As an expectant parent, you may be in a situation you don’t feel ready for. You may be researching options for you and your baby and adoption may be one of the options you are exploring further. On the other hand, you may already have your heart set on adoption for your baby. Either way, it is important to get as much information during this time so you can make the best choices and decisions for you and your baby. Being informed on each step will make decisions easier. Your decision regarding when to choose a family for your baby will be different than everyone else’s, but understanding how and when this could happen can help you take the next step on your journey.

Understanding the Process of Adoption 

The first thing to understand when wondering when to choose a family for your baby is to know the steps in the process of adoption. You may have just found out you are pregnant or have already found a great adoption service provider. You may still be exploring all of the options for you and your baby or you may have already determined that you will create an adoption plan for yourself and your baby. Whatever stage you are currently in, it is important to understand a general timeline and process for how adoption works. This understanding will help you get the answers you seek in regards to choosing a family.

Choosing an Adoption Service Provider

The first step after you begin the process of adoption is to find an adoption service provider who can support you along the journey. Some expectant parents think they do not need an adoption agency or an adoption attorney, but this is not true. You absolutely need an adoption service provider to finalize your adoption. Every adoption needs to be finalized according to the laws and regulations of the respective state in which you live. An adoption agency or attorney will play a crucial role in helping you navigate your state’s laws. 

Now that you know how important they can be, you may also be wondering how to choose an adoption agency or adoption attorney. You can find a wonderful adoption directory of adoption agencies and adoption attorneys here. As an expectant parent, there are various things to think about as you begin the process of researching adoption agencies. You may not be sure if you are even going to create an adoption plan for you and your baby, and that is okay. Great adoption agencies will answer your questions and offer you support without any obligation to use them or for you to choose adoption for you and your child. When you begin your research it is also important to think about what matters to you during this process. Try asking around for suggestions regarding questions to ask adoption agencies when you interview them either via phone, chat, or email. These questions often cover many aspects from what services the adoption agency provides for expectant parents to what ongoing services they provide for all members of the adoption triad (the adoptive parents, birth parents, and the child) after the adoption is finalized. You can also ask their thoughts on open or closed adoptions. Don’t forget to ask about the agency’s requirements for adoptive families because this can save you a lot of time. You should also ask if financial support during the pregnancy and legal and counseling services are provided by the adoption agency. You will also want to ask how they support an expectant mother if she decides to parent the child and not create an adoption plan. All of these questions, as well as the personal questions you have that are important to you, are a good start when choosing an adoption agency.

One example of a great adoption agency is The Gladney Center for Adoption. The Gladney Center for Adoption provides services to adoptive parents, expectant parents, and birth parents at every stage of the adoption process. Their wonderful options counselors provide pregnancy support for expectant mothers and can answer many of your questions. They can help you understand what birth parent expenses can be covered by the adoption agency or the hopeful adoptive parents, what the steps are in the adoption process, and they can directly answer the question, “When do you choose a family?”

So, When Do You Choose an Adoptive Family For Your Baby?

After researching adoption and adoption service providers, many expectant parents begin to think about choosing a family for their baby. However, other expectant parents already have an idea of who they would like to parent their child or maybe have chosen adoptive parents already. It is important to understand when in the process you would do this and how it is done. Although every adoption is different, every expectant parent is different and every adoptive family is different. This process can be a similar journey in terms of timing for most expectant parents.

When Do You Choose A Family If You Have Not Been Matched Yet?

You may hear the term “matched” during the adoption journey. There are many adoption terms that are frequently used in the adoption world and being matched is one of those such sayings. It means that you have chosen an adoptive parent or parents for your child. Most expectant parents find out they are pregnant and research options for them and their baby. If they decide to make an adoption plan, after finding an adoption agency or adoption attorney, the adoption service provider will work with the expectant parent or parents to understand what is important to them when choosing your child’s adoptive parents. 

