Can You Put a Baby Up for Adoption? [And Are There Requirements?]

Putting a Special Needs Child Up for Adoption [What to Know]

Finding out your child has special needs can be a difficult and confusing time. Considering adoption for your baby with special needs or choosing adoption for an older child with special needs raises plenty of questions:

  • Can I place a special needs baby up for adoption?
  • Can you put an autistic child up for adoption?
  • How do you place a baby with Down syndrome up for adoption?
  • How do I find more information on placing a child with a disability up for adoption?
  • Are there families willing to adopt a child with special needs?
  • Are there restrictions for placing a disabled child up for adoption?

Whether your unborn baby has autism, Down syndrome, physical or medical challenges or other special needs, adoption is always an option for you, but finding information on adoption for a child with a disability can be difficult. This article will highlight how adoption works with various special needs and how adoption for your unborn child or older child can be the right option for you.


First, it’s important to understand that the idea of “giving up your child” comes with a negative connotation. Language used in adoption should be positive because the decision to place a child up for adoption is made out of love and wanting the very best for your baby.

This also applies to the language used when talking about children with special needs. Terms like “handicapped” are not the preferred way to talk about people with special needs, but they are often used in articles such as this as a way to be more accessible for women who search for information using these terms. Many women search for information by asking questions like, “Are you allowed to give up your handicapped child?” or “Can you give up a disabled child for adoption?” While these are not the preferred way to talk about placing a child with special needs for adoption, using this terminology helps professionals reach and help as many people as possible.


Your OBGYN will likely be the first one to notify you if something is not right with your baby. There are different tests that can be taken during the early part of the pregnancy that can show physical disabilities, as well as genetic or chromosomal abnormalities. If you’ve already chosen adoption for your baby, your adoption agency and the family you’ve chosen to work with will be made aware of the diagnosis so that everyone can be on the same page in knowing what to expect and be properly prepared.

If you’re a prospective birth mother considering adoption and you find out your baby has a physical or chromosomal abnormality, please note there are waiting families open to adopting a child with special needs, regardless of the diagnosis. An adoption professional can work with you to create an adoption plan and find the best possible family for your child.

Below, learn more about how to put a special needs child up for adoption based on some common diagnoses.


According to a 2020 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. There is no medical detection for autism during a pregnancy, and a diagnosis is typically made around the age of two. For prospective birth mothers that have a child diagnosed with autism, the stress and uncertainty can be overwhelming. A prospective birth mother may feel as though she’s unable to provide for her child emotionally, physically and financially, and might be considering placing her autistic child up for adoption.

“How do I put my autistic child up for adoption?” 

Adoption agencies exist to help find the perfect home for a child, regardless of any special needs. Many parents choose to “give up” their autistic child because they can’t afford mental health care, behavioral therapy and the many services needed to provide for children with autism. Many private adoption agencies can potentially help you with an adoption for a child with autism; however, these are specialized agencies that may be able to provide you with more specific information and services for children with autism, children with low-functioning autism and other disabilities.

  • Special Angels Adoption: Special Angels Adoption is run by adoptive parents raising children with special medical needs. Their organization is uniquely equipped to help women place a child with special needs up for adoption.
  • Spence-Chapin: Spence-Chapin specializes in adoption for children with genetic or neurological disorders, rare syndromes and significant exposure to drugs and alcohol

Putting your autistic child up for adoption may seem like the only option. However, there are other options for you to consider prior to contacting an adoption agency:

  • Social services – As a struggling parent, you may not have the right resources for your circumstances. Contacting your state for parenting resources to help address your child’s needs, such as public healthcare options, help finding a job and affordable housing, can potentially improve your situation.
  • Temporary guardianship – If you are struggling to parent your child with autism but you feel like parenting is ultimately the right choice for you and your child, consider working with a close friend or family to establish a legal guardianship for temporary custody to allow you to make the necessary changes to improve your situation.
  • Kinship adoption – A kinship placement might be the perfect option for a struggling parent, as your child would be more permanently placed with a family member, but still be able to maintain a strong relationship with you while your child lives in a familiar setting. This is especially important for older children.
  • Independent Adoption – If you’ve been able to independently locate a friend or a waiting family willing to adopt your child, you can work with an attorney to complete an independent adoption. It’s important to be very careful when placing a child for adoption with a new family. You must contact a licensed child-placing agency in order to complete a home study to ensure the child’s safety and wellbeing. An attorney specializing in adoption can make sure the process is done safely and legally.
  • Ask for help – Sometimes simply asking for a friend or family member to babysit in order for you to take some time to yourself can help the feeling of being overwhelmed subside. Social services may also offer respite care programs, which may allow you to take some time to improve your state of mind if you’re struggling.


