Are You Pregnant and Thinking About Adoption?
Series: Factsheets for Families|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2007|
Making the adoption decision
The decision to place a child for adoption is never easy. Like the decision to parent a child, it takes courage and much love. Once an adoption is finalized, it is permanent, and it will change your relationship with your child forever. The adoptive parents will raise your child and have full legal rights as the child's parents.
The following are some questions you may want to think about as you make your decision:
Have I explored all my options? Pregnancy can affect your feelings and emotions. Are you thinking about adoption only because you have money problems, or because your living situation is difficult? If so, there might be other answers. Have you called Social Services to see what they can do? Have you asked friends and family if they can help? Social workers may be able to help you find a way to parent your baby if that is your decision. For instance, they may be able to help with finding a place to live or job training.
Have I involved the baby's father in thinking about adoption? You need to know what the laws in your State say about the father's rights, responsibilities, and role in adoption. Most States require that the father—or the man you think is the father—be told about the baby before the adoption. This is true even if you aren't married to the father. If you are married and your husband is not the baby's father, your husband may still have legal rights, responsibilities, and a role in the adoption.
Your baby's father (or your husband) may have to sign legal papers agreeing to the adoption—giving “legal consent”—before you can place your child.1 There are also laws requiring the father to pay child support if you decide to parent your baby.
In some States, if the parents are not married, the father has a certain amount of time to put his name on the State's "putative father registry" to claim that he is the baby's father. In other States, the father may be required to take other legal action to claim his rights as a father. If he doesn't do this within a certain amount of time, he may not receive notice of the mother's decision to place the child for adoption.2 If you don't know the father's name or where he is, some States require that a notice be published before the adoption can be completed. The notice is published in a newspaper in a place where the father is likely to see it. A licensed adoption agency or qualified adoption lawyer can explain to you what is required in your State.
If you're thinking about adoption, your agency or lawyer should be able to explain your State's laws about the father's role. In a few cases, agencies or lawyers have pushed through adoptions without telling the father and getting his consent. In some of these cases, the court has legally overturned the adoption and awarded custody of the baby to the father. Any agency or lawyer working with you must obey the law and obtain the father's consent if needed. If your agency or lawyer is not willing to do this, you may want to go somewhere else.
If you have a good relationship with your baby's father, he may be a source of support for you. You may be able to help each other in making this decision. The father of your baby may be asking some of the same questions about adoption that you are asking.
Have I involved my own family and the father's family in the decision?3 In a few States, if you are under 16 or 18 years of age (it depends on the State), your own parent or parents may also have to give permission for you to place your baby for adoption. Laws vary, and you need to find out the consent laws in your State.
If you decide to go ahead with adoption, there may even be someone in your family or the father's family who would like to adopt your baby.
How might I feel in 20 years if I place my child for adoption or if I parent my child myself? While it's impossible to know for sure how you will feel many years from now, you may want to consider the long-term effects of any decision you make. For instance, you may want to think about your future both with and without this child. What were your plans before you became pregnant? How would raising a child or placing a child for adoption change those plans? How might you feel if you go on to have other children and a family of your own?
Why am I placing my child for adoption? If your answer is because it is what you, or you and the father, think is best for yourselves and the baby, then it may be a good decision. It's important to gather all the information you can and to hear the thoughts of your family and friends. In the end, however, you must make a decision you can live with. Don't allow others to pressure you toward one outcome.
Why do some expectant parents choose to place their baby for adoption? Everyone's situation is different, but many women (and their partners) choose to place their baby because they feel that the baby will have a better life in an adoptive home with parents who may be better prepared to care for a child. These mothers feel that they are putting their baby's best interests ahead of their own by placing their baby with parents who are ready to welcome a child and to love and provide for that child for at least 18 years.
Why do some expectant parents choose to raise their baby rather than place the baby for adoption? Pregnant women (and their partners) who consider adoption but decide to raise their child themselves may do so because they feel that they have the time, resources, and support from family and friends necessary to raise a child for at least 18 years. They may feel that their biological connection with their child is more important than the advantages that the child might receive from an adoptive home.
When do I have to make the decision? You don't have to make the final decision about adoption until after your baby is born. You may prepare for adoption, and adoptive parents may be waiting for your child. However, the final and legal decision is made by you, or you and the father, after the child's birth.
Think of it as making the adoption decision twice—once while you are pregnant and then again after the baby is born. It's hard to know what you'll feel like after the birth. This is why most State laws require that the final decision to place a child for adoption be made after the baby is born. As of December 2006, only Alabama and Hawaii allow a birth mother to agree to adoption before the birth of her child. Even in these States, the mother can change her mind after the birth. Some counselors suggest that you wait until you have left the hospital before signing papers that make the adoption final.
1 For more information on laws in your State about consent, read Child Welfare Information Gateway's Consent to Adoption at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/consent.cfm. back
2 For more information, read Child Welfare Information Gateway's The Rights of Unmarried Fathers at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/putative.cfm. back
3 For more information on laws in your State about consent, read Child Welfare Information Gateway's Consent to Adoption at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/consent.cfm. back
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