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How to place a baby for adoption in Pennsylvania

How to place a baby for adoption in Pennsylvania: essential guide (7 steps)

Deciding to place a baby for adoption is never easy, and it is natural for expectant mothers to have questions about the adoption process.

If you are undecided on what to do next, it can be helpful to understand what happens when a baby is placed for adoption, as well as what the alternative options might be.

Learning more about any of these avenues does not mean you are committed to them. By conducting research, you can better make an informed decision, whatever that may be. It is common for expectant mothers experiencing an unplanned pregnancy to look into different options when deciding what is best for themselves and their child.

To help you through the decision-making process, we've put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide to how to place a baby for adoption:

Step 1 – Educate yourself on all the options 

a. What are my parenting resources?

b. Abortion-pill vs procedure

c. What is adoption?

Step 2 – Making an adoption plan

a. Paperwork

b. Make contact with support services

c. Birthfather involvement

Step 3 – Open vs closed adoption

a. What is open adoption?

b. What is closed adoption?

c. Level of contact

Step 4 - Choose a potential adoptive family for your child

a. Personal preferences

b. Initial contact

c. Getting to know the potential adoptive family

Step 5 – Create your hospital plan

Step 6 – Complete the legal steps for adoption

Step 7 – Take care of yourself after the adoption


Step 1—educate yourself on all options

a.    What are my parenting resources?  

Before moving forward with an adoption plan, it’s important to consider what resources and support you have available in your life and community that might mean you are in a position to be able to provide a stable life for your child.


When experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and looking at options for your baby, it can be helpful to reach out to family and friends for support. 


Do you have the support of your family? Of friends? What about the father of the baby?


There are all kinds of community programs, and government assistance may be available if you decide to parent your child. Are you eligible for cash aid, food stamps, WIC? What about local housing or child care subsidies?  


When you are making this decision, try and seek out people who you know will listen with empathy and understanding, without pressuring you into a decision one way or another. 


Family and friends can be invaluable in helping you figure out ways around barriers you may feel exist around parenting, and this may open up different possible futures for you and your child. Maybe a friend could help with free childcare or maybe you have family that would help you out financially or with housing. 

b. Abortion-pill vs procedure

Depending on the state you live in or next to, abortion may be an option that is available to you.

Talk to a medical professional so that you receive accurate and unbiased information. 

Make sure you understand the laws in your state around timing of medical abortions, and use of the abortion pill.

c. What is adoption? 

If you are at step 1 and trying to understand what adoption may look like and what your rights and options are, you are in the right place.  


We are here to educate and empower you and not to pressure you in any way.  We can answer your questions, connect you to therapists who help women make decisions, or women or couples who have made adoption plans. 


Every expectant mother who looks into adoption is at a different point in the decision-making process. Some are firmly decided that adoption is the best choice for them and their baby, while others are looking into all options that are available.

When making inquiries into adoption, you should be given the opportunity and support to consider other options such as parenting, kinship adoption and abortion. You mustn't feel pressured into placing your baby for adoption - you have every right to take your time over this decision. 

Choosing to place a baby into an adoptive family for the good of the child's future well-being and happiness is a hard decision, and it is essential that you feel supported.


As an expectant mother considering adoption, it is important that you work with specialists, who can ensure that the process goes smoothly. If you choose to go ahead with the adoption process, you will need to work with a social worker from a licensed agency.


An agency carries out all the relevant checks on the adoptive family, as well as ensure the legal paperwork is in place to finalize the adoption. They also work with women and couples considering adoption, helping to introduce you to families, accept your legal relinquishment, and provide follow up to you and the adoptive family. 


Your social worker can also assist with other practicalities, such as obtaining expenses and connecting you to the relevant support services.


It is important that you carefully select an adoption agency who respects your right to change your mind should you decide to parent or terminate your pregnancy. 


As the expectant mother, your feelings and choices should be centered in the whole process, and you should never feel judged, or pressured into any course of action that you are not comfortable with.


Step 2: Making an adoption plan

When placing a baby for adoption, your social worker will help you create an adoption plan. 


This outlines the details of your wishes and expectations at each stage of the adoption process and also forms the framework for choosing a family and deciding on what type of adoption you would prefer, and what you feel is ultimately best for your child. 

a. Paperwork

Typically there is some paperwork to initiate the process with the adoption agency. This should not bind you to any decision but help them provide you with the best services.  


A medical history form is usually completed and a release of information so they can communicate with your doctor’s office and hospital, when you are ready. 


