecting yourself from extraneous, unnecessary stress in the adoption process–whether it is something you choose to go through with or not. Moreover, it is important, to be honest and receive honest information about adoption. For more credible resources on a wide variety of topics about adoptions, visit the following websites: Adoption.com; Adopting.org; Adoption.ORG. Here, you can find informative articles and personal testimonies written by those familiar with adoption in retrospect; many answer questions that may stem from everyone’s original question–what is adoption?
Finally, a Message from the Other Side
As an adoptee, I have a different perspective on the process than an expectant parent will have. While I may not understand what it’s like to place a child up for adoption, I do know the importance of feeling loved and validated in this whole process. The process itself does not finish when the child goes home with the adoptive parents, it is a lifelong journey. I grew up knowing that while I may be adopted, that does not mean that I was not loved by my birth family. To be completely honest, it took a while to get to this mindset. Adoption is a psychologically taxing event for everyone, especially expectant and birth parents. It can take some longer than others to cope with the changes it brings in one’s life–both losses and gains. However, there are many positives, and it is important to focus on those moments just as much as the ones that might be stressful.
Last of All…
Hopefully, now that you have read a little bit about what adoption is, you will feel more comfortable with your general knowledge about it. Your mindset has most likely shifted to “I feel like I have a good foundation.” The more comfortable that you become with adoption as a topic, the more effectively you will be able to evaluate your situation in relation to it. We wish you the best of luck in your adoption journey, no matter what it might look like.
Lastly, if you are curious about anything that was not covered in this article, please refer to any of the links in this article for more information on adoption.
My name is Morgan Bailee Boggess, and I am originally from Owensboro, KY, (where I was raised) and was adopted from Henderson, KY. I currently live in Lexington, KY, with my fiance, our Yorkie (Heidi), turtle (Sheldon), and a variety of saltwater fish. Beginning in 2016, I sought out and met most of my biological family. At the end of my searching, I discovered that I have, in total, 8 brothers and sisters, 20 nieces and nephews, and one godson. I graduated from Georgetown College in 2018 with a bachelorâ€™s degree in Psychology and am currently working towards getting my masterâ€™s in Social Work (MSW) with plans to get my Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology a few years after that. I am a psychometrist and clinical research assistant at Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky. My research focus is looking at how forms of complex trauma (particularly intergenerational) affects the cognition in older adults. In my spare time, I write and read spoken word poetry at events to help benefit local nonprofits. I am also involved with several national diversity organizations and serve on the Board of Directors for Adoptees Connect, Inc.