You may have found yourself unexpectedly expecting a child and might be contemplating your options. You may have started doing research, or maybe you heard about adoption or know someone intimately familiar with or touched by adoption. Understanding your options and the process of placing your child for adoption is a great first step. You may feel many emotions at this stage of your life. You may not have planned to be in this position or maybe getting pregnant was in your plans, but just not now or under these circumstances. Potentially you may have planned to have a baby in these circumstances but your issues in your family, with your partner, or your finances have changed. Whatever the reason for wanting to understand more about placing a child for adoption, you are not alone. Many women have experienced exactly what you are feeling and going through. You can find a wonderful community of other expectant parents and birth parents who are going through or have gone through the experience you are in right now. They can share stories, advise, and listen, albeit online. You may find these adoption forums incredibly beneficial as you begin your adoption journey or just learn more about your options.

Positive Adoption Language

The first thing to know when you are desiring to learn more is that using language like “putting a child up” for adoption is antiquated and not viewed as positive adoption language. Positive adoption language is important for each member of the adoption triad—that is, the expectant parents (referred to as birth parents after the baby is born), the child, and the adoptive parents. Positive adoption language helps to not only correct the stigma around placing a child for adoption that should have never existed, but it also encourages placing a child for adoption as the best option for everyone in the adoption triad. It is a positive, beautiful option and not a second-best option for those who cannot or who may not be ready to parent. It is also just as beautiful for the child and the family that chooses to build their family through adoption. By using positive adoption language, all members of the adoption triad are respected and honored. You are making an empowered choice for you and your baby. You are a strong individual who knows what is best in your heart and mind for you and your baby. Using positive language regarding adoption honors your brilliant mind, strong heart, and decision-making ability. 

Where does the term “putting a child up” for adoption come from?

The term “putting a child up” for adoption has its origins in the Orphan Train Movement, which took place in the United States in the mid-1800s and through the twentieth century. Many northeast cities, especially New York City, were facing a humanitarian crisis of thousands of children living outside of permanency. These children were orphaned and found themselves homeless, living without the safety, love, and protection of a forever family. A gentleman by the name of Charles Loring Brace, who was a reformed minister and graduate of Yale University and Union Theological Seminary, founded New York City’s Children’s Aid Society to alleviate this orphan crisis, ensure children did not languish in institutional care, and seek forever, loving families for these thousands of orphaned children. 

However, Brace has since been criticized for many reasons, including that the conditions on the trains were not satisfactory and that the children were not always adopted by loving families. Many of these children were not orphans but rather had two living parents who needed support to raise their children. Brace did not believe in social services and believed that financial and social support for the less fortunate were essentially handouts that exacerbated the poverty issue in these urban cities. He believed these children needed structure to live a life free of crime and thus put them on trains to the Midwest where they could serve as farmhands for families—essentially as enslaved, underage laborers. 

The term “putting up” for adoption comes from what would happen when the trains would arrive in a Midwest city. Ads were placed in town sharing the news of the orphan train’s arrival, and hopeful adoptive families found those advertisements and waited for the children to arrive in various locations. These places would be opera houses, train depots, or even just tree stumps. The children were “put up” for adoption on those stumps and stages. The children were often put up on the stage to perform for prospective adoptive families who came to look for a child to adopt. Some of those families truly wanted to build their families through adoption. They wanted to love a child and bring them into their family to love, protect and care for them forever. However, many other families came to those stages and stumps to look for children who could be farmhands and manage the farm for them. The children were adopted but they were not treated as a member of the family, nor were they protected or loved. It was not in the child’s best interest and it is where the term “putting a child up” for adoption came from, so you can see one reason why it is a pejorative term that is no longer used. 


Another reason “putting a child up” for adoption is no longer used is because you are not “putting your child up” for adoption as the expectant parent. You are loving your child enough to make the best decision for yourself and your baby. You have researched all of your options and believe that placing your child for adoption is the best option and choice for you both. That is the most loving decision. You are not putting up anyone. You are making a beautiful choice, and you are fully in control of the details along the way. You are creating an adoption plan or placing your child for adoption, which are two better ways of stating your decision—two positive adoption terms.