Again, none of these forms should be legally binding. 

b. Make contact with support services

Your adoption agency will be able to connect you with services such as peer counseling, adoption-competent therapy, and specialist support groups. 


This enables you to meet qualified professionals to talk through your feelings, preparing you emotionally for the months ahead. It can also be helpful to chat with other people with experience of the adoption process such as adults who were adopted as children, adoptive families, and birth mothers who placed their child for adoption. 


Is anyone in your community supportive of your adoption plan?  Again this is a time to seek people who will listen with empathy, understanding, and respect. When expectant mothers are considering adoption, family and friends can help you think through options, choose an adoptive family, and be there to help support you after placement.

c. Birth father involvement

Are you together and is he supporting your adoption plan? 

In some states, the birth father can waive his rights before delivery, giving you control to make the decisions.

If you are a couple, maybe you want to sign at the same time after birth? 

If you can’t identify or find him, your social worker will advise on the best way to terminate his rights in your state. 


Step 3. Open vs closed adoption

One of the main decisions to make in the early stages is whether you would prefer an open or closed adoption for your baby. 

a What is open adoption?

Open adoptions, where you can choose and meet with the potential adoptive parents, is by far the most common choice. In an open adoption, you can choose to continue contact with your child as they grow up, which studies have shown can benefit the birth mother, adopted child, and adoptive family.


We know it is common for children to have questions about their birth family and see that open adoption helps them get some answers to their questions.  


An adoption social worker should help you think about what common questions children have for their birth families, help you think about whether or not you want to include your extended family, and help you sort through the pros and cons of open adoption that you may be feeling.

b. What is closed adoption?

In a closed adoption, very little information is shared between the expectant mother and potential adoptive parents. You may get some input into choosing a waiting family, but their identity will be withheld, and no contact will take place. 


Closed adoptions are relatively rare, but some expectant mothers still choose this option for personal reasons. There will never be any pressure on you to choose one type over another - the most important thing is that you feel you can make a decision that is right for you and your child. 

c. Level of contact

Your adoption plan will also include your desired level of contact with the potential adoptive family before, during, and after the birth of your baby. The extent to which you wish to be in contact is entirely up to you - some expectant mothers are happy to meet or speak just once before the adoption takes place, while others keep the family updated every step of the way.


Your desired level of contact after the adoption is particularly important, so you and the potential adoptive family should be in agreement. Many adoption agencies work only with waiting families who are open to contact with the birth family, but the level of contact varies in every placement. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' amount of contact between birth parents and adoptive families - this will vary from adoption to adoption, and must always be right for you and your child.


The level of contact everyone has with each other varies case to case. Some birth families receive pictures and updates via email, text or social media so they can see what their child has been up to. Some birth and adoptive families get together a 1-2 times a year to catch up and spend time together doing something child friendly.  While others talk often and see each other 6-12 times a year and become almost like extended family.  


There is no right or wrong way to be in touch, but we see everyone does best when both parties want the same level of openness long term. 


Step 4: Choose a potential adoptive family for your child

a. Personal preferences

In the months and years after the adoption takes place, it can be reassuring to know that you've chosen the most suitable family in which to place your child. Take a few moments to envision what the ideal family scenario would be for your child - a bustling household filled with extended family, or a close-knit small family unit? Are factors such as cultural background or religion important to you, or would you prefer a family with whom you have hobbies and interests in common?


Potential adoptive families can be found in various ways. You may find waiting parents seeking a child for adoption through word-of-mouth or through an adoption agency. You can search for a potential adoptive family yourself, or enlist the help of an agency social worker.

All potential adoptive families working with an agency go through rigorous checks before being approved for adoption. If you enlist the support of an adoption agency, they will have a list of waiting families that have already gone through this approval process. Each waiting family then creates a personal profile, and a shortlist will be drawn up based on your personal preferences. The amount of information made available to you will depend on whether you are seeking an open or closed adoption.

In a closed adoption, your social worker will select the closest match to your 'ideal' adoptive family. You may be given some limited information, but their identities will be withheld, and no contact will take place.


