Los Angeles, California, is known as the City of Angels. As the birthplace of the Hollywood movie industry, two-time host of the summer Olympics, and home to over 4 million people, this southern California city also has 75 miles of beautiful Pacific Ocean coastline. If you are expecting in southern California and considering placing your child for adoption, here are the top ten things you need to know about Los Angeles adoption.

1. You Are Not Alone

Finding out you are unexpectedly pregnant is difficult. It can be emotional and challenging and you may feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. The first thing to know is that you are not alone. Every year in the United States, thousands of women face unplanned pregnancies. You may feel like you are by yourself, but know that others have walked this path and will be there to support you—whatever your decision may be. There are options, counselors, social workers, agencies, and support networks ready to help. Are you looking to learn firsthand from others who have faced unplanned pregnancies? Take some time and read through the stories written by birth parents on the Adoption.com website. You can hear from birth parents directly about the steps of their journey; links to several of those stories can be found in this article.

2. You Have Options

After realizing that you are not alone, it is important for you to know that you have options. Reading this article is a great first step to learn what all those options are. It is important to arm yourself with as much information as you can so that you can make the best decision for yourself, your partner, and your child. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, you have three options: you may choose to parent the child, you may choose to place the child for adoption, or you may choose to terminate the pregnancy. There may be many reasons you are not in a position to parent a child right now. It may not be the right time in your life, you may be with the wrong partner, or you may feel like you are not financially secure enough to raise a child. Whatever the reason, this article will walk you through the steps of placing a child for Los Angeles adoption.

3. There Are Many Kinds of Adoption

In the state of California, there are essentially 6 different types of adoption. There is private domestic adoption, kinship adoption, step-parent adoption, adoption from foster care, international adoption, and embryo adoption. As an expectant parent, you are likely only considering the first two options: private domestic adoption and kinship adoption. Though international adoption may seem like an interesting choice, due to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption international adoption is only available as a choice when an adoptive parent cannot be found within your own country.

For private domestic adoption, both the expectant parents and the prospective adoptive parents must reside in the United States. In private domestic adoption, the expectant parents may choose the prospective adoptive parents or they may ask that an agency or adoption facilitator choose a prospective adoptive family on their behalf. Once the child is born and consent to adoption is given by the birth parents, the child will be placed with the adoptive parents and the parental rights of the birth parents will be terminated. The adoptive parents will then be granted those rights and will raise the child. Adoption is a legally binding act and, as such, the adoption may be facilitated through an agency or by an adoption facilitator. Additionally, a lawyer must be involved and the case must be presented in a court of law. Although this may seem like a daunting process, a good agency will walk you through everything step-by-step.

The other Los Angeles adoption option for expectant parents is to pursue a kinship adoption. The difference between kinship adoption and private domestic adoption is that in kinship adoption the prospective adoptive parents are biologically related to either the expectant father or the expectant mother. Roughly 30% of all domestic adoptions in the United States each year are kinship adoptions, but a vast majority are adoptions from foster care. Infant kinship adoptions do not happen all that frequently. Conversely, each year roughly twenty thousand private domestic adoptions occur in the United States.

4. The Birth Father’s Rights Are Complicated

Finding out you are unexpectedly pregnant is hard; sharing that news with the expectant father can be even more challenging. Once you learn that you are pregnant, before doing anything else, please make sure you are in a safe environment. If you need somewhere secure to live during your pregnancy, a social worker or an adoption agency can help you find a safe residence.

If the expectant father is in the picture, he will need to be informed of your pregnancy and your decision to place your child. In the state of California, a man is a presumed father if you are married or if you have attempted to get married within three hundred days of the child’s birth. If neither of these applies, then the expectant father may only become the presumed father via paternity test or by voluntarily declaring his paternity once the child is born. If he voluntarily declares his paternity, then this declaration must be submitted to the Department of Child Support Services within twenty days of the child’s birth. However, if you are neither married nor have attempted to marry the birth father and he has not voluntarily declared his paternity, then he has no legal rights to the child. Effectively, this means that an expectant mother may make any decision she feels will be best for her and her child – including placing her child through adoption. In the instance that paternity is voluntarily declared at the child’s birth, then the birth father would also need to consent to the adoption. It should also be noted that while many states have a putative father registry, California does not.

5. Adoption Agencies and Facilitators Are There for You

If you are expecting in California, learning how to begin the process of Los Angeles adoption can be daunting. In California, there are two ways to conduct a private domestic adoption, either independently or through an adoption agency. Expectant parents who choose independent adoption will often work with an adoption facilitator to navigate the aspects of the adoption process. An adoption facilitator can connect you with prospective adoptive parents, help arrange the terms of the adoption, and put you in touch with adoption attorneys. Some birth parents say the experience of an independent adoption is more personal, but independent adoption does have its drawbacks.

One of the huge benefits of working with an adoption agency is that they can act as a full-service provider. For example, The Gladney Center for Adoption has counselors and social workers available for you 24/7 in all fifty states. The process of adoption is a legally binding act, and it can be complicated. It is important for you as an expectant parent to understand your rights and what types of support (emotional, physical, and financial) as well as services (everything from medial to legal) are available to you.

