Adoption is a permanent, legal agreement in which you agree to place your child in the care of another person or family. There are two types of adoption — "open" and "closed." The birth mother can choose the type of adoption she wants for her child.
- Open adoptions involve some contact between the birth parent and adopting family. Open adoption usually includes the exchange of identifying information, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers. In many open adoptions, adopting and birth parents spend time together both before and after placement occurs. The birth mother selects the adopting family. She can find out about their values, lifestyle, and religion. Their ideas about discipline and the educational opportunities they can offer may also be important to her. She and the adoptive parents may choose to form a relationship. These adoptions may also include ongoing visits with the child, phone calls, pictures, or visits
- Closed adoptions, or confidential adoptions, happen when the birth mother and adopting family do not have any information about one another. Closed adoptions are becoming less common. Women may choose a closed adoption in order to have more privacy. Sometimes adopted children or birth parents will want to find each other later in life after a closed adoption. Adoption registries may be able to help you connect with your child. Some adoption agencies will help birth parents and children find each other. But this does not always happen, so if you think you will want to have some contact with your child, consider planning an open adoption.
Adoption is legal and binding whether it is open or closed. All adoptions must be approved by a judge. Adoption laws are different in every state. An adoption counselor or lawyer can tell you about the laws in your state. In most states, minors do not need a parent's consent to choose to place a child for adoption. In Rhode Island, however, minors do need the consent of one parent or guardian. The laws about birth fathers are different from state to state, so talk with an adoption counselor or lawyer about what rights a birth father has in your state. You may need his consent in order to plan an adoption.
What to do about an unplanned pregnancy is an important and common decision faced by women. In fact, about half of all women in the U.S. have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives. Some common reasons a woman might choose adoption include:
- Not feeling ready to be a parent.
- Being unable to afford to raise a baby.
- Feeling that raising a baby now would make it too difficult to achieve educational or professional goals.
- Not wanting to be a single parent.
- Feeling too young or too immature to raise a child.
- Believing adoption is the best chance for her child to be well-cared for financially and emotionally.
Every woman's situation is different, and only you can decide what is best in your case. If you're trying to decide if adoption is the right option for you, you may find it helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages and think about which of these factors are most important to you. Consider how you feel and what you think about adoption, what you want for your life and for your family or future family. You may want to discuss your list with your partner, someone in your family, a friend, a religious adviser, or a counselor.
There are different ways to arrange for an adoption:
- Agency adoptions happen with the help of a state-licensed agency that connects the birth parent with the adopting family. The agency can help arrange for pre- and post-adoption counseling and hospital arrangements for the birth, and can provide help with legal matters. Agency adoptions can be open or closed adoptions, but they are most often open. The agency can help you select the adoptive parents and help you set up plans for future contact with the adoptive family.
- Independent adoptions are handled through a lawyer, sometimes referred to as an "adoption attorney." It is a good idea to have your own lawyer to represent your best interests. In an independent adoption, you can still receive counseling and guidance through a local adoption agency, if you choose.
- Adoption by a relative happens when someone in the birth parent's family adopts the child. This is also called "kinship adoption." You and your relative can work with an adoption agency, lawyer, or your state department of human services to arrange the adoption. Family members must meet all the same legal requirements as any other adoptions. Even if your child is placed with a family member, you will have no more parental rights than if you had placed your child with strangers.
In Rhode Island, all infant adoptions are handled by an adoption agency or adoption attorney.
Some women start planning their child's adoption early in their pregnancy. Others begin it later in pregnancy. Some even begin the adoption process at the hospital after the baby is born. During your pregnancy, you have the right to decide on adoption and change your mind later. If you choose adoption, you will have to sign official "relinquishment papers." In Rhode Island, termination of rights or consent to adoption may not be executed sooner than 15 days after the child's birth. In almost all states, termination of rights or consent to adoption cannot be completed until after a baby is born. This means that you can consider and research adoption throughout your pregnancy, even to the point of selecting a potential adoptive family, without making an irrevocable commitment.
The laws in your state will govern who you can and can not work with. Currently, all fifty states allow children to be placed using a licensed child placing agency (adoption agency). Contacting an adoption agency or adoption attorney in your area to find out more about what is and isn't allowed should be your first step. Once you've discovered what is allowed by law, you can then make a better decision regarding the professional you decide to use.
In selecting an agency or attorney, you might want to ask:
- Will using your services cost me anything?
- Do you offer counseling or support groups for birth mothers and birth fathers?
- How do you screen the adoptive families you work with?
- Will I be able to meet with adoptive families?
- If I choose an open adoption, will you help me stay in touch with the adoptive family?
- Can your agency help with prenatal care or delivery costs?
- What are the birth father's rights in my state?
- If I choose adoption, when is my decision final?
Many women who make this choice are happy knowing that their children are loved and living in good homes. And they feel empowered in their role as birth mother. But some women find that the sense of loss is deeper than they expected.
You may feel some grief after the adoption is complete. Or you may be reassured by knowing that your child is in good hands. A range of emotions is normal. And your feelings may be complicated for a while.
It's a good idea to find counseling to help you work through your feelings. This can be important during the adoption process as well as afterward. If you work with an adoption agency, they can often provide counseling for you. If you have an independent adoption, you can still receive counseling and guidance through a local adoption agency. Brown students can receive help from Counseling and Psychological Services (401.863-3476). No matter which type of adoption you pursue, it's important to find people who will support you during and after your pregnancy.
If you decide to continue your pregnancy, whether you decide to parent or place the baby for adoption, it's very important to get prenatal care early. Your medical provider will make sure you and the developing fetus are healthy. You will also receive any testing you may need, you can ask questions, find out about warning signs of troubles with your pregnancy, and learn strategies for a more comfortable, healthy pregnancy. It is best to begin prenatal care before you are pregnant, but if this is not possible, you can begin prenatal care as soon as you know you are pregnant. You can click here to learn more about prenatal care and health during pregnancy.
Wide Horizons for Children 401.421-4752
Free, confidential, birth-parent counseling and resource referrals. Options available to review the profiles of prospective adoptive parents and to select the family of choice.
Disclaimer: BWell Health Promotion is part of Health Services at Brown University. Health Promotion maintains this site as a resource for Brown students. This site is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. No site can replace real conversation. Health Promotion offers no endorsement of and assumes no liability for the currency, accuracy, or availability of the information on the sites we link to or the care provided by the resources listed. Health Services staff are available to treat and give medical advice to Brown University students only. If you are not a Brown student, but are in need of medical assistance please call your own health care provider or in case of an emergency, dial 911. Please contact us if you have comments, questions or suggestions.