An unexpected pregnancy can come as a shock, especially if you don’t feel like you’re at a place to raise a child. Whether you have made up your mind to find a family to adopt your baby or you’re just weighing your options, you may be wondering what the baby adoption process is like. The state you’re in and the agency you go through can vary, but the general baby adoption process is typically the same throughout the country.
Research, Research, Research
The first step is to do your research. Find answers to questions like which agency do you want to go through. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with where to start, then try looking locally to see what your options are first. A Google search for “adoption agencies near me” can pull up a few choices! After that, you can branch out and see if there are other adoption agencies farther away that fit the mold you’re looking for. Once you’ve narrowed down which agencies you want, you can talk to a representative to ask questions. Some important questions to ask could be:
- Does this agency have access to parent profiles with pictures and/or videos?
- Can I contact the adoptive families to get to know them better?
- Will I be able to talk to an options counselor if I have any questions?
- Is this agency supportive of the type of adoption I want (open or closed)?
- Does it matter if I go through an agency with a religious preference?
- Will I have access to post-adoption support?
Plan Out The Adoption
Once you’ve settled with the adoption agency that you love, you will have a caseworker assigned to you. At that point, you will make an adoption plan together. One of the things that he or she will ask you is what type of adoption you want. This will determine how much contact you will have with your baby and the adoptive family after the adoption is finalized. You may be wondering, what are the different types of adoptions, and what are the pros and cons of each one?
Open adoption is actually becoming more popular as the years go by. In an open adoption, you will be able to contact the adoptive family before, during, and after the adoption process is over. The possibilities are endless! Phone calls, texting, social media, and even in-person visitations are just a few ways that you can get to know the adoptive family. Why might open adoption be right for you?
- You can have a relationship with your child even though you terminated your parental rights.
- You can rest assured knowing your child is safe with a family that you have a bond with already.
- The records won’t be sealed. The adoptive parents can get medical information if necessary.
- Your child won’t struggle with his or her identity and will have easy access to who they are and where they came from.
With that in mind, it’s also important to understand the disadvantages of open adoption:
- There is no privacy or security for both the adoptive and birth families.
- It may be difficult for both parties because they feel like their child is being shared.
- The birth parents and the adoptive family might have disagreements and want to change certain things as the child gets older.
A semi-open adoption is almost like a happy medium between open and closed adoptions. Every case is unique but it is usually minimal or no direct communication between the family triad (birth family, adoptee, and adoptive family). Instead, communication goes through the adoption agency, adoption attorney, or some other third party. When the adoption is finalized, the adoptive family can send you pictures, letters, and updates a few times a year or so depending on your agreements. A semi-open adoption might be a good choice for you if . . .
- you want to be involved, but at a distance.
- you’re not comfortable with having direct communication with the baby and the adoptive family.
- you think minimal contact is the best way for you to heal and move on.
Closed adoption is when there is no contact between the family triad and all records are sealed. This method is becoming less popular, but it is still a choice for both the adoptive family and the birth family. You might want this option if . . .
- you think an open adoption might be too much to handle emotionally.
- you want to look at the adoption like a clean slate to move on and heal.
- you want privacy.
The drawbacks to a closed adoption are:
- It’s difficult to be updated on how your child is doing.
- Your child might not understand their identity or why they were placed in an adoptive family.
- Reunion is a much harder process due to the records being sealed.
- Adoptive parents won’t have access to medical records.
It’s completely up to you as the birth parent how you want to proceed. Most adoptive parents are perfectly fine with open adoption, but that might not be what you’re leaning towards. If for whatever reason, you change your mind as time goes on it’s possible to change your prior agreements to have more or less contact with the baby and adoptive family.
Pick a Family
Now it’s time to find a forever family for your baby. It may be daunting seeing all these smiling faces and wondering who is the best for you and your baby. Most adoption agencies will have parent profiles with pictures, videos, and in-depth information about who they are. Talk with your caseworker if you need help to narrow down your options.
You may even be able to meet with some families before you make a definitive decision. This can not only help you choose the family that’s right for you, but you can also start a relationship with them. You can even ask them questions such as:
- Are they willing to have an open, semi-open, or closed adoption?
- If you choose a family with a different ethnicity than your baby, are they willing to teach and embrace the child’s heritage?
- What are the family dynamics like?
- Why did they decide to adopt?
- Do they have other children, adopted or biological? If they do, how do they feel about a new member of the family? If they don’t, do they want to expand their family even after adopting your child?
