Statistics About Parents Who Place Their Children For Adoption

by Laura Christianson

Each year in the United States, approximately 14,000 women and a growing number of men make an agonizing parenting decision that they hope will provide their children with the best possible future: They place their babies for adoption.

A comprehensive study, conducted by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, examines contemporary infant adoption, particularly as it relates to birth parents.

The most prevalent situations a woman is in when she chooses to place a child for adoption include:

  1. Women in their early- to mid-20s who have graduated from high school and are becoming independent from their parents.
  2. Single parents of all ages, and occasionally, married parents, with other children who are struggling to obtain emotional and financial resources to parent.
  3. Teenagers (about one-quarter of those who make an adoption plan are teens).
  4. Women with extreme personal difficulties that compromise their ability to parent (poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, severe mental illness, developmental delays, and severe health problems).
  • Victims of rape, either by relatives, date-rape, or rape by strangers.
  • Women from conservative ethnic, religious, and cultural communities that have strong prohibitions against out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
  • Recent immigrants (most undocumented) who have no social support or extended family.
  • Parents expecting a baby with a disability

90 percent or more of the women who place their children for adoption have met the adoptive parents of their children. Almost all of the remaining birth mothers helped to choose the new parents through profiles. Contrary to the stereotypes that have been created about them, almost no women choosing adoption today seek anonymity or express a desire for no ongoing information or contact.

A minority of infant adoptions involve fathers in the process. Many states have established putative father registries to involve these men, but they are too often used as a means of cutting them out rather than including them.

Women who feel pressured into placing their children suffer from poorer grief resolution and greater negative feelings. Most states do not have laws that maximize sound decision-making, however, such as required counseling, waiting periods of at least several days after childbirth before signing relinquishments, and adequate revocation periods during which birthparents can change their minds.

Research on birth parents in the era of confidential (closed) adoptions suggests a significant proportion struggled—and sometimes continue to struggle—with chronic, unresolved grief. The primary factor bringing peace of mind is knowledge about their children’s well-being.

Women who have the highest grief levels are those who placed their children with the understanding that they would have ongoing information, but the arrangement was cut off. Such contact/information is the most important factor in facilitating birthparents’ adjustment.

Choosing the adoptive family and having ongoing contact and/or knowledge results in lower levels of grief and greater peace of mind with adoption decisions.

Related Posts:
Statistics About Infant Adoption and Adoption Practitioners

Source: “Safeguarding The Rights And Well-Being Of Birthparents In The Adoption Process” by Susan Livingston Smith, Program and Project Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, November 2006.

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baby carriers backpacks March 9, 2009 at 8:05 PM

Great article… It mirrors reality about adoption.
Every child is a blessing and everybody can be a great parent..

Lisa March 25, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Hello, I just wanted to say that I appreciate all that you do. I am an adopted child, and I did relinquish two of my babies for adoption. I did go through Catholic Charities when I was a teen and it was the hardest and BEST decision of my life. God Bless
Lisa Vialpando

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