What do placing my child for adoption and creating an adoption plan mean?  

Now that we addressed what positive adoption language means, why it is important, and the history of the term “putting a child up” for adoption, you may be wondering what it means to create an adoption plan for your baby. An adoption plan is a plan you document with your adoption agency regarding your wishes for the adoption for you and your baby.

The adoption plan will include information for the couple or individual you choose to be your baby’s parent or parents. You will work with your adoption agency to choose an adoptive family. They will likely be working with many hopeful adoptive families and have many profiles for you to view. 

These profiles will include information on the prospective adoptive family or individual. It will include photos of them, their home, pets, other children they may have (biological or adopted), information on their careers, where they live, the school system, and how they met. They may include information on their parenting, values, faith, or things they enjoy doing. If they have dealt with infertility or adoption before, they may include that in their story. 

You will go through these profiles and decide for your child who will be their adoptive family. Once you do so, you may connect by phone or in-person. You may want to do so with many or a few hopeful adoptive families before making a decision. 

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Once you meet the hopeful adoptive family and decide on who will be your child’s parents, you will next decide the other aspects of your adoption plan. These may include various details of what you want for yourself and your child during the remainder of your pregnancy and until the adoption is finalized.

It is also critical to know that even if you decide that you are not in a position in your life to parent your child, you can change your mind. You can go as far as deciding on an adoption agency, choosing an adoptive family for your child, and even giving birth and still change your mind about adoption; you can decide instead to create a parenting plan for your child before you sign the relinquishment paperwork. A great agency will support your decision, whatever it may be. If at any time you feel pressure to pursue adoption or pursue any specific option for you and your child that you do not feel is right, trust your gut and walk away.

What goes into an adoption plan?

The first thing you will want to put in your adoption plan is the level of communication you wish to have with the adoptive family and your child after placing your child for adoption—as well as during your pregnancy. Most expectant parents choose to have some type of open adoption. An open adoption is when you have some level of openness with your child’s adoptive family when it comes to communication. The level of open communication is up to you. Some expectant parents want lots of communication at regular intervals. They want scheduled visits, phone calls, video calls, and emails. There may be an agreed-upon cadence at the beginning on how often the visits or calls will take place and then it may fall into a natural flow at some point as time goes on. Other expectant parents want to move on with their lives exactly as they were before giving birth and want an open adoption but with limited information sharing. As an expectant parent, you can have communications be facilitated through the adoption agency. You may receive scrapbooks once a year, letter updates, or photos from the adoption agency. Other semi-open adoptions may only share medical information and your life story. You may meet the adoptive parents or choose them for your child without meeting. However, last names, addresses, phone numbers, and other identifying information will not be shared. 

You may also choose to have a closed adoption, which is not as common today but was very prevalent in the first half of the twentieth century. A closed adoption means that you will not communicate with the adoptive family or child and all information regarding your identity and theirs is sealed. Adoption records can be sealed or confidential in most states. However, when your child is 18 they may be able to petition the court to open those records. They also may search for you, so it is still possible they may find you one day. However, in a confidential or closed adoption, you can choose your child’s adoptive parents without meeting them through profiles. You may even share non-identifying medical information. 

Also included in the adoption plan will be information on who you want in the hospital with you when you are in labor, when you will contact the adoptive parents, and how long you want to hold or bond with your baby alone. You may plan when you will have the adoptive family meet the child and even who leaves first after you finalize the adoption paperwork. 

What comes after placing my child for adoption?

After having the baby, placing him or her for adoption, and signing the adoption consent paperwork, the adoption journey continues. It will always be in your heart or as a part of your journey, even in a closed adoption. You now can move forward with your life and pursue your goals and dreams for yourself and your baby. You can continue with life as it was or find a new motivation to pursue change or new goals in your life like a career, education, or a family of your own. Continuing counseling post-adoption is very helpful and often financially covered by the adoption agency or adoptive parents per your agreement. Leaning on your support system of friends, family, faith leaders, and colleagues is also important. If you decided to have an open adoption, you now begin your open communication plan with your child’s adoptive parents.