You Pregnant and Thinking About Adoption?
If you are pregnant and not sure that you want to keep
the baby, you might be thinking about adoption.
Pregnancy causes many changes, both physical and
emotional. It can be a very confusing time for a woman, even in the best of
circumstances. Talking to a counselor about your options might help. But how
do you start?
This fact sheet gives you, the birth mother, information
about counseling and adoption. It addresses many questions you might have:
- Who can I talk to about my options?
- Should I place my child for adoption?
- What are the different types of adoption?
- How do I arrange an adoption through an agency?
- How do I arrange a private adoption?
- What if my baby is a child of color?
- How do I arrange for future contact with my child if
I want it?
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Who Can I Talk to About My
If you want to talk to a professional about your
options, there are different places you can go. Counseling at the places
listed below will be free or cost very little.
- Crisis pregnancy centerThis is a place
where they talk only to pregnant women. It might even have a maternity
center attached where you could live until the baby is born.
- Family planning clinicThis is a place where
women get birth control information or pregnancy tests.
- Adoption agencyThis choice is good if you
are already leaning strongly in the direction of adoption.
- Health Department or Social ServicesA
food stamps or welfare worker can tell you which clinic or department is
the right one.
- Mental health center or family service
agencyCounselors at these places help all kinds of people in all
kinds of situations.
No matter where you go for counseling, a counselor
should always treat you with respect and make you feel good about yourself. A
counselor may have strong feelings about adoption, abortion, and parenting a
child. Nevertheless, those feelings should not influence their professional
advice nor the treatment provided to you. In order to make up your own mind,
it is important for you to get clear answers from your counselor to the three
questions found below. The answers to these questions will help you
choose the best option.
If I feel I cannot carry my pregnancy to
term, how will you help me?
If I decide to take care of my baby myself,
how will you help me do that?
If I want to place my baby for adoption, will
you help me find an adoption agency or attorney who will listen to
what I think is right for us?
If you are not happy with the answers you get, you may
wish to find a counselor at another place.
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Should I Place My Child for
The decision to place a child for adoption is a
difficult one. It is an act of great courage and much love. Remember, adoption
is permanent. The adoptive parents will raise your child and have legal
authority for his or her welfare. You need to think about these questions as
you make your decision.
Have I explored all possibilities?
Pregnancy can affect your feelings and emotions. Are you
only thinking about adoption because you have money problems, or because your
living situation is difficult? These problems might be temporary. Have you
called Social Services to see what they can do, or asked friends and family if
they can help? If you have done these things and still want adoption, you will
feel more content with your decision.
Will the adoptive parents take good care of my child?
Prospective adoptive parents are carefully screened and
give a great deal of information about themselves. They are visited in their
home several times by a social worker and must provide personal references.
They are taught about the special nature of adoptive parenting before an
adoption takes place. By the time an agency has approved adoptive parents for
placement, they have gotten to know them very well, and feel confident they
would make good parents. This does not promise that they will be perfect
parents, but usually decent people who really want to care for children.
Will my child wonder why I placed him (or her) for
Probably. But adoption in the 1990's is probably a lot
different from what it was when you were growing up. Most adopted adults
realize that their birth parents placed them for adoption out of love, and
because it was the best they knew how to do. Hopefully your child will come to
realize that a lot of his or her wonderful traits come from you. And if you
have an open adoption, it is likely that you will be able
to explain to the child why you chose adoption.
Why am I placing my child for adoption?
If your answer is because it is what you, or you and
your partner think is best, then it is a good decision. Now it is time to move
forward, and not feel guilty.
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What Are the Different Types of
There are two types of adoptions, confidential and open.
Confidential: The birth parents and the adoptive
parents never know each other. Adoptive parents are given background
information about you and the birth father that they would need to help them
take care of the child, such as medical information.
Open: The birth parents and
the adoptive parents know something about each other. There are different
levels of openness:
- Least openYou will read about several
possible adoptive families and pick the one that sounds best for your
baby. You will not know each other's names.
- More openYou and the possible adoptive
family will speak on the telephone and exchange first names.
- Even more openYou can meet the possible
adoptive family. Your social worker or attorney will arrange the meeting
at the adoption agency or attorney's office.
- Most openYou and the adoptive parents share
your full names, addresses, and telephone numbers. You stay in contact
with the family and your child over the years, by visiting, calling, or
writing each other. Fifteen States have enacted laws that recognize
post-adoption contact between adoptive and birth families if the parties
have voluntarily agreed to this plan.
Talk to your counselor about the type of adoption that
is best for you. Do you want to help decide who adopts your child? Would you
mind if a single person adopted your child, or a couple of a different race
than you? Would you like to be able to share medical information with your
child's family that may only become known in the future?
If you have strong feelings about these things, work
with an agency or attorney who you feel will listen to what you want.
If you do not have strong feelings about these things,
the adoption agency or attorney will decide who adopts your child based on who
they think can best care for the child.
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How Do I Arrange an Adoption
Through an Agency?
In all States, you can work with a licensed child
placing (adoption) agency. In all but four States, you can also work directly
with an adopting couple or their attorney without using an agency.
Private adoption agencies arrange most infant adoptions.
To find private adoption agencies in your area, either contact The
Clearinghouse or look in the yellow pages of your local phone book under
There are several types of private adoption agencies.
Some are for profit and some are nonprofit. Some work with prospective
adoptive parents of a particular religious group, though they work with birth
parents of all religions.
