You may be reading this after you have just received a positive pregnancy test at home, at a doctor’s office, or from a pregnancy center. You are likely overwhelmed and wondering what to do. The first step is to take a long breath and know that you have time to think about all your options. Some options include placing the baby for adoption or choosing to parent. You might be just a few weeks into your pregnancy or you might have not realized you were pregnant until you had carried the baby for a few months. The most important thing right now is to make sure that you are taking care of yourself medically and mentally. Pregnancy in itself can be overwhelming, and uncertainty about what is next can cause you to panic. The first thing to do after you find out you’re pregnant is to think about with whom to share this information. Who do you trust and how do you let them know?
If you choose the adoption path, you might be asking yourself how to start an adoption. If you have researched adoption and made sure that you are doing this for the best reasons, it is time to research agencies or attorneys with whom to work. It is important to look into what laws your state has regarding adoption. If you need financial assistance with pregnancy-related expenses, you may need to contact an adoption agency if your state requires it. When you are thinking about how to start an adoption, you will have many questions for the agencies with whom you are speaking. It is important to ask about what services are provided to expectant mothers during their pregnancy and after the baby is born as well as what procedures the adoptive parents go through to become approved. It is okay to ask as many questions as you need to find the right agency for you. You may know others who have placed a child for adoption whom you can ask for references but continue to do your homework by researching agencies. If you have a difficult time reaching someone from a specific agency, this might give you a clue as to how they will be once you are working with them, so take note of first impressions when you are learning the first steps of how to start an adoption or make a plan for your child.
Open or Closed Adoption … How Do I Choose?
In thinking about how to start an adoption, it is imperative to think about what contact you would like to have with your child and his or her adoptive family in the future. You may have heard the terms open and closed adoption. In open adoptions, a birth mother may have regular visits with the adoptive family, receive pictures of the child through a social media site or text messages and emails, and possibly have phone calls or video calls with the adoptive family and the child throughout the years.
In a closed adoption, a birth mother chooses to cut off contact with an adoptive family for what may be personal reasons at the time of the adoption placement. If you choose to have a closed adoption, it may be extremely difficult for the adoptive family if you change your mind about having contact in the future; therefore, deciding what type of contact you may want is crucial. You may think at the moment that you do not want to have any contact with the family or the child because you are keeping your pregnancy from friends and family; however, your situation may change in the future.
With a semi-open adoption (more common in today’s adoption plans), you can choose to have information sent to an agency for you to see when you are ready. For example, you may not want to look at pictures of your child for the first few months or even years; however, one day you may feel that you need to know how your child is doing to continue your healing process. If you have had pictures sent to an agency or left the possibilities open with a family, you can have pictures, updates, and letters when you are ready. Open or semi-open adoptions allow for a birth mother to get to know a family and for the family to get to know her. You can text or call one another during the pregnancy as well as after placement. Your child may know you by your given name or by a nickname you and the family select, and you can have visits with the child and the family based on an agreement you make together.
Through open adoption, you can watch your child as they grow and answer any questions he or she might have about the adoption itself. When wondering how to start an adoption and plan for your future relationship, remember to think about what is best for your healing process after the baby is born and what your heart can and cannot handle in the near and distant future. If you believe that you will not be settled in your plan without some type of contact with the adoptive family and the child you place, closed adoption is not right for you.
Finding a Doctor Who Supports Adoption
You may already have an OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist) that you go to for regular checkups or you may need to find one in your area so that you can take care of yourself and the baby throughout the pregnancy. As you start an adoption plan or take those first steps toward signing up with an attorney or agency, it is always best to be honest with your doctor about the adoption upfront so that he or she is aware of your plan. If you feel that your doctor is not supportive of your adoption plan, you may need to find a doctor that is a better fit. He or she should be able to answer any questions about your pregnancy as well as provide you guidance throughout the pregnancy, so it is important that he or she supports your adoption plan and is supportive if you choose to have an adoptive family involved in your visits at his or her office.
Meeting with an Attorney or Adoption Agency
After you have taken the time to make an adoption plan, the next step is to meet with an adoption professional. Once you have done your research on attorneys or adoption agencies in your area, you should try to plan an in-person or video meeting with them as soon as you are ready. Keep the list of questions you previously made close by and go over all the information you need to know regarding your role in the adoption process. If you still need help finding a doctor or have not yet been to see an OB-GYN, the agency might have a list of doctors they have worked with who are adoption-friendly and can assist you in making an appointment.
If you need help with pregnancy-related expenses, make sure you are upfront and honest about those issues so that the adoptive families you review are aware of that before they are selected as your adoptive family. Remember that when you are discussing financial assistance you may need, most states can only cover medical expenses related to your pregnancy (if you are not on government insurance), clothing, hygiene items, living expenses, transportation, nutritional assistance with food, and counseling. Typically, these expenses do not include down payments on an apartment or bills on which you owe a payment. Remember, pregnancy-related expenses are meant to help you while you are pregnant or recovering from having a baby and are not a person’s payment for the placement of a child; therefore, an expectation of receiving a lump sum, if offered by an attorney or agency, is an illegal act and should be seen as so. If you meet with an attorney or agency, it is okay to let them know that you need time before moving forward with an adoption plan. If you feel pressured at any point to fill out paperwork on the spot or at any point feel uncomfortable at all, that agency is not the agency for you. Remember, signing up with an attorney or agency is not a legal procedure but rather a commitment to work with this individual or company on your adoption plan.
Finding an Adoptive Family
After meeting with an attorney or an adoption agency for some time, they will present you with some adoptive parent profiles. You will most likely receive five or more profiles at first. Before looking at these profiles, make a list of things that you are looking for in a family. These topics might include race, religion, extended family, other children, or location. Another important topic might be whether you prefer a single parent, non-traditional or traditional couple. You can also write down things that are important to you such as pets or hobbies.
Get to know these families through their photo books. You may have a first impression about a family, but make sure to be open to looking at all the family profiles at least once. Refer to your checklist and see if the families match up with your desires. Oftentimes, you might have a list of things that you believe you are looking for and then a family will unexpectedly touch your heart. In that case, make sure that your major topics match up and get to know more about those families through their profiles. It is sometimes good to pick a top three out of the profiles and then study them all further. If you have a support person, whether it is the father of the baby, a trusted family member, or a close friend, you can talk through things with them, but make sure that ultimately you choose a family with whom you are comfortable. Once you select a family you would like to get to know, a great option is a phone call with them or, even better, a Facetime or video call. This will help you put a voice to a face in a photo book. Before the call with a family, you can make a list of the questions you have for them so that you can make sure that you are comfortable with the decision before moving forward. As you get to know families, remember that if you are not completely and fully on board with an adoption plan, it is best not to get a family involved. If this does happen, let the adoption professional you are working with know that you are having doubts about your decision and would like to wait before involving an adoptive family.
Is That It?
While these steps are only the beginning of how to start an adoption plan, they are important steps. You may have questions and moments of doubt about your plan, so having people around to support you is extremely important. Once you have made your decision to go forward with an adoption plan for your child and have selected a doctor and an adoptive family, you will continue to plan for the next steps in the process. In the coming months, the day will come for you to give birth to your child and make the most selfless decision a mother can make by giving the greatest gift imaginable to the family you selected to parent your child.