After you decided on a family, you can start bonding with them, if that’s part of your agreement. You can give them updates on your OBGYN appointments, send them ultrasound pictures, and get to know them by spending time with them. Checking out family dynamics is a good way to see how your little one will fit in with the adoptive family.
Plan for the Birth
This is crucial since you are the one giving birth. Granted, babies like to do their own thing when they come into the world. However, you still have control over some decisions other than when your baby decides to make his or her grand entrance. These decisions include:
- Who you want in the hospital room for support
- How much time you want to spend with the baby post-birth
- When the adoptive parents can see the baby
Is it possible to change your mind even when things are planned out? Absolutely. For example, you might want to spend more time with the baby before he or she goes to the adoptive family. That’s perfectly fine. Every state varies, but there’s a certain amount of time for the mother to spend with the baby before officially signing away her rights. If you’re unsure of what the time period is talk with your caseworker.
Support after Birth
Regardless of whether a mother finds a family for her child or decides to keep him or her, she always needs a support system to lean on. Postpartum is a difficult transition for most mothers anyway, but those who went through the adoption process might have a harder time getting through it. Grief is a tricky emotion to muddle through, but you don’t have to do it alone. The Gladney Center for Adoption has options and support for you:
Did you know that Gladney can provide services not only during your pregnancy but even after the adoption process is already over? Gladney offers a Next Steps program to “help you imagine your future and set goals through career counseling, budget coaching, and educational opportunities”. More specifically, “While making your adoption plan for your baby, you can also further your education through an individualized plan designed to help you meet your career goals. Many birth moms take advantage of training classes at the local community college. Your options counselor is available to help you create a plan and suggest ways to achieve your career goals.”
You can also get help through support groups and private counseling. They even have services for your family members and the baby’s father. The “‘Family Loving Decisions’ workshop helps family members learn about the adoption process and how to support a mother during pregnancy and after placement”.
Rest & Respite
Gladney has a brand new program called Rest & Respite (R&R) that specifically targets the exact phrasing in its name: REST. As a mother of two, I know how hard it is to take care of a toddler and a newborn (at the same time, too!). I was able to get help from my husband, my parents, and my siblings, but it’s unimaginable to think of what to do without good people in your corner. If you’re struggling on your own or with your family, this program can help you decide on how you want to proceed in the future. For more information, you can call/text 800-452-3639 to speak with an options counselor.
One thing that can easily cause unnecessary stress to an expectant mother is wondering how you’re going to see a doctor especially if you don’t have insurance. Not only can Gladney help with Medicaid applications, but your caseworker will be able to find a doctor for you and set up your appointments. If you already have a doctor you’re comfortable with, then no worries. Gladney works with you and helps ensure that you get what you need and want.
Another dilemma that an expectant mother may run into is how she is going to support herself financially. How is that possible to support yourself if you’re not going to be working? Gladney will assist you in providing funds to ease your mind about your current and future expenses.
However, keep in mind that every state is different regarding how much and what kind of help you can get. If you’re unsure, talk with your caseworker to see what your state’s laws are. Most states will let Gladney take over your various bills and other necessities. You may be able to get financial assistance for your rent, utilities, groceries, maternity clothes, phone bills, and more. Lastly, Gladney can help with legal expenses (adoption attorney fees and court fees) and your medical bills.
If you choose to Live at Home, “Your options counselor will help:
- Determine your eligibility for financial assistance
- Schedule and arrange doctor and hospital visits
- Coordinate free legal services for the adoption
- Connect you with others who’ve chosen adoption for their children (so you can hear about their stories and experiences)”
Networks & Support
Again, you will have continuous support from the moment you decide to work with Gladney, but it doesn’t just stop after you make a plan for the future. You have access for life.
The baby adoption process may feel incredibly overwhelming because you’re finding out your choices, picking an adoptive family, and dealing with strong emotions like feeling alone. Just remember this simple truth, you have so much love and support flowing from the adoption community and from the adoptive family you choose. Your adoption agency can help you find a community that will help you for years to come. Not only is your adoption agency there to help you in the beginning, but they’ll be there after the adoption is finalized. Adoption agencies often have support groups, videos with other birth mothers sharing their experience, and counseling to help you during every step of the adoption and beyond. Adoption is a beautiful thing. Please don’t fall through the cracks of shame and guilt. There are people who are more than willing to walk with you every step of the way. You are not alone.