Every expectant parent has different things that are important to them. It may be sharing the same financial situation or having the same faith. A deciding factor may be if the prospective adoptive parents have biological children, if they have struggled with infertility and do not have any children, or if they have other children they adopted. You may want to know they live in a house that is nice or live near a great school district. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney will work with you to understand what is important to you shortly after you decide to make an adoption plan and work with you to see profiles of hopeful adoptive parents. Profiles of adoptive parents include photos, information on their marriage, careers, their home, pets, dreams, and parenting style. Your adoption agency will show you profiles of families that match your desires and they will also work with you in your adoption plan to decide the level of openness you wish to have with the adoptive family. Some expectant parents want lots of communication in the form of visits, calls, and regular updates via email or video calls. Other expectant parents like to communicate via email or photos at milestones. Some want even less communication. It is entirely up to you as the expectant parent. You will include your desired level of openness in your adoption plan and your adoption agency will help you select an adoptive family from the photo profiles to meet. If you are open to meeting the prospective adoptive parents, the adoption agency will work with you to arrange a meeting in person, maybe after a phone call, to ensure you feel comfortable with them and ask any questions you have for the adoptive parents. This can happen quickly in the adoption process after finding your adoption agency, or you can take your time during the pregnancy and select the right adoptive family for your baby when you feel ready. There is no pressure on timing. You can change your mind at any time. Even if you have already selected and are matched with a family.

When Do You Choose A Family in A Closed Adoption?

If you decide to have a closed adoption, it will be a different process. Most expectant parents do not choose to have closed adoptions anymore. They were very common decades ago, but have almost entirely ceased today. If you choose to have a closed adoption, it means that you will have a confidential adoption. Your baby and your baby’s adoptive parents will not know who you are. Even in closed adoptions, many birth parents choose to share medical information through your adoption agency, which most expectant parents do for the child’s sake. But otherwise little to no identifying information is shared. In a closed adoption, you would choose a family by working with your adoption agency to see profiles of adoptive parents for your baby. You will never need to meet them and they do not need to know who you are, but you still get to choose an adoptive family for your baby. It is important to know, however, that if your state allows for closed adoptions with sealed adoption records, the adoption laws can change and they may be unsealed one day. This means that your child and/or their adoptive family could identify or locate you one day.

Many expectant parents who want some level of privacy in opt for a semi-open adoption. This may mean that some information is shared, but contact information is restricted. Keep in mind that, meeting in person may not hape in semi-open adoptions. In this form of adoption You are still identified and your adoptive family and your child can know who you are, but no information about where you live or how to reach you will be handed out. This is something to discuss with your adoption agency to better understand how to choose a family that wants the same level of openness.

Choosing An Adoptive Family First

Some expectant parents, as shared earlier, choose their child’s adoptive parents before finding an adoption agency or adoption attorney. You may be wondering how that works. Many expectant parents who are matched early with their baby’s adoptive family, find the adoptive family via online adoptive family profiles. They can search geographically, looking at the photos in their profile and learning more about them via the information they share. You can connect with them online, plan to meet in person, or video chat. It is okay to decide on your child’s adoptive family, get matched, and then work with an adoption agency or adoption attorney to help you with all of the legal paperwork, birth parent expenses, to finalize the adoption. Your adoption will follow the much of the same timeline, you will just choose the adoptive family before choosing your adoption service provider. 

Some expectant parents find their baby’s adoptive family via social media, just be careful of the anonymity on social media platforms. Make sure you ensure that the post is legitimate and that you can verify the family. Your adoption agency will work with you to check that they complete the home study process and will work so that anyone you choose for your child meets their requirements, the state requirements, and all safety requirements in order to adopt your child.

In many cases, people choose their child’s adoptive family via their social network. For example, they can get matched with an adoptive family via their place of worship, through friends, or extended family members. Your adoption agency will also help finalize the adoption and work through all of the legalities throughout the process. 

Regardless of how or when you choose a family for your baby, this is your journey and you get to decide when it is best to choose a family. You also get to choose who they are and how you wish to communicate. Adoption is a lifelong journey and you are taking the very first step!

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.