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Who May Place a Child for Adoption?

In general, any person or entity with the legal right to do so may place a child for adoption. Persons who have such a right usually include the birth parents, the child's legal guardian, or a guardian ad litem. Legal entities with such authority are typically the states' Departments of Social Services or child-placing agencies regulated by the government. All states (except Arkansas), the District of Columbia, and all the U.S. territories (excluding the Northern Mariana Islands) specifically designate which persons or entities hold the authority to make adoptive placements.

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

Private Adoption

Most states allow "non-agency" placements of children for adoption, often referred to as "private" or "independent" adoption. Only four states (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 with an adoptive family. Many states that allow direct placement have detailed regulations in place to protect the interests of 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 prenatal care and other medical expenses;
  • Restricting prospective adoptive parents from advertising for a birth mother; and
  • Extending the amount of time birth parents have to change their mind about the adoption after it is complete.

Agency Adoption

Generally, agency adoptions fall into two categories -- adoptions from public agencies run by the state or adoptions from private companies. Six states (Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia) require that all adoptive placements be made by the states' Departments of Human or Social Services or child-placing agencies that are licensed by the state or meet certain standards. In four states (Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Rhode Island), parents who wish to make private placements must first obtain permission from their state's Department of Social Services or a court.

Adoption Intermediaries

Some states allow the use of intermediaries in arranging private adoption placements. Usually, these intermediaries are attorneys. The permitted activities of intermediaries vary by state and are strictly controlled by the government. In many cases, the attorney will prepare all legal documents, negotiate payment between the parties, organize a home study, and represent parents at a court hearing. State laws also typically restrict the amount an attorney may be paid for performing an intermediary role.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

All fifty 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 who are adopted by parents who live in a different state. To begin an ICPC adoption, an authorized representative from the “sending state” (the state where the child is from) must submit an adoption packet to the “receiving state” (the 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 resulting report, the agency in the receiving state can make a decision to approve or deny the adoption.

If you are considering placing a child for adoption or want to become an adoptive parent, you may consider contacting an experienced adoption attorney to explain your rights and help guide you through the adoption process.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified attorney specializing
in adoptions.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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