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Expectant Parent’s Guide to the Adoption Process

The adoption process for expectant parents is different from state to state and across different adoption agencies, but most infant adoptions follow a similar process. Here are the steps you can expect.

For more information, read our list of things you should know about choosing adoption.

Step 1. Options Counseling

When a woman learns that she's pregnant, she should be given counsel on her pregnancy options. This is called "options counseling." Pregnancy options counseling should be client-centered, clear, and non-judgemental as a trained professional provides you with medically accurate information about pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption. Many times your physician can provide you with options counseling or can refer you to a trusted counselor. There are no national certifications for pregnancy options counseling, but we do recommend that you meet with a professional and that you seek out additional options counseling if you feel you need more support in your decision-making.

Step 2. Referral

If you're considering adoption, an adoption agency, social worker, or attorney who specializes in adoption can give you more information about the adoption process in your situation and in your state. Adoption professionals provide adoption-specific counseling to help you consider whether an adoption plan is the best option for you. Here's our guide to choosing the right adoption agency for you. Your options counselor should also be able to provide you with referrals for local adoption professionals.

Step 3. Making an adoption plan

If you decide to pursue an adoption plan, you should receive more in-depth counseling and resources to help you discern what type of adoption you would like. What degree of openness do you want? What traits do you want your child’s adoptive parent(s) to possess? How do you envision your birth and hospital experience? These are all part of your individual adoption plan.

Step 4. Choosing adoptive parents

In an open adoption, expectant parents considering adoption will view profiles of qualified adoptive parents and can ask to talk with them on the phone or meet in person. In confidential adoptions, expectant parents can ask their agency to choose a qualified family based on their preferences.

Step 5. Birth

After the mother gives birth, the child is generally placed in the care of the adoptive family upon leaving the hospital. Sometimes a mother might request additional time with her child after her hospital stay is completed. Make sure you go over these details with your adoption agency so that you know what to expect.

Step 6. Relinquishment/Consent

Birth parents sign documents legalizing the adoption plan and transferring parental rights to the adoptive parents. This process is called relinquishing the child to another family or consenting to the adoption. In many states, a birth father can relinquish the child at any time during the pregnancy or after the child's birth. Birth mothers generally cannot reliniquish until after the child is born, and in some states she must wait a period of several days after giving birth before she can legally give consent.

The revocation period is the time during which a birth parent can revoke (or "take back") their consent to place their child with an adoptive family. The legal length of the revocation period varies by state and in most cases a birth parent cannot contest the adoption after the revocation period has ended.

Step 7. Post-adoption

As a birth parent, you should continue to receive counseling after the adoption. Good adoption agencies will continue to provide you with lifelong support services, in many cases for free. Depending on the degree of openness chosen, you may continue to have a relationship with your child and his or her adoptive family. The vast majority of domestic infant adoptions in the U.S. now have some degree of openness/contact between birth parents, children, and adoptive families.