Family Law

Advertising an Unborn Baby for Adoption

Thousands of children are adopted each year and thousands more are waiting to be adopted. How do birthmothers and adoptive parents get together? Often it's an adoption agency handling practically all aspects of the adoption. Sometimes it's through an independent or "private" adoption.

A private adoption can be tricky if you don't get some professional help. For example, one woman advertised her child for adoption in Washington, which probably is illegal there and in many other states.

The Ad

The police department in Federal Way, Washington, was notified recently of an advertisement that was placed on craigslist. It's a popular web site that allows people to post advertisements for practically anything from jobs to toasters. Most ads are free.

According to the advertisement, the birthmother is 22 years old and 5 months pregnant, and she wants a wealthy couple to adopt her baby and pay her medical expenses. The ad goes on to say that she doesn't want an abortion, but the birthfather doesn't want the baby.

A lot of the details are still unknown, such as the name of the woman, whether she's really pregnant or if the ad was a hoax or an adoption scam, and where she actually lives - given the nature of the internet she could be in Washington or Brazil.

The police are investigating the incident, including getting search warrants enabling them to trace where the ad originated. According to Federal Way police, the goal of the investigation is to make sure that the mother and baby are safe and that state adoption laws are being followed. The ad has been removed from craigslist.

Legal Adoption Advertisements

Private adoptions, where the birthmother and adoptive parents control practically all aspects of the adoption without the assistance of state-run or state-licensed agencies, are legal in many states, including Washington. However, in some states, it's illegal for anyone to advertise a child for adoption.

The laws in Washington mirror the laws in most states that allow adoption advertisements: Only a state agency, like a Department of Health Services, or a state-licensed adoption agency are allowed to advertise a child for adoption.

Also, in Washington and many other states, while it's legal for adoptive parents to pay for some of the birthmother's costs and expenses - like adoption expenses and medical bills associated with the pregnancy - it's illegal to pay for living expenses, like rent.
What about adoptive parents? It's not uncommon for hopeful adoptive parents to place ads looking for a birthmother who's willing to give up her child for adoption. Recently, there's been an increase of advertisements online, too. Adoptive parents are using web sites like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube to reach out to birthmothers all over the world.

There are legal concerns here, too. In most states, adoptive parents must be approved by a state agency or state-licensed adoption agency before they can advertise for a child.

What to Do

Regardless of which end of the adoption you're on, either a birthmother or prospective parents, be aware of the adoption laws in your state. And, if you've located a birthmother or adoptive parents in another state, you need to know the adoption laws of both states. Think about this if you're using web sites or national newspapers.

Your best bet is to talk to an adoption attorney or licensed adoption agency in your area. You'll find out what you can do about advertising and the best way to get your adoption moving in the right direction.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can I advertise my child for adoption in our state? If it's legal for me to do so in my state, does that mean I can advertise nationally on a web site like craigslist?
  • I was told that attorneys in our state aren't allowed to locate children for prospective adoptive parents like us. So, what exactly can you do for us?
  • A few months ago, a birthmother answered our newspaper ad and agreed to let us adopt her unborn child. Now, with about two weeks before the expected delivery date, she's changed her mind and now wants to keep the baby. I know we can't force her to give up the baby, but can we get paid back for the medical expenses we paid?
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