What to Expect When You’re Unexpectedly Expecting: The First Phone Call (or Email) to an Adoption Agency

“Could I actually be considering this?”

“I’ll just call to get information.”

“What will they think of me?”

“Am I too far along to start this process?”

These are some of the questions that may run through an expectant parent’s mind prior to taking the leap of faith that is contacting an adoption agency for the first time. Unsurprisingly, this can be an incredibly intimidating call to make. The laundry list of fears likely includes judgment, misinformation, and of course the fear that they’re making the biggest mistake of their lives. Unfortunately, I do not have any super powers so I cannot speak to the latter but I can tell you what to expect in the first phone call to an agency.

A common misconception is that the phone call itself or providing contact information somehow obligates you to make an adoption plan. The decision to place cannot be made until 48 hours after the child’s birth, and absolutely no sooner. Should you chose to parent your child prior to that time, your decision will be respected by the agency. There is nothing that can be signed before 48 hours after the child’s birth that is legally binding.

The first question I always ask is, “Are you currently pregnant?” While this may seem like a silly question, it is designed to clarify if you want to place a child for adoption or adopt a child that someone else is placing. It also helps to distinguish off-the-bat if you are considering placing your unborn child or a child that you are already parenting. The next question to expect is, “Do you know how far along you are?” This question gives me an opening to discuss if you have already applied for Medicaid, if you’ve begun receiving prenatal care, and how long you have known about the pregnancy.

Some agencies may ask questions about race, age, and the expectant father or bio dad, but my priority in this phone call is to find out a little bit about why you are considering adoption at this time in your life. There is no one right answer to this question – each expectant parent’s story is unique and your reasons for placing are valid. If parenting is something you are still considering, I will offer to give you resources that would assist you in being able to parent.

I will briefly explain the concept of open adoption and why it is important to the adoptee, and then I explain the chronology of the adoption process through Adoption Advocates.

  • Discuss situation during intake phone call.
  • Meet in-person with adoption counselor.
  • Complete paperwork.
  • Assist with Medicaid and establishing medical care if necessary
  • View adoptive parent profiles.
  • Speak on the phone with prospective adoptive family.
  • Become officially matched to adoptive family and begin building a relationship. This stage often looks like getting together with the family once a month or week for lunch or dinner and talking and texting on the phone. Some expectant parents may even choose to invite the adoptive parents to be present at prenatal appointments if they are wanting that level of support from the family.
  • Meet with adoption counselor for weekly or biweekly grief preparation counseling
  • Complete Hospital and Adoption Plans with adoption counselor and put into writing desires for post-placement contact, typically completed at one month prior to delivery.
  • Deliver the baby and stay in the hospital with the baby for two days.
  • Sign relinquishment papers no sooner than 48 hours after the birth of your child. Placement with the adoptive family is done immediately following relinquishment.
  • Attend post-placement counseling sessions for as long as you need.
  • Participate in ongoing opportunities to be a part of the larger birth parent community like attending birth parent appreciation events and volunteering to speak to prospective adoptive families or expectant parents about their own experience.

I encourage you to ask any questions you have. Many callers will ask specific questions about their case or about the vetting process for adoptive families. All questions are welcome. Before the end of the phone call, I will ask for your contact information so that I can follow up. How I follow up is completely up to you. If you are local, I will see if you would like to schedule a time to come into the agency to talk more in-depth about the process and so that I can answer your questions. If you are not local or if you are but are not ready to meet with a counselor in person, I will offer to mail an information packet before offering to visit you in the city where you live.  If you choose not to give me your contact information because you wish not to be contacted, then there is absolutely no pressure placed to give out your information.

Whether you decide to place or parent, calling an agency is a monumental accomplishment that will allow you to make an informed decision that will hopefully come from a place of knowledge rather than fear.

About the Author:

Erin Smith is Director of Adoption Services at Adoption Advocates. Erin earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in Anthropology, International Studies, and Spanish. Much of her undergraduate research was done in the field of adoption. She knows first hand what a blessing adoption can be as she was internationally adopted, her sister was domestically adopted, and her parents were directors of an orphanage in Mexico facilitating the adoption process there for 6 years. Working in this field is something about which she is truly passionate.