As an expectant parent, you have the right to receive counseling throughout your pregnancy journey. Adoption is a lifelong commitment, and you need support both during your decision-making process and after placement. One of the benefits of working with a large, national adoption agency is that you have access to expectant parent and birth parent groups both pre and post-placement. Many agencies will also work with you on your educational and vocational goals. Gladney’s Next Step program is particularly amazing in this respect. And if you choose to parent, that is okay too. A great agency will connect you with services in your area so you can be the best parent you can be.

6. You Can Choose an Adoptive Family or Not

One question that many expectant parents considering Los Angeles adoption have is “Can I choose the adoptive family for my child?” The answer is that it’s your choice. If choosing the prospective adoptive parents for your child is important to you, then absolutely you may choose. Most adoption agencies offer online parent profiles where you can see who might be a good fit for your child.

It can feel overwhelming to see so many faces so consider what things are important to you. Where do you see your child living (in a house or in an apartment, in a rural or urban setting)? What hobbies do you hope your child pursues? Is access to the arts or sports important to you? What about religion? Or race? Or ethnicity? Your social worker will help you think through all these things and then, once your choice has been narrowed down, help you choose the right prospective adoptive parents for you and your child. However, if you feel more comfortable allowing your adoption agency to choose for you, that is okay too.

Most private domestic adoptions in the United States are either semi-open or open adoptions which means that the birth parents and the adoptive parents maintain some form of ongoing contact after the adoption is finalized. The level of post-adoption contact completely depends on each member of the adoption triad, and no two post-adoption contact agreements are alike. While post-adoption contracts are not legally binding in California, it is still a good idea to consult with a lawyer for both the prospective adoptive parents and the expectant parents to agree on the post-adoption contact terms prior to the birth of the child.

If, however, you are interested in pursuing a closed adoption, that is okay too. In this instance, there would be no contact between the adoptive parents and the birth parents after the adoption is finalized. The child would know he or she is adopted, but the identity of the birth parents would not be shared with the child. In the event that you choose for the adoption agency to place your child, then a further level of anonymity would occur because the child could not identify you until he or she was 18 years of age and began a search to do so.

7. It Will Not Cost You Anything

Another common question expectant parents have is: “What will it cost me to place my child for adoption?” The answer is absolutely nothing. In the state of California, birth parents can expect to receive financial support for attorney fees, counseling fees, and any medical expenses associated with the pregnancy. California laws do not explicitly state what living expenses are covered or the duration for which they may be covered, but typically these expenses include rent, groceries, and transportation to and from any pregnancy/adoption related appointments. All expenses will be tracked by either your adoption agency or adoption attorney and submitted to the court before the adoption can be finalized. This is common practice across states and your adoption agency or adoption attorney will handle this for you.

8. You Will Have Support During Your Delivery

In the best of circumstances, delivering a child is an emotionally and physically exhausting feat. For an expectant mother considering adoption, it can be even more emotionally exhausting. One of the things a good adoption agency will do is to help you think through your hospital plan. You will want to consider who you want in the delivery room with you and your plans for leaving the hospital. Your social worker will make your wishes known to the hospital staff, nurses, and doctors, as well as communicate your decision to the prospective adoptive parents. And if your plans change the day of delivery, that’s okay too. Your social worker will be there to advocate for you and ensure that your wishes are met.

9. You Must Consent to the Adoption

Once your child is born, your child will remain under your care until you leave the hospital. Though you may choose for the prospective adoptive parents to look after the child during this time, in the state of California, legally you will remain the child’s parent until you are discharged from the hospital. Once you are discharged from the hospital, you may give consent to the adoption. If, however, you need to remain in the hospital for a longer time than your child, then you may consent to the adoption once your doctor declares you competent to do so. And if you are of American Indian descent, you must wait until at least 10 days after the birth of your child to give consent to the adoption.

Adoption is a legally binding event and as such must take place in front of an adoption service provider, social worker, or adoption attorney who will advise you of your rights. Adoption is permanent and as such you have every right to change your mind at any time prior to giving your consent. If you choose to give consent, you will sign documents to terminate your parental rights. The parental rights will then be given to the adoptive parents in the instance of direct placement or to the adoption agency in the instance of a closed adoption. After consenting to the adoption you will have thirty days to revoke consent. If you choose to revoke consent, you will need to submit a signed revocation requesting the return of your child. That said, you will need to sign your right to revoke consent before the thirty days have expired. Once the thirty days have passed or once you have signed and waived your right to revoke consent, then the adoption will be finalized and you will officially be a birth mother.

10. Adoption Is a Gift

Your first weeks post-placement can be hard. It is not uncommon to experience depression, relief, doubt, grief, and even uncertainty as to where to go or what to do next. During this time, it is important to reach out to your social worker and to access the support groups available to you. And remember, adoption is not a single act but rather a lifelong journey. You have now become a birth mother which is a tremendous gift to yourself, your child, and the child’s adoptive parents. And that is a beautiful thing.