When you contact adoption agencies, ask the social
workers as many questions as you need to ask so that you understand the
agencies' rules. Some questions you will want to ask are below.
Will I get
counseling all through my pregnancy, after I sign the papers allowing
my child to be adopted, and after my baby is gone?
Can my baby's
father and other people who are important to me join me in counseling
if they want to?
What kind of
financial help can I get? What kind of medical and legal help will I
have? Can I get help with medical and legal expenses?
What will I get
to know about the people who adopt my baby? May I tell you what I
think are important traits for parents to have? How do you know the
adoptive parents are good people? May I meet them if I want, or know
their names? Will I ever be able to have contact with them or my
child? Will I ever know how my child turns out?
will you provide to the adoptive parents about me and my family?
The agency social worker will ask you questions to find
out some information about you and the baby's father, such as your medical
histories, age, race, physical characteristics, whether you have been to see a
doctor since you became pregnant, whether you have been pregnant or given
birth before, and whether you smoked cigarettes, took any drugs, or drank any
alcohol since you became pregnant. The social worker asks these questions so
that the baby can be placed with parents who will be fully able to care for
and love the baby, not so that she can turn you down.
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How Do I Arrange a Private
An adoption arranged without an adoption agency is
called an independent or private adoption. It is legal in all States except
Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. With a private adoption,
you need to find an attorney to represent you. Look for an attorney who will
not charge you a fee if you decide not to place your baby for adoption. You
also need to find adoptive parents. Here's how you find both of these.
To Find an Attorney
Legal AidThis is a service available in most
communities for people who cannot afford a private attorney. Sometimes it is
located at a university law school. NOTE: Some States allow the adopting
parents to pay your legal fees, so going to Legal Aid may not be necessary.
State Attorney Association or the American
Academy of Adoption AttorneysThese groups can refer you to an attorney
who handles adoptions in your area. You can contact the
American Academy of Adoption Attorneys at P.O. Box 33053, Washington, DC
To Find Adoptive Parents
Personal AdsSome newspapers carry personal ads
from people seeking to adopt. You call the number in the ad and get to know
each other over the telephone. If you think you want to work with the couple,
have your attorney call their attorney. The attorneys will work out all the
arrangements according to what you and the adoptive parents want and the laws
of your State.
Your DoctorHe or she may know about couples
who are seeking a child, and be able to help arrange the adoption.
Adoptive Parent Support GroupsParents who have
already adopted may know other people seeking to adopt.
National Matching ServicesThese services help
birth parents and adoptive parents find one another.
Of course, personal referrals are always good. Ask
friends and family if they know any attorneys or possible adoptive parents.
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What If My Baby Is a Child of
There are some special considerations if your baby is a
child of color, such as African American, Hispanic, Native American,
Asian/Pacific Islander or biracial.
If it is important to you that the parents adopting your
child be of the same ethnic or racial background as your child, you will need
to locate an agency or attorney with such families approved and waiting for
placement. You can choose which kind of agency you work with and which family
your child goes to. Ask agencies or attorneys if they work with families of
color and if they have families of color in their pool of approved families.
Many agencies provide expectant parents with photos and summaries of
prospective adoptive families to help them choose the adoptive family for
You should be aware that two Federal laws (P.L. 103-382
and P.L. 104-188) prohibit adoption agencies receiving Federal funding from
delaying or denying placement of a child with a prospective adoptive family in
order to achieve racial or ethnic matching. These laws affect public adoption
agencies as well as any private adoption agencies receiving any Federal
Some agencies may not be as welcoming to you as they
could be. If it is important to you that your child be placed with adoptive
parents where at least one parent is of the same race as your child and
agencies do not have them in their pool of applicants, they may be concerned
that they will not be able to find a family for your child right away. Not all
agencies recruit families of color and some agencies charge fees that can be
prohibitive for many families.
Some agencies specialize in finding families for
children of color. They work very hard to let people know that children of
color are available for adoption. They also try to make the adoption process
less complicated and intrusive for families.
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How Do I Arrange for Future
Contact With My Child If I Want It?
If you decide on a confidential adoption, you may still
wish to make sure that your child can contact you in the future. There are
things you can do now to make that happen.
Many people who are adopted as children later want to
meet their birth parents. With the exception of Alabama, Alaska, Delaware,
Kansas, Oregon, and Tennessee, State laws do not permit them to see their
original birth certificate. Because of these problems, many States, and some
private national organizations, have set up adoption registries to help people
find one another.
A registry works like this: You leave the information
about the birth of the child and your address and telephone number. You must
keep your address and telephone number current. You can register at any time,
even years after the child is born.
When your child is an adult, he or she can call or write
this registry. If what the child knows about his or her birth matches what the
registry has, the registry will release your current address and telephone
number to the child, and you could be contacted.
There is another way to ensure that your child can
contact you if he or she wishes. Some adoption agencies and attorneys who
arrange private adoptions will hold a letter in their file in which you say
why you chose adoption and how to get in touch with you if the child ever
wants to. If the agency or attorney that you are working with will not agree
to do this, you may wish to work with somebody else.
There are several national organizations that
offer ongoing advice and support to birth parents, information about contact
and reunion with their children, and many other things. People in these
organizations have already gone through what you are going through. They will
be very helpful and understanding if you need someone to talk to. These
organizations or the staff of the Clearinghouse can refer you to a group near
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