Open adoptions allow for much more input into choosing a potential adoptive family for your child. You will be given access to a shortlist of profiles based on your personal preferences and you can choose to make contact with any who peak your interest. Sometimes expectant mothers or birth families are drawn to one family and interview just them. Sometimes a few profiles stick out and people choose to interview more than one.  Potential adoptive families seeking an open agreement are typically excited to get to know you and form a good relationship with the birth family that continues through your baby's childhood and beyond.

b. Initial contact

Making initial contact with potential adoptive families can be a daunting prospect, but you should take reassurance in the fact that all parties are likely to feel some level of apprehension. With prospective adoptive families, it is important to remember that they are seeking a child to love and nurture. Families hoping to adopt a child are normally very mindful and sensitive to the fact that this may be a difficult and emotional time for the expectant mother.


Contact with potential adoptive families can be made directly, or your adoption social worker can assist you with this. You may wish to speak on the telephone or via video call first to feel more comfortable ahead of a face-to-face meeting.


The important thing to remember is that just because you make contact with a waiting family, you must not feel obliged or pressured into placing your baby for adoption with them. You have every right to meet with more than one potential family if you wish to, and you do not need to make a final decision after just one meeting.

c. Getting to know the potential adoptive family

If you wish, you can get to know your chosen potential adoptive family during your pregnancy. This can be particularly helpful if you are planning on an open adoption agreement with face-to-face contact, easing any awkwardness before the baby is born and building the foundations of your relationship.


Getting acquainted with the potential adoptive family can be beneficial for all involved in the adoption process. The adoptive family gets to learn about the child's culture and heritage, as well as any relevant information that will help them raise the child. Birth mothers, too, can often find some reassurance in getting to know the adoptive family, helping them find peace in the decision they have made.


In terms of your pregnancy and medical treatments, it is entirely up to you how much you wish the potential adoptive family to be involved. You may decide to update them after every medical appointment and even invite them along to your prenatal checks, or you might prefer to maintain your personal space during this time. Again, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' here, and there is no expectation for other people to have more involvement than you are comfortable with at any stage.

Step 5: Create your hospital plan

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As the end of your pregnancy approaches, your social worker will assist you in creating a hospital plan. This is your pregnancy and birthing experience, and this is your chance to ensure you do not feel pressured into anything you are uncomfortable with.

An adoption hospital plan outlines the expectant mother's wishes for key aspects of the birthing process, including who will be present and who will feed and change the baby. It also covers details such as when the adoptive parents will meet the baby, and who will discharge the baby.


Your social worker will coordinate with the hospital before the birth to inform them that you are an expectant mother considering adoption. Every hospital will have a policy in place to cater to this situation that should include processes that ensure your rights and needs are first and foremost at all times.


When it is time for the potential adoptive parents to come to the hospital and meet your baby, everyone will ensure that your initial wishes still feel right to you.  And if so everyone will work to make sure they are adhered to, and that the plan that you have made for your time in the hospital is carried out. And if you are feeling different than the hospital social worker and your adoption social worker will help you change your plan, ask for space, let the family know you want to parent or anything else you may want or need. Your adoption agency will ensure that you have all the necessary information in advance of your hospital visit, so that there are no surprises for you.

Step 6: Complete the legal steps for adoption

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After the birth, you will likely have the opportunity to speak to a hospital social worker who is there to ensure you have everything you need. Your social worker from the adoption agency will also be in touch with you. 

This is a good opportunity to revisit your decision to place your child for adoption and decide whether it still feels like the right option. Your adoption team will support you no matter what choice you make, and you should not feel pressured or rushed into anything.

When, and only when, you feel confident that placing your baby for adoption still feels right you will be required to complete the necessary legalities to give consent for adoption. Some states call this a relinquishment or surrender on consent. 

How this happens will depend on state laws and hospital regulations, and you may need to be medically discharged from hospital before any paperwork can be completed. If the rules and regulations allow, it is common practice for the baby to leave the hospital with the adoptive parents. Again, you will know about this before you give birth, so that you can feel prepared for what happens and when in the adoption process.

In some states, the paperwork is binding right after signing and in others it takes a few days or weeks to becoming legally binding. It is important you understand the time frame for your state. The adoptive family must also wait for an average of six months before finalizing the adoption. During this time, they will be visited by their social worker a number of times to check on the baby and make sure everything is going smoothly.

Step 7: Take care of yourself after the adoption

Heading 7

After the placement has occurred, most birth mothers experience intense feelings of grief and loss. This is normal. During this time, it is important to access the support network you created during the adoption process to help you process these feelings. Your adoption social worker should be there to support you and it can also be helpful to connect with a therapist. Some find it helpful to revisit your reasons for placing your child for adoption as a reminder of the choice you made, spend time with family or friends, get back to work or school, or plan a visit with the baby.


