Why Does Someone Place Their Child for Adoption?

It may be hard to understand why someone would place their child for adoption. It is common to hear stories from people who would like to adopt or have built their families through adoption, however, the reasons why someone places a child for adoption are often misunderstood or overlooked. 

While an individual may have reasons why they placed their child for adoption that are not reflected here, these examples are intended to dispel myths, raise awareness, offer a different perspective, reduce shame, and extend compassion to those who placed their children for adoption.

Common Questions and Misperceptions
Why did they get pregnant? Don’t they know about birth control and sex education?

Even in our modern times, access to birth control can be limited for many. Lack of access can look like financial barriers, not having a medical provider in their community or lack of transportation to travel outside their community for birth control.

There are many options of birth control that are highly effective, but sometimes birth control fails no matter how diligently used or having a high rate of effectiveness. For some, certain birth control methods may not be an option for them which means they may choose a method that doesn’t have as high of an effectiveness rate.

Currently in the United States, 39 states including the District of Columbia, mandate some type of sex education and/or HIV prevention education. However, decisions on how and when the education is provided, along with the curriculum, is often left up to individual school boards. This means that depending on where someone lives and the school they attend, their sex education may be medically accurate or it may be “abstinence only”.

Even if someone has access to the Internet, that doesn’t mean they aren’t susceptible to inaccurate information about reproduction and birth control. Unfortunately there is still a lot of bad information and long held myths about how one can and cannot get pregnant.

Someone may be a victim of reproductive coercion and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) by a partner who is trying to exert power over the relationship. This can look like someone poking holes in a condom, refusing to wear a condom or “stealthing”, withholding money to purchase birth control or forcing or preventing somone from having an abortion. Someone may fear for their physical safety or housing or financial stability if their partner has told them not to use birth control.

Why didn’t they have an abortion?

People have the right to NOT have an abortion. That is part of everyone having control over their bodily autonomy. There are some birth parents who do not personally believe in abortion for themselves and also know that they do not want to parent.*

Abortion is not as accessible as people think it is. There are nearly 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers (aka CPC, pregnancy center, pregnancy resource centers) in the United States and fewer than 800 actual abortion & reproductive health clinics.

There are barriers to access such as cost, transportation to an abortion provider, and having the ability to take time off or work or school, or not having access to childcare while one is having an abortion.

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade there are 26 states that will criminalize abortion or enact extreme restrictions around abortion further reducing access.

For some birth parents, adoption is part of their family structure. They may have a parent who is an adoptee, an aunt that is a birth parent, a cousin who adopted a child, and so on. This can also be true for adoptees who place their children for adoption. They may be told, or internalized, that if their birth mother could place them for adoption, then they should be able to place their child for adoption. The thought of having an abortion or parenting their child may not have even seemed possible.

*We know this is controversial for some as we learn more about the experiences of adoptees and the impact adoption has had on their lives. We encourage you to learn more about the adoptee experience by reading books written by adoptees, listening to interviews of adoptees, and following adoptees on social media accounts. Adoptees are the best experts on adoptees.

What do they mean they didn’t know they were pregnant?

Yes. This happens sometimes. A person may not realize they are pregnant until they have been told they are in active labor or a baby appears.

Someone may have irregular menstrual cycles and show little to no pregnancy symptoms and any significant change in body size.

The pregnant person is struggling with a substance abuse issue and is not fully cognizant of their body changing 0r lack of menstruation.

Some people have been told for a lifetime that it is impossible for them to become pregnant. If they are told this by a medical professional, why would they have reason to doubt they would be at risk for pregnancy or need to use birth control?

There may be other factors in their life that cause them to be in denial of their pregnancy. Denial can be very powerful.

They may be a young person who is “wishing” their pregnancy will go away.

Mental health struggles may inhibit someone’s capacity to acknowledge or realize they are pregnant.

Despite how certain television shows like to capitalize on people during a vulnerable time in their lives. People who have experienced this should be treated with compassion rather than being sensationalized by the media.

Why do people care what other people think? It doesn’t matter if someone disapproves of their pregnancy!

Many people are shamed and stigmatized when they become pregnant. Some reasons why: 

  Pregnancy outside of marriage.
  Pregnancy as a result of an affair.
  The age of the pregnant person.
  The number of children they already have.
  Their faith community has a lot of influence in their lives.
  They may be a young person who is told by their parent/s or caregiver that if they keep their baby they will be kicked   out of the home.

Sometimes it is easier said than done to disregard the opinions and expectations others and society place on us. Many birth parents report having had little to no support from others when they were pregnant and struggled with circumstances such as poverty and housing insecurity. In some cases, they may have been coerced or manipulated to place their child for adoption by being told it was “for the best” or “brave”. Some were told they would be selfish to parent their baby.

If you don’t want to get pregnant and can’t support a baby, don’t have sex!

There are many reasons why people have sex besides procreation–and that’s okay!

Some of the reasons why people have have sex:

  To feel feel a connection to someone or to express their love (or in some instances, their “like”)
  It is how they make a living (Yes, sex work is work.)
  To relieve stress or for fun.

To say that someone should only have sex for procreation is unrealistic and judgemental.

Sadly, some people become pregnant due to sexual violence. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3 million people in the United States have experienced a rape-related pregnancy.

Why didn’t they try harder, get a better job, get a bigger home, etc.?

For many birth parents, they desperately wanted to parent their children. However we know that it can be extremely difficult to access government assistance or nonprofit assistance due to a scarcity of resources and a high volume of other individuals and families in need of support.

Currently the statewide monthly budget for a single-parent family in California is $5,489 (and some of those estimates are likely higher now). However, wages have been stagnant for years in addition to a gender pay gap. And within that gap, white women are often paid more than Black, Latinx, and Indigenous women.

There is also systemic racism and other systemic inequalities in the United States that makes it extremely difficult, or impossible, for Black, Indigenous and other people of color, women, people who are disabled, immigrants, and other marginalized communities that have been systemically locked out of employment, housing, and education opportunities.


This is not an exhaustive list of reasons why people place their children for adoption. For more information, be sure to follow us on social media and sign-up for our newsletter.

If interested in education about the birth mother/parent experience and would like to schedule a training session with your group, please contact [email protected] for availability and pricing options.