For birth moms looking for adoptive parents, the number of decisions to be made regarding pregnancy can feel overwhelming. If you are reading this article, then you might be considering adoption, which is a beautiful choice. Adoption is the legal termination of the birth parents’ rights and the granting of those rights to the adoptive parents. Adoption requires the consent of both the biological parents and the adoptive parents and is legally binding. Once the adoption is finalized, in a court of law, a final order of adoption will be issued and the adoptive parents will assume sole custody of the child. Every year, tens of thousands of adoptions take place in the United States, but just as every pregnancy is unique, so too is every adoption story.
As an expectant parent, you may realize that now is not the right time for you to parent a child. You may be with the wrong partner, in a difficult financial situation, or you may want to focus on your educational and career aspirations. Choosing adoption is an incredible act of love both for the child, yourself, and the adoptive parents. There are thousands of prospective adoptive parents looking to build their families through adoption. Identifying which one is right for you and your child may seem like an overwhelming choice, but there are resources designed to help you. Whether you are working with a national adoption agency, such as the Gladney Center for Adoption, or pursuing an independent adoption, here are some things birth moms looking for adoptive parents should consider as they begin their adoption journey.
Type of Adoption to Consider
The first thing birth moms looking for adoptive parents should consider is what type of adoption they wish to pursue. There are many different types of adoption, but as an expectant parent, you will likely be considering either private domestic adoption or kinship adoption. Private domestic adoption is the most common form of adoption in the United States, and roughly 20,000 private domestic adoptions occur each year. In private domestic adoption, the expectant parents work either with an agency or an adoption facilitator to identify the prospective adoptive parents. The prospective adoptive parents may live locally or anywhere within the United States and may or may not be known to the expectant parents. In kinship adoption, the prospective adoptive parents are a blood relative of either the expectant mother or the expectant father. The benefit of kinship adoption is that the child is able to remain within their biological family, but this may prove a complicating factor as well. Kinship adoptions account for roughly 30% of all domestic adoptions each year.
Open or Closed
The next big question for expectant parents to consider is whether they would like an open or closed adoption. This refers to the type of post-adoption contact you will have with the child and the adoptive parents. In an open adoption, frequent communication occurs between adoptive parents and the birth parents. Communication may be in the form of video calls, letters, in-person meetings, or phone calls. The frequency of these communications varies from adoption triad to adoption triad, but as an expectant parent, if you are interested in open adoption, it is a good idea to consider how often you would like to communicate. Over the last twenty years, open adoption has become more common and many states allow for legally enforceable post-adoption contact contracts. Open adoption is thought to be beneficial for the child, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents, but the circumstances of each adoption are different so as the expectant parent you should choose what is right for you. Unlike an open adoption, in a closed adoption, the child knows that they were adopted, but the child does not know who their biological parents are. In many cases, the adoptive parents may not know the identity of the biological parents either. There may be many reasons for an expectant parent to choose a closed adoption, though it should be noted that in many states, an adoption registry is maintained. When the child becomes 18 years of age, either the child or the biological parent(s) may decide to pursue contact at that time and may engage the state adoption registry to identify the other.
Type of Family Structure
Birth moms looking for adoptive parents should also consider what type of family structure they would like for their child to be raised in. When you imagine your child’s adoptive parents is it with two parents? Is there a mom and a dad? Or a mom and a mom? Or a dad and a dad? Are you open to your child being raised by a single parent? What about extended family? Is it important if your child grows up in an intergenerational household? What if family members live close by or on the other side of the country? There are no wrong or right answers, it is simply what feels right to you.
Children in the Home
Building on the type of family you envision for your child, what about other children in the home? Is it important for you if your child grows up with siblings or if they are an only child? If you envision siblings, how many? Is birth order important? What about the presence of adoption in the family? Does it matter if the other children in the household are biologically related to the adoptive parents? What about pets? Families come in all shapes and sizes and identifying which one you envision for your child can help narrow your selection field to find the perfect match for you and your child.
Another important factor birth moms should consider when looking for adoptive parents is race. Is it important to you that your child be raised by someone of the same race as they are? Are you open to your child being in a transracial household? Many prospective adoptive parents are open to becoming a transracial family, but it is important to ensure that if you are open to transracial adoption, that the prospective adoptive parents have the resources to provide racial mirrors for the child.
