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Can I Put my 3-Year-Old Up for Adoption?

The Process of Placing a 3-Year-Old for Adoption

As you consider putting a 3-year-old up for adoption, you are no doubt in a very difficult situation.

You love your child, but you also know that things are really hard. Parenting is most likely not shaping up to be what you had imagined, and there could be a variety of factors that have brought you to consider putting a 3-year-old up for adoption.

This is a significant decision, and we want to help you make the best choice for you and your child. That choice will be unique to each person, because your life is unlike anyone else’s. There is no one right answer. To help you reach your right answer, we’re going to take a look at some of the most important things worth considering.

Even with this information, you will likely still have questions. Speaking to a professional about putting a 3-year-old up for adoption may be the next best step for you. You can complete our free information request form to speak with an adoption professional who will guide you through all of your options, not just adoption. But you may not be ready to take that step yet, so let’s get into the big questions you have about how to “give a child up” for adoption at 3 years old.

Can I Put my 3-Year-Old Up for Adoption?

It’s never too late to choose adoption. This may come as a surprise to many, but, even though it is less common, it is still possible to place a child for adoption at 3 years old. While American Adoptions primarily places newborns and young infants, our agency has worked with some mothers and children in this age range.

With that being said, putting a 3-year-old up for adoption comes with a unique set of challenges that can be difficult to overcome. This has to be considered as a factor in your decision. While adoption could be the best possible path for you and your child, it most likely won’t be an easy path to take. There are several reasons why.

Unique Challenges of Putting a 3-Year-Old Up for Adoption

Unlike newborn adoption situations in domestic infant adoption, you have had years to form attachment with your child, and they have also most likely formed a dependent attachment to you. By 3 years old, a child has developmentally progressed in many areas. They are likely walking, or even running. They may be speaking in full sentences and beginning to understand letters and numbers. Their social construct of the world around them is already taking shape in their mind. Because of this, a transition like adoption can be much more difficult for a 3-year-old child.

Another reason why this transition can be challenging is because of the nature of older child adoptions. Most private adoption agencies, like American Adoptions, can only handle the placement of older children on a limited, case‐by‐case basis and instead focus on the placement of newborns and infants. If your child is 3 years old, a better place to start may be with one of your alternative options for adoption, which we will explain below.

Like we said earlier, every situation is unique. Putting a 3-year-old up for adoption could be the best option for you and your child, even with all the difficulties that come with it. However, taking into account the added difficulty of an adoption for a 3-year-old child is important. One thing to keep in mind is that the older your child is, the more information your adoption specialist will need to before the process can get started. Some of the background information they will need includes:

  • A copy of your child’s birth certificate
  • Who is listed as the father on your child’s birth certificate
  • Medical records for your child
  • Documentation of where the child has lived from birth to present
  • Who has had custody or care of the child from birth to present
  • Who has provided financial and emotional support for this child from birth to present
  • Documentation of child support provided by any father

And, of course, we can’t forget about your own attachment. Unlike newborn adoptions — which can still be very emotional — you have had years to get to know your child. This can make your emotional reaction to the adoption much more turbulent. Speaking with a trusted professional, like a pastor, counselor, social worker or adoption specialist about this is highly recommended.

Alternative Options When Putting a 3-Year-Old Up for Adoption

If you know that your current parenting situation is impossible to sustain, but are still unsure about putting a 3-year-old up for adoption, there are other options you could consider. You have immense love for your child, and there are resources out there to help make parenting a more realistic path forward. A few of these options are:

  • Social Service Resources: In many cases, there are publicly funded resources available to make parenting more feasible. These will vary depending on where you live. If you are, for example, considering putting a 3-year-old up for adoption because of financial reasons, many states and cities have public healthcare options, affordable housing vouchers and other benefit programs. These resources can’t magically fix problems, but they can help ease the financial anxiety in your life.
  • Temporary Guardianship: Parenting could be impossible right now, but that doesn’t mean it will always be this way. If you are considering putting a 3-year-old up for adoption, you could look into temporary legal guardianship. In this process, a close friend or family members assumes guardianship of your child for a period of time, allowing you to work toward a time when reunifying with your child is possible. This path maintains the connection between yourself and your child while giving you the space to do what’s needed to improve your life.
  • Kinship Adoption: A family member adopting your child through a process called kinship adoption can be a great way to create a situation that is best for you and your child. This will still be a transition that can be difficult, but it allows you the ability to maintain a close connection while putting your child in a potentially better situation.

How to Give a 3-Year-Old Up for Adoption with American Adoptions

If these alternative options aren’t best for your life, putting a 3-year-old up for adoption with American Adoption may be possible. While this process will undoubtedly be different from a domestic infant adoption, there are still many similarities you will share as a prospective birth mother in the adoption process. You will be able to choose the adoptive family you think is best, have access to 24/7 counseling and more.

Before making any final decisions about putting a 3-year-old up for adoption, we recommend requesting free information to speak with an adoption specialist. They will be able to give you more specific information about how an adoption would look in your situation, as well as help you understand all of the options you could choose. 



Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is American Adoptions the right adoption agency choice for many birth mothers?

American Adoptions is one of the largest licensed adoption agencies in the United States. Each year, we work with thousands of women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy and offer assistance to these women. Our large, caring staff is able to assist you seven days a week and provide you with one-on-one counseling about your pregnancy and available options.

You should choose an adoption agency where you feel completely comfortable with their services and staff. With American Adoptions, you will work with an Adoption Specialist who is on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Adoption Specialist will be your advocate and will provide support and guidance as you create an adoption plan that is right for you.

How will the family tell my child about me and the adoption when my child is older?

Each family has their own style of introducing adoption to the child. When you are matched with an adoptive family, you can ask them this question. If you would like your Adoption Specialist to discuss it for you, just let her know. He or she can share your wishes or provide good ideas from other adoptive families.

You will also be able to share what you want your baby to know about you. You can complete a keepsake booklet to share hobbies, stories, photos of you and your family and a letter to your baby. The adoptive family can provide this to your child as he or she grows older. Be as creative as you like! Some birth mothers have even knitted a special blanket as a gift to their baby or given a similar symbol of their love.

The father of your baby can fill out the birth father's keepsake booklet or write a letter too. You may have other family members who would also like to share photos or a letter to the baby. This is your opportunity to pass on your and your family's love and to share your personality, history and reasons for choosing adoption. The adoptive family will treasure whatever information you provide and will share it with the baby at an appropriate age. In most adoptive homes, the word adoption is in the child's vocabulary early on, and adoption is celebrated in their lives.

Additional Resources

Teen Pregnancy - Information for Young Women

While not every woman who chooses adoption is a young mother, many are. Through adoption, many young women have found an ability to give their babies the best life possible, while finding the opportunity to realize their own dreams, as well. Call American Adoptions today at 1-800-ADOPTION.

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Adoption Glossary

Do adoption terms and phrases leave you feeling confused? Learn the meaning to key adoption words and phrases with our comprehensive adoption glossary.

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