The decision to place your child for adoption when you’re not ready to become a parent can be a stressful and emotional one. But when you’re convinced that it is indeed the right choice, there are steps you can take to help navigate the legal process, protect yourself financially, and ensure you maintain your emotional well-being. Follow the guide below to help make the process smooth for both you, your child, and your child’s adoptive parents.

1. Understand Your Options

Birth parents can opt for a traditional closed adoption, in which records are sealed and there is no contact with the child after the adoption. For people who feel they want to move on after making this decision, traditional adoption can provide the closure they desire. Other birth parents decide on an open adoption, in which they keep in touch with their child through letters, photos, and perhaps even phone calls and visits. This option allows the biological parents to select a family for their baby and choose parents with the attributes they value.

2. Know What to Expect

The hospital experience is often when the adoptive parents meet your baby for the first time. You have certain rights in this situation, and can protect these rights by making them known ahead of time to either your social worker or your attorney. For example, think about how much time you want to spend with your baby after birth and at what point you’d like the adoptive family to have access. Some women develop a close relationship with the adoptive parents, while others prefer to remain private or even completely anonymous. This choice is yours to make.

3. Take Care of Your Mental Health

If you’re having trouble deciding whether adoption is the right decision or are experiencing painful emotions surrounding the decision you’ve already made, a counselor or therapist can help you clarify your options as well as cope with the feelings you’re having surrounding the pregnancy, birth, and adoption. Even if you’re sure of your decision, you may experience a sense of loss. Women should look for a counselor who listens to their views with an open mind and answers all questions they have.

4. Find a Professional

Women considering adoption should begin by finding an attorney who specializes in adoption or an agency like A Child’s Dream. These professionals can help walk you through the process and ensure that your interests are protected. Start your research at the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys or your local child welfare organization.

5. Plan for Expenses

If you’re thinking about adoption for your baby, you may lack the financial stability to raise a child and be unsure about how to pay for expenses during your pregnancy if you opt to place your child. In many cases, adoption agencies or the adoptive families will pay for some expenses, but it’s important to have these agreed upon ahead of time.

It takes a lot of courage to place your child up for adoption, but doing so gives your child a chance to grow up in a loving, stable environment. If you follow the process smoothly through these steps, you’ll be able to avoid financial difficulties and set up a bright new beginning for your child and their adoptive family.