It is hard to predict ahead of time how you will feel, and it is vital to put your emotional health and well-being first. Sometimes seeing some pictures of the baby and getting an update is really helpful to get through the tough days, sometimes a visit really helps, while others may need more space. 


Deciding whether to place your child for adoption is not an easy choice for an expectant mother to make, and we are here to provide resources to all the support and guidance available to you during this time. We hope that by learning more about the adoption process, you feel better prepared to make the best choice for both you and your child.

If you are pregnant and considering placing your baby for adoption, you deserve to have a respectful and positive experience.


We can help every step of the way.

Our adoption counselors can:

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Help decide if adoption is right for you


Advise you of your rights, and connect you to resources


Help you choose an adoptive family


Assist you with obtaining adoption expenses


Help you learn more about open adoption

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Support you before and after the birth of your baby

You are in control, and can choose what your adoption plan will be.

About us

At Adopt International, we believe it is important that you make this decision on your own terms and surround yourself with helpful, supportive professionals.

We have over 40 years of experience working with pregnant women, which has taught us that in order to have a successful adoption it is imperative that a birth mother is comfortable and confident in the choice she makes.

We are advocates for open adoption. Research shows it is the best kind of adoption plan for birth families, adoptive families, and adoptees.

Words from birth mothers


“I want to thank Adopt International for all they have done for me and my daughter and her family.


They truly know the meaning of open adoption and making it work for us all.”

- Monica

“From the second I walked in the door I felt like I was in a very warm and supportive environment.”

- Bethany

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“You didn’t pressure me into anything.

You held my hand all the way through the process and made sure I knew everything about placing my child for adoption.

I am forever grateful for your agency.”

- Birth mother

“Well, I chose Adopt International because the awesome family I chose to be my birth daughter’s adoptive parents were already working with y’all, and when I met with y’all myself, you were so pro birth parent, understanding, and down to Earth in a situation that was straight up madness.

I have love, love, loved being in contact with y’all over time and seeing that you really do care, just like you showed me over a decade ago!”

