When children are placed for adoption, occasionally a person will refer to it as “children up for adoption.” This phrase is a reference to any child who can be legally adopted because parental rights have been terminated. By understanding how a child becomes available for adoption, you’ll learn how the adoption process works for both adoptive and birth families.

Where Does the Phrase ‘Children Up for Adoption’ Come From?

The term originated in the 1800s and referred to orphans being placed on a stage or stump for prospective adoptive families. The term ‘up for adoption’ is still used by some today, but is largely an outdated reference referring to a child who is being placed for adoption.

Adoption has changed a great deal since the 1800s. Today’s adoptions are a highly regulated process where the rights of children and parents are protected by law. Birth families choose to place a child for adoption and then select their child’s adoptive family. The adoption process is regulated by state laws and carried out by a licensed adoption agency or adoption attorney.

Parental Rights

The law protects the rights of every family by ensuring a child will remain with his or her parents unless those rights are terminated.

Some parents choose to terminate their parental rights by consenting to an adoption. This is what often happens in a domestic infant adoption when a birth mother consents to adoption after the birth of her baby. Every state has a different number of days (or hours) before a birth mother can sign consent forms, so it’s important to know your state’s adoption laws.

Many states also have a putative father registry so a man can register as the father of a child born out of wedlock. This allows him to be notified of any adoption concerning that child. A birth father can also provide consent for adoption and may be able to sign the consent forms before the child is born. A licensed adoption agency or adoption attorney will check the putative father registry before proceeding with adoption and will help you through the process of understanding how parental rights affect your adoption.

How Do You Put Children Up for Adoption?

If you are a birth parent considering adoption, it’s important to discuss this decision with a birth parent counselor before signing any forms. They will help you understand what the ramifications of adoption are and whether this is the right decision for you and your baby. An adoption agency can help you find a birth parent counselor who will guide you through the decision-making process without pressuring you. No matter whether you choose to parent or place your child for adoption, the counselor should provide you with the needed support.

If you decide to place your child for adoption, the next step will be selecting a family for your child. Adoption agencies have listings as well as our Parent Profiles. You will want to decide what kind of family you want for your child and what characteristics are most important to you.

Often, you will meet with an adoptive family before you select them to get a sense of whether you think this is the right family for your child. Once you find a match, you will discuss whether open adoption is right for you and your baby. Open adoption plans can vary based on the family but include visits, pictures, and updates on your child.

If you are a birth parent, it is important to understand the process of relinquishing your parental rights. Once you sign consent forms, the baby will be placed with the adoptive family you have chosen. Some states allow a period of time after signing in which you can change your mind, but other states do not. After consent papers have been signed and you have relinquished your parental rights, the adoptive family can go through the legal process of finalizing their adoption.

For more information on placing a child for adoption, contact an adoption agency that will help you understand the steps involved in placing a child for adoption. Also, it is important to receive counseling before and after the adoption.

hands woman expresses the concept of family

How Do You Find Children Up for Adoption?

The process of adoption can happen through domestic adoption, foster to adopt, and international adoption. All three programs have unique aspects to them but ultimately end with the same goal: a child being placed into a forever family.

Domestic adoption refers to a private infant adoption in the United States. It is different from foster to adopt because the children up for adoption are not in the foster care system. Instead, they are typically adopted at birth, after the birth mother has signed consent papers. You can start the domestic adoption process by going through a licensed adoption agency or adoption attorney.

To begin the adoption process, prospective adoptive parents will need a home study, which is a detailed written report on your background, home, criminal record, and family details. Home studies must be completed by a licensed social worker who will collect the information, interview family members, and make sure your home has the needed space for a child. You will also need to complete your state’s background checks.

After completing the home study, prospective parents will wait for a match with birth parents. This may happen through the agency, word of mouth, or through resources like our adoption Parent Profiles. Our profiles allow prospective parents to share their information and pictures with birth parents who are searching for a family for their child.

The adoption will need to be finalized in a court of law before you can file for a birth certificate with your child’s information. You will also make a plan with the birth parents for how many contacts your child will have with his biological family. Although not all domestic adoptions are open, many birth parents would like some contact with their child. This also helps adopted children to have a unique connection to their biological family.

Foster to Adopt

Many children are available for adoption through the foster care system. Before starting, it’s important to understand how the foster care system works and what steps you’ll need to go through to become licensed for foster care.

Because the system is designed for the reunification of children with their biological parents, this means foster parents may be required to return these children to their biological parents at some point. A foster child can only be adopted when biological parents terminate their parental rights, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Once parental rights are relinquished, a child may be adopted by their foster family.

Waiting children are also available for adoption through our online photo listings and each state’s foster care system. Waiting children have already had their parents relinquish their rights and are waiting to be placed in their forever families. Many of these children are older, may have special needs, or are part of a sibling group. If you are interested in finding out about waiting children available in your state, check your state’s Department of Human Services.

Becoming licensed for foster care requires that you go through a home study, as well as additional training and licensing in your state. A home study must be completed by a licensed caseworker and may include a home visit, background information, and a criminal check.

Many states require a fingerprint test, as well as criminal record checks for child abuse, neglect, and other crimes. Your social worker will let you know what background checks need to be completed to finish your home study.

Each state requires training hours to become licensed for foster care. This training provides strategies for parenting challenges and foster care situations. Your caseworker will work to ensure that your license is up-to-date so that you can foster to adopt. To begin the process, contact your local Department of Human Services.

International Adoption

Children up for adoption are also available internationally, where you will begin your journey in much the same way as domestic adoption. Some of these children are waiting for children and may appear in photo listings for specific countries. If you are interested in one of these children, you will need to find a licensed agency for the country you are interested in. Because of the Universal Accreditation Act, all adoption agencies must complete accreditation according to federal standards and need to be licensed for the country they are adopting from. You will begin the process by completing a home study through your agency, which will require background checks, information about your personal history, and a home visit from your caseworker.

Once your home study is complete, you will need to file your intercountry adoption eligibility, which confirms your eligibility to adopt from your child’s birth country. You will also submit your adoption dossier and completed home study.

Many international adoptions require you to travel to the country where your child was born and some may require a short residency. Many international adoptions are finalized in your child’s birth country and then are finalized again in your state when you return. Your adoption agency will help you meet all the requirements and will provide valuable assistance throughout your adoption journey.

We’re here to help you along your adoption journey. Connect with other parents on the same journey, start your Parent Profile, or learn about the details of adopting from one of our adoption guides.


Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you. Are you considering adoption and want to give your child the best life possible? Let us help you find an adoptive family that you love. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.