Like race, the ethnicity of the adoptive parents may be something you want to consider. Is it important that the adoptive parents be of the same ethnicity as your child? What if they are of a different ethnicity? Like adoptive parents who are open to becoming a transracial family, many adoptive parents are open to becoming transethnic as well. If you are open to your child living with a transethnic family, what elements of your own ethnic background do you hope your child will learn about? Are there important cultural traditions you hope your child will grow up celebrating? Sharing these expectations with the prospective adoptive parents can be a good way to ascertain if you are the right fit for one another. Some adoptive parents may welcome the chance to learn about a new culture. Some may even live in an area where that culture thrives and thus they will be able to provide the child ongoing exposure to the child’s rich biological heritage.
Another factor to consider is religion. If you were raised within a religious community, what was your experience? Was it beneficial to you? Is it a tradition you wish to pass down to your child? There are many faith-based adoption organizations with whom expectant parents can work. One of the benefits of these organizations is that they can directly connect you with prospective adoptive parents within your faith community. In fact, in many cases, prospective adoptive parents are asked to write a statement of faith which you, as the expectant parent, can then review and decide if that matches your religious views or not.
You may have had the opposite experience and thus wish for your child to be raised in more of an agnostic household. Some expectant parents feel the best choice is for the adoptive parents to raise the child with good ethics and morals and then allow for the child to make a decision about their religion later in life. Another thing to consider is that many religions, such as Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism, carry with them a cultural factor. Is it important that the adoptive parents be both practicing and observant of their religion? Is not eating pork or maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle important to you? Or do you feel the opposite? Or, in the event that you are open to a transethnic adoption, is it okay if your child is raised Catholic, for example, but maintains their ties to Hinduism, through the celebration of Diwali? Though the questions may seem complex, spending time to consider what is important to you will help you find your ideal prospective adoptive parent(s).
The beautiful thing about private domestic adoption is that it is domestic and can occur anywhere within the United States. But the United States is a big country with many, many different regions. In thinking about placing your child, do you envision your child being raised in an urban area, like New York City or Chicago, in a suburb, like outside St. Louis, or in a rural area like the beautiful plains of Oklahoma? Is it important that your child remains geographically close to you or are you open to the entire United States? Do you want your child to live by the mountains or by the beach or with wide-open spaces? Is it important to you that the adoptive parents have roots in their area, or are you open to adoptive parents who may have moved across the country to start a new adventure? What feels right for you and your child?
Parent’s Profession and Hobbies
Something else to consider is the profession of the prospective adoptive parents and their hobbies. How much do the prospective adoptive parents work? Do they have standard 40 hours a week, nine to five jobs, or do they work nights and weekends? Do they engage in shift work? Do they work in an industry where they may move around the country a lot? A child adopted into a military family may move every two or three years, which has its pros and cons. Does their profession allow them ample vacation time? Are they able to make their own hours? In what kind of environment do you envision your child? Is the adoptive parent a teacher, a lawyer, a farmer, an artist, in the military? What kind of hobbies do they have? What kind of hobbies and exposures do you wish for your child to have?
One last thing that birth moms looking for adoptive parents should think about is what kind of childcare they want their child to have. Is it important to you that one parent stays home with the child? Are you open to a parent working at home with the child? Or are you open to childcare? At what age do you see your child entering childcare? What kind of childcare is available and what kind of childcare would the adoptive parents consider? Is it a child care center, an in-home daycare, or perhaps a relative? Though of course, every situation is unique and circumstances may, of course, change, childcare is another step to envisioning the life your child will have once they are placed with the adoptive parents. There are many things to consider when placing your child for adoption. No answer is right and no answer is wrong. At the end of the day, many birth parents agree that the ultimate decision came down to a gut feeling that they had when they found their child’s adoptive parents. Ready to start considering families? A great place to start is by looking at prospective adoptive parents’ profiles. Whoever you choose, know you have made a great decision and given the gift of love and life to both yourself, your child, and the adoptive parents.
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.