- Myra

  • How do I make this decision?
    We’ll help you think of all your options, and the pros and cons of each of them. We are always here to listen and sort through your emotions so you are comfortable with the choice you make in the end. Adopt can also give you referrals to other programs, counselors, and connect you to other birth moms or parenting resources.
  • What is open adoption?
    Open adoption is when you choose the family who will parent your child, and you have the option to stay in touch with that family. Often times in open adoption you will exchange pictures, letters, and have visits with the family and your child. If you are interested we can share lots of research with you about how this is best for everyone involved, but ultimately you get to make the decision that feels most comfortable to you.
  • How do I pick a family?
    Families make picture books about themselves for you to start to get to know them. After you look at the books and have chosen a family you can, if you want to, meet them face to face. If you don’t like the first family you meet it’s perfectly alright to keep looking until you find the best family for you and your baby.
  • I don’t live in Hawaii or California, is that okay?
    Yes, we are available 24/7 no matter where you are living. We can work with you to pick one of our waiting families, who are in California and Hawaii, or work with an agency in another state in order to make sure you have the best family and adoption plan for you.
  • What happens at the hospital?
    If you are matched with a family before going into labor we will work with you, the adoptive family, and the hospital employees to create a hospital plan that meet your needs. This plan is flexible and can always change depending on how you are feeling at the hospital. We believe this is your time to call the shots and make sure the experience is what you want it to be. ​ If you are admitted to the hospital and have not been matched yet, don’t worry. With our over 40 years of domestic adoption experience working with women, we are well versed in being flexible, and working quickly in order for you to pick an adoptive family, meet them, and even have the baby go home with them. We can help you fill out the paperwork, or can work with you to get it completed after discharge.
  • Do I have to pick the family?
    No, some of the expectant mothers we work with, don’t want to pick the family, and we are happy to do that for you if you want. We will ask you questions about yourself that help us narrow down who would be a good match for you and your baby.
  • What happens after the baby is born?
    Every open adoption is different because the relationship between the adoptive family, birth family, and adoptee changes based on how much and what kind of contact the birth family wants. Often birth families are in touch with the adoptive family pretty soon after the baby is born, and receive pictures, letters and even have visits with the child. Before the adoptive parents are able to finalize the adoption they have to wait 6 months. During that time they will meet with a social workers 4 times to check in on the baby, their parenting, and to make sure everything is going smoothly.
  • What if I am due really soon?
    Don’t worry. We have been doing this for a long time and no matter how much time we have before the baby comes we will make sure you are supported, and feel comfortable throughout the process. We work with people at all stages of their pregnancy and some women even after they have delivered.
  • Will this cost me?
    No, there is never any cost to birth families. Most state laws allow the adoptive family to pay for pregnancy related expenses for the birth mothers a few months before delivery and 1 or 2 months after. This means any maternity clothes you need will be covered, along with the medical bills, as well as a few other expenses. Every state is different but we can help you figure out what is allowed and what isn’t.
  • What if I used some drugs/alcohol?
    We will find a loving forever family for your child no matter what your medical history entails. Depending on the type and amount of the drugs used, we will make sure to match you with a family who is prepared to raise a child who may have been impacted by drugs in utero. It is important that you are honest and upfront about the drug use so we can match you with an appropriate family.
  • What happens if I decide to parent?
    If you decide to parent your child we are completely supportive of you and the decision you have come to. This is a big and important decision, and we would never want you to feel pressure to place your child for adoption - no one will be upset with you.
  • Will my child be mad at me, or confused when they are older?
    One of the benefits of open adoption is that there are no secrets. Children are told about their past and their birth families. They understand the decisions that you made when they were a baby were in the best interest of you and your child. Also, many birth parents enjoy making scrapbooks and albums that document pregnancy, birth, and the early life of their child from the perspective of the birth parent. We have seen that when children grow up knowing their birth families and are able to ask you questions they do better. They have less confusion, less anger and feelings of resentment and abandonment. Since we have been around for so long we have seen the benefits of open adoption first hand. Children of open adoption enjoy getting to know how they are like their birth families and how they are like their adoptive families.
  • How do I get started?
    Call us at (800) 969-6665 and we can answer any questions you have and send you the paperwork to get started. We can also meet with you face to face if you prefer.
  • Do I need a lawyer?
    No. An adoption agency, like Adopt International, will advocate for you and advise you of your legal rights. That being said, if you want a lawyer we will help get you one.
  • If I place my baby for adoption, can I still choose their name?
    Yes, a birth certificate will be created that has your name, as the mother, and whatever name you give your child (we will get you an original of this birth certificate). With your permission, we will also get an original for your child to keep as many adoptees really value having a copy of their original birth certificate. When the family finalizes their adoption a new birth certificate will be made with the adoptive parent’s names, and the name they give the baby. Often both parties talk about it and decide a name together. Many adoptive parents choose to include the name you give the baby as their middle name.
  • How do I know who will be good parents my baby?
    In order for us to present a family to you they have to go through a long background check, where we look at their personal history, medical history, criminal history, and finances among other things. They are also required to take classes on parenting, and adoption. Then we approve them to become an adoptive family, this is called the Home Study. We find the best matches come when you and the prospective adoptive family have things in common like shared values, hobbies and dreams for your child.
  • How will I feel after the adoptive family takes my baby home?
    Placing your child for adoption is a scary, stressful, and very hard thing to do. You will feel sad, there is no way around it. Grieving is a normal process after placing your child, and we are here to support you, listen and help you cope with your emotions at this time. Many people find it helpful to go to counseling or talk to other women or couples who have been through a similar situation.
  • How do you make sure that the adoptive family upholds the open adoption agreement?
    Adopt International only works with families who want open adoptions and in California you have the option to make your post adoption agreement legally binding. We can help you figure out exactly what details you want in your agreement, and then make it legally binding if that is what you choose. If you live outside of California but pick a California family you may have the option to still have a legally binding agreement about continuing contact. Many other states have similar laws. We can help you figure out the laws of your state.

¿Considerando dar en adopción? 

Si estás embarazada y consideras dar en adopción a tu bebé, mereces tener una experiencia respetuosa y positiva. Te empoderaremos para que puedes tomar la mejor decisión para usted. Tenemos trabajadoras sociales que hablan español para ayudarte y responder a tus preguntas.


Nuestras consejeras de adopción pueden:

  • Ayudarle a decidir si adopción es la mejor opción para ti

  • Apoyar en su decisión de criar a tu niño o por familia adoptiva.  

  • Ayudar a aprender sobre la adopción abierta. 

  • Ayudarle a elegir una familia adoptiva

  • Informarle sobre sus derechos y a poner en contacto con los servicios que se requieran. 

  • Asistirle para conseguir ayuda en los gastos de adopción. 

  • Apoyarle antes y después del nacimiento de su bebé. 


Usted tiene el control, y puede elegir el mejor plan de adopción que mejor le convenga

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