As a prospective birth mother experiencing a pregnancy, you may have found out through a first trimester chorionic villus sampling (CVS) screening that your baby has Down syndrome. This test — which is typically taken between 10 and 13 weeks pregnant — coming back positive can completely alter your outlook on parenthood. At this point, you might be considering putting up your child with Down syndrome for adoption. These are common questions you may be asking:

  • Can I place a baby with Down syndrome up for adoption?
  • How do I put my baby with Down syndrome up for adoption?
  • Is there a family that will want to adopt a child with Down syndrome?
  • What will people think of my choice?
  • How will my child know that I love them?

These are all common questions and concerns when considering placing a baby with disabilities for adoption. The good news is there are many families hopeful and waiting for the chance to adopt a child with special needs. If you want to place your baby with Down syndrome up for adoption, consider what you want in an adoptive family. Where do you want your child to grow up? Is the living environment of the adoptive family conducive for a child with special needs? Can I make sure my child is being cared for properly?

When you work with a licensed adoption agency, you control every aspect of your adoption. Specific needs and wants you have for the adoptive family, including the type of personality they have, their location, educational background, etc., are all factors that you can use to determine which family is right for you. Once you and an adoption professional have created your adoption plan, you can start searching through family profiles. Many private adoption agencies have licensed professionals that can help you find the right family for your child with Down syndrome; however, you may consider contacting one of the following specialized organizations, which provide specific services tailored to your special need’s child:

For women worried about whether or not they can stay connected to their Down syndrome child after an adoption, the answer is yes! Through an “open” or “semi-open” adoption, the birth mother has every opportunity to remain connected with her child, as well as build a strong relationship with the adoptive family and receive updates via email, letters, pictures, phone calls or in-person meetings.


Placing a child for adoption is a difficult decision, but one that is made with love and the desire for your child to be in the best possible living situation. This is true for women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, as well as prospective birth parents wanting to “give up” an older child for adoption. Unfortunately, most adoption agencies don’t specialize in adoptions for toddlers or older children. In most cases, families wanting to adopt an older child choose to do so through the foster care system, which also provides them with services and education for adopting older children. For you as a prospective birth parent, this means your best option may be to contact a local family law attorney to arrange a temporary legal guardianship or private adoption with a relative.

If you want to put up your older child for adoption, it’s likely because you’re facing difficult circumstances and you feel as though you’ve lost your ability to parent your child. It’s important to always keep the safety and wellbeing of your child in mind. These are a few important reminders:

  • Do not search for families online: Desperation can lead to a parent finding dangerous online sources for adoption. Message boards and non-secure listings for adoption can result in a child potentially being involved in human trafficking. As of 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people have been victims of trafficking. In the United States, upwards of 1.5 million are children. Working with a licensed agency and/or attorney will ensure that your adoption is completed safely and legally
  • Child abandonment: Most states have Safe Haven Laws for infants, but for older children beyond a certain age, failing to make the proper legal arrangements is considered abandonment and will result in legal action
  • Report abuse: If your environment is abusive and you or your child’s safety is a risk, contact a child welfare professional right away.

Putting a handicapped child up for adoption may come with a unique set of challenges for the birth mother. With an older child, you may have less time to find a family and build a relationship with them prior to completing an adoption. Your access to financial assistance may be less, and counseling to help cope with your decision to adopt may be limited. Your adoption professional can provide you with more information on the resources available to you when putting up an older child with disabilities for adoption.


Determining that you can no longer parent your child with special needs is difficult, but choosing adoption and finding a loving and caring adoptive family for your child can be very rewarding. Open adoption allows for you to keep a relationship with your child, as well as have open lines of communication with the adoptive parents so that you can stay informed on the health and wellbeing of your child, share pictures and celebrate milestones and important events.

Depending on the circumstances, age and the special needs of your child, using a specialized organization instead of a public or private adoption agency may be a better option, but it’s a good idea to reach out one or more of the following adoption agencies for more information on how they can help you with your adoption.

Are you ready to begin your open adoption journey? Get free information and advice from a trained specialist now. Contact us any time to be connected with a helpful adoption professional.

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