When considering adoption, many expectant parents ask "when can I choose a family?" This article hopes to answer that and many other queries.

When Can I Choose a Family?

The adoption journey has many benchmarks along the way and one monumental benchmark is choosing a family. As an expectant parent, you may or may not have come to understand what is involved in the adoption process. Hopefully, this article will provide you with a better understanding of what choosing a family entails and some other important aspects of adoption. I hope to answer the titular question: when can you choose a family?

I do have a challenge for you before you continue reading. The challenge is for you to be thorough in your adoption education and seek out any and all assistance that you need. Adoption has come a very long way in recent years so there are wonderful resources available to those who need them. 

The Adoption Journey: A General Overview

When an expectant parent/s makes the complex decision to place their child for adoption, there are many steps to complete the process. Expectant parents can place their children for adoption through several entities such as an actual adoption agency or an attorney. Even if the adoption takes place privately, an attorney is still needed to complete the process. Regardless of the entity used to complete the process, expectant parents are guided through the process. The state you live in dictates how the adoption will occur, including the timeline, the cost, and the steps involved. Each state has different adoption laws.

Expectant parents have many decisions to make throughout the process. The decisions involved include the openness desired within the adoption, which includes closed, open, and semi-open. Post-placement care and the level of post-placement communication must also be considered. 

Choosing a family for your child is another big decision. This aspect will be discussed more specifically later in this article. While you may be curious as to when you can choose a family, it is even more important to learn the important components that go into how you choose a family for your child.

If and when the adoption progresses, expectant parents have an adoption plan organized for them by their adoption professional. Paperwork and decision-making will be completed at a comfortable pace for the expectant parent. The speed of decision-making is set by the expectant parents. Careful care and consideration are given to expectant parents and they are considered the main focus and concern throughout the entire process. If and when finalization does occur, the adoption professional will finalize everything from a legal perspective and post-placement care will begin. I encourage you to take your post-placement care very seriously as it has the potential to change the trajectory of your emotional well-being.  

Adoption Vocabulary to Know

While the adoption process varies with which adoption entity you use, the vocabulary used within adoption typically stays the same. As you maneuver your way through the adoption process, you will need to become familiar with the adoption vocabulary used so you can make all decisions in an informed manner. I have included each set of important vocabulary words with the domain of topics they deal with that are specifically important for expectant parents. 

Below is a list of important adoption vocabulary you should know:

  1. Types of Adoption: closed, open, and semi-open adoption
  2. Legal: surrender, revocation, finalization
  3. Family choice: match or matching
  4. Adoption members: adoptee, adoptive parents, expectant parents
  5. Adoption Triad

While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a list that can provide you with a base level knowledge of important adoption vocabulary you will encounter, especially within the legal realm of your potential adoption. As a reminder, adoption legality varies from state to state but the legal terms typically stay the same.

Even though this article will not discuss it, it is important to note that using positive adoption language is extremely preferred and encouraged. For example, saying, “placing my child for adoption” is much more positive than saying, “I gave my child up for adoption.” The first phrase fosters a positive tone and indicates that the decision you made was a decision that was thoughtfully considered. I encourage you to make every attempt to incorporate positive adoption language in your everyday conversation about adoption. 

When Can I Choose a Family?

As I have stated previously, depending on which adoption entity or professional you use determines how your adoption process will transpire. Because of the differences among adoption professionals, it is impossible to say specifically an exact time you can choose a family. Most adoption professionals require expectant parents to undergo some type of pre-placement counseling to ensure the expectant parents know what to expect and to ensure their decision to place their child for adoption is right for them. Typically, expectant parents can begin choosing a family when they have completed all of the preliminary steps that their adoption professional requires. It is important to note that some adoption professionals may have a rule regarding how early expectant parents can match with an adoptive family. It is often considered best practice to not match families too early since things can change at any point during the expectant parent’s pregnancy. 

Expectant parents choose a family from among the waiting families that the adoption professional has made available to them. A “waiting family” is a family that is waiting to be matched with expectant parents. In most cases, adoption professionals have their waiting families represented in hardcopy books that provide a glimpse into their lives. Waiting families are also represented electronically in pdf files for expectant parents to view. Creating these books is a significant task for hopeful adoptive parents so normally the books are well-done and full of details that assist expectant parents in choosing a family. Such books or pdf files include information like where they live, family members, jobs, hobbies, and other get-to-know-you facts. 

