Skip to main content
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Who May Put a Child Up for Adoption?

Generally, any person or entity with the legal right to do so may put a child up for adoption. This includes:

  • Birth parents
  • The child's legal guardian
  • A guardian ad litem
  • Local departments of social services
  • Licensed child-placing agencies regulated by the government

State laws specifically designate who can make adoptive placements.

This article provides an overview of who may put a child up for adoption in the United States and U.S. territories.

The Adoption Process

Adoption is a legal process where an adoptive family welcomes an adopted child. There are many different types of adoption. Birth families who want to remain part of the child's life can choose open adoption. In an open adoption, both families decide the level of contact the birth family has post-placement.

Closed Adoptions

Closed adoptions are another type of adoption. In closed adoptions, the families do not remain in contact. Instead, the birth parents give up their parental rights. Both parents must relinquish their parental rights. This includes the birth father. In some cases, such as an unplanned pregnancy, the birth father is not part of the adoption plan. Despite this, he has a right to know about the adoption and agree to relinquish his parental rights.

Stepparent Adoptions

Stepparent adoption is another type of adoption. In stepparent adoptions, the stepparent adopts their stepchild. In this type of adoption, the non-custodial birth parent relinquishes their parental rights.

Post-placement, the adoptive parents can apply for a new birth certificate. The adoptive parent's name(s) will go on the birth certificate.

Private Adoption

Most states allow "non-agency" placements of children for adoption. This includes "private" or "independent" adoption. Only a few states (including Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and North Dakota) prohibit independent adoption.

One type of private adoption allowed in most states is the "direct placement" of a child by the birth parent. Many states have detailed regulations to protect the parties to the adoption. Some of these laws may include the following:

  • Limiting the amount of money prospective adoptive parents may give the birth mother for medical expenses
  • Restricting prospective adoptive parents from advertising for a birth mother
  • Extending the time birth parents have to change their minds about a finalized adoption

Agency Adoption

Generally, agency adoptions fall into two categories: adoptions from public agencies run by the local department of human services (or department of social services) or adoptions from private adoption agencies.

Public Agency Adoptions

Public adoption agencies place foster care children in permanent homes. Foster care children may be older children or children with special needs. Many states and the federal government provide adoption assistance for children with special needs. This includes Medicaid to cover medical expenses.

Many children go into the foster care system because of child abuse. Child abuse survivors may need more attention. Often family members adopt their young relatives out of the foster care system.

Private Adoption Agencies

Private adoption agencies are another way to adopt a child. Unlike public agencies, the prospective adoptive parents pay a fee to the agency. Private adoption agencies offer many adoption services, including counseling, to prospective adoptive parents. They can answer common questions about the adoption process.

Adoption Intermediaries

Some states allow intermediaries (usually adoption attorneys) to arrange private adoption placements. Often the adoption attorney or adoption professional will:

  • Prepare all legal documents
  • Negotiate payment between the parties
  • Organize a home study with a social worker
  • Represent parents at a court hearing

State adoption laws also may restrict attorney fees for performing an intermediary role.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are part of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). ICPC is a contract between the states to provide protection and support services for children adopted by parents in different states.

To start an ICPC adoption, an authorized representative from the "sending state" (the child's home state) must submit an adoption packet to the "receiving state" (where the prospective adoptive parents live). From there, the social services agency in the receiving state will visit the home, meet everyone, and conduct a home study. Based on the final report, the agency in the receiving state can approve or deny the adoption.

Get Legal Help

If you are considering giving a baby up for adoption or becoming an adoptive parent, you should speak to a local adoption attorney or a family law attorney.

Was this helpful?

Thank you. Your response has been sent.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney specializing in adoptions.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options