If you are pregnant and have chosen adoption, it may be difficult to know where to start. There are a number of adoption options available, and different considerations may apply depending on which is best suited for you. If you already know who you want to adopt your child, and they agree, an independent adoption may be the right choice. If you do not have someone lined up to adopt your child, maybe an agency adoption would be right for you. It is important to find an agency that is a good fit for you. For example, if you are very religious, you may want a religiously affiliated agency. If you are not religious, you may feel best using a secular agency.
An Irrevocable Process
Termination of parental rights is irrevocable except in very narrow circumstances. If you are considering letting a relative care for your child temporarily, you may favor guardianship instead of adoption.
Open or Closed Adoption?
Once you have determined what kind of adoption you want to pursue, you also need to decide whether you want an open or closed adoption. With an open adoption, the child will know your identity, and you can receive periodic updates if you want. Some adoption agreements include visitation with birth parents even after the adoption is finalized. (Be aware that states vary as to how enforceable these contracts are.) The vast majority of adoption agencies allow open adoptions, which have become the norm. If you decide down the line that you no longer want that contact with the child, birth parents are usually allowed to reserve the right to cease contact. It is important to learn about open and closed adoptions so that you can knowledgeably figure out which option is better for you.
Placing an Infant for Adoption
With infant adoptions, birth parents are able to choose who they want the adoptive parents to be. If you do not have anyone in mind, adoption agencies will have folders or portfolios of potential adoptive parents that you can review to help make your decision. However, if you prefer a closed, anonymous agency adoption, you can find an agency that will handle those kinds of adoptions. If you change your mind during the adoption process about any aspect of the adoption, you can generally stop or change agencies to one that works better for you. If you are working with an agency, they may be able to guide you through the legal process and offer counseling and other resources.
If you do not want to use an agency, you will likely need to consult with an attorney about the options available in your state. Typically, the adoptive parents will pay all adoption-associated fees, including the cost of your attorney. Depending on the state, you may be able to use an attorney to effectuate a private or facilitated adoption.
Remember that no matter which expenses have been paid or which promises you have made, birth parents generally have the right to pull out of the adoption before the adoption is finalized. Further, once the adoption is finalized, the state will typically provide a statutory period of time during which either biological parent can revoke their consent to the adoption.
Payments to Birth Mothers
It goes without saying that it’s illegal to buy or sell a baby, but many states allow prospective adoptive parents to pay birth mothers for reasonable costs associated with the adoption process. Note that each state has different rules over what kinds of payments may be made.
Such payments can cover:
Placing an Older Child for Adoption
In situations involving the adoption of older children, local social services agencies will usually play a role. This may mean that a child will be placed with relatives, friends, or in foster care if no biological parent is deemed to be available to serve as a parent. The state will not allow parents to give up custody just because they no longer want to parent, but it is in the interests of all parties for the child to be in a safe home.
Generally, courts will allow children of any age to be adopted by relatives or friends who can provide a safe and loving home if the birth parents are physically or mentally unable to parent and consent to the adoption. As always, courts use the “best interests of the child” standard to make their decisions.
When Adoptions Fail
Sometimes adoptions may not work out. This risk increases in proportion to the child’s age at the time of adoption. Generally, for children older than three, the adoption failure rate is between 10 and 20 percent. Adoptions will usually fail during the waiting period, which can be from a few months to several years.