As an adoptive mother myself who has experienced several disrupted adoptions, I have experienced the part of adoption that involves choosing a family. Normally, expectant parents can take their time in reviewing families and even choose to talk to them in an effort to narrow down their choices. You may be wondering which families are given to the expectant parents to review. This is determined by the familial preferences that are given to the adoption professional.

For example, if the expectant mother desires a family with children already in the home, then the adoption professional will only provide those families to the expectant parents to choose from. There is often an unsaid rule that adoption professionals use in the matching process that deals with presenting families who have waited the longest to the expectant parents. While this is not always the case, it is definitely something that adoption professionals often do.   

Key Things to Remember in Choosing a Family

As you begin the process of choosing a family, you will still have the assistance and facilitation of your chosen adoption professional to assist you in your family selection. As you might recall, adoption professionals work diligently to keep the preferences you have for a family in mind. When it comes time to choose a family, your adoption professional will learn what kind of family you want for your child. This will usually come through an extensive discussion and question and answer time. You will be given the opportunity to discuss what you envision for your child in terms of family, opportunities, and other factors. 

Once the details have been established for what you envision for your child, the adoption professional will analyze which hopeful adoptive family or waiting family best meets your given criteria. For example, if you say you want a family who has adopted before, the adoption professional will only give you family profiles that fit your preferences to select from. While there are many things to remember in choosing a family, a few key things to remember stand out in terms of choosing a family.

Some key things to remember include:

  1. Be totally honest about your preferences in a family. The more honest and specific you are, the better the adoption professional will be able to help you select a family.
  2. Keep the long-term future in mind when choosing a family. Try to select a family that is committed to keeping the adoption a healthy and vibrant discussion in their home. This is especially true if you are an expectant parent who desires an open adoption or semi-open adoption. If you prefer a closed adoption, this may be less important to you.
  3. Choose a family that you personally see yourself communicating with in the future. Again, this is assuming you desire an open or semi-open adoption. You will need a connection with them, so it is important to choose a family that you see yourself being able to establish a relationship with.
  4. Do not allow anyone to pressure you or sway your decision. You as the expectant parent know the best decision for your child so it is important to believe that. 
  5. It is okay to ask questions of the prospective adoptive family. 

As an adoptive parent in an open adoption, I strongly encourage you to consider an open adoption.

A Final Note of Encouragement

Despite what has led you to consider placing your child for adoption, you will need encouragement and a strongly supportive community. Not everyone is blessed with a supportive community so if you are, be thankful for that. If you are not blessed with such a community, seek out support from your adoption professional who can either provide you with what you need or connect you with people or services who can. Adoption is not a journey to walk alone no matter what part of the triad you are in. As a potential birth parent, you can take advantage of the many resources offered to birth parents, especially birth mothers.

Although you may be eager to get started in the process of choosing a family, it is critical to take the adoption process slow. You need to demonstrate intentionality at every step. It is not a race and not something to just get over with. If you do, there will be emotional pain that may potentially affect you down the road. However, if you take it slow, complete the counseling process, and come to understand all parts of the adoption triad, you will find yourself more stable and more likely to heal after you place your child for adoption.

There are so many different facets to understanding adoption and the roles each member of the triad has. It is difficult for everyone but so rewarding. I have seen firsthand the heartbreak that comes within adoption as well as the restoration and beauty it creates. It is the most beautiful thing I have been part of and I am still able to say that after six disrupted adoptions. It is truly that beautiful even though it often begins with some type of brokenness.

No matter the outcome that occurs within your potential placement, you are already showing tremendous love, sacrifice, and parenting by already thinking of your child over yourself. Such a sacrificial mindset is incredibly loving so do not think of yourself as anything less than a parent because that sacrificial mindset is parenthood. On a personal note, I can attest to the pain that came from experiencing six disrupted adoptions. As a reminder, a disrupted adoption means that the child’s biological parents chose to not ultimately place their child for adoption. While it was difficult, it was powerful to see parents be empowered to be parents. So, whatever your outcome is, please know that the family you choose for your child will be a gift to you and your child.

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Sarah Beth Britton