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Is Placing an Older Child Up for Adoption a Crime?

You want to give your child the best possible life. If you feel you might not be able to give them that future, you might ask: “Is placing an older child up for adoption a crime?” Call 1-800-ADOPTION now for personalized help and information.

Right now, we’re sure that you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. If you’re thinking of placing your older child up for adoption, we want you to know that there are safe and legal ways to do so. But, you should also know that there are strict laws in place to prevent child abandonment.  

Like all types of adoption situations, the best place to start is by contacting an adoption professional to find out what is legally possible in your situation.

In the meantime, we’ve created this guide to provide some basic information about legally placing an older child up for adoption. Keep reading to find out more.  

What is Abandonment? 

The legal definition of abandonment means that a parent, guardian or person in charge of a child leaves that child —whether that’s emotionally, physically or financially — without any regard for their health and safety.  

There are different interpretations on what constitutes as abandonment. But, generally, here’s what it might look like:

  • Making only a small amount of effort to communicate and interact with the child 
  • Refusing to provide care, support or supervision for the child 
  • Leaving a child at home for long periods of time with no regard for their wellbeing 
  • Intentionally abandoning a baby on a doorstep or another unsafe location 
  • Failure to participate in a reunification plan  

Like with most laws, each state has its own stance on penalties for child abandonment. To learn more about what constitutes as abandonment in your state and involuntary termination of parental rights, you can check out 

What’s the Difference Between Abandonment and Adoption?  

Adoption is the legal act of placing your child into the care of a loving adoptive family. Once you complete your adoption paperwork after your child has been placed with the adoptive family, all of your parental rights and responsibilities will be transferred to the adoptive family. 

So, through a legal adoption, you won’t be charged with parental abandonment. Instead, you can move on with life knowing that your child will grow up in a safe, secure environment. 

Right now, you might be worried that it’s too late to place an older child up for adoption or that no one will adopt them. But, the truth is that adoption could still be an option for your child. The team at American Adoptions has more than 30 years of experience providing adoption support services. If your child is 4 years old or younger, we may be able to help you, too.  

When Casey started to consider adoption, she was a single mother raising twins. Unsure of what to do next, she contacted American Adoptions to get the help she needed: 

“I didn’t have family support… everything was on my own,” she said. “I was just contemplating, ‘What can I possibly do now that would make a difference for our future and provide my sons with the life that I would like to give them?’” 

Finding the perfect family gave her all the confidence she needed to make her adoption decision. And knowing that her child would grow up safe and loved made it easier to choose adoption. She got all the help she needed when she found the perfect adoptive family.  

In adoption, you can:

You have full control over your adoption plan, and your specialist will support you every step of the way.  

What are Baby Moses Laws? 

In your research, you may have come across the terms “Safe Haven Law” or “Baby Moses Law.”

These laws are intended to help protect newborns from endangerment by providing a safe alternative to abandonment. For panicked women who just gave birth, Safe Haven locations can provide the safety they need when they’re not sure of who else to turn to.  

Specifics of Safe Haven laws vary in every state. But each once has a specific stance on: 

  • Which location a baby can be surrendered to 
  • Who can surrender the baby 
  • How old the baby can be when they’re surrendered 

If you’re thinking of surrendering your baby to a Safe Haven location, you should first become familiar with the laws in your state. For a good place to start, check out  

Choosing Adoption vs. Baby Moses Laws

While following safe haven laws is the best alternative when the other option is abandonment, please don’t forget to consider adoption. It may just be the best thing you ever do.  

For Erika, she knew that adoption was the best choice she could have made for her baby from the beginning of her unplanned pregnancy: 

“I was for adoption from the very get-go, and, after a lot of talking, we decided that adoption was best,” she said.

While Baby Moses Laws do offer some protection, there are countless benefits for you and your baby when you choose adoption, like:

  • In adoption, there is no maximum age limit.
  • Unlike at a Safe Haven location, you won’t need to worry about it being too late.
  • You also won’t have to sit and wonder who your baby will be adopted to when they’ll be adopted, because you’ll be able to choose a loving family for them yourself.  

Frances, a birth mother, was initially worried about finding a family. But with some encouragement from her birth parent specialist, she was able to make her decision with confidence: 

“Rachel [her birth parent specialist] said, ‘Frances, you’ll know when you have picked the perfect family,’” Frances said. “When we talked to Chris and Courtney, in the middle of the conversation, I knew Chris and Courtney were the ones.” 

Our agency works with many adoptive families from across the country who would be overjoyed at the opportunity to parent an older child. With our agency, you’ll have a better chance at finding an adoptive family that has everything you’re looking for and more.  


If you’re considering adoption for your child and your child is 4 years old or younger, please give us a call at 1-800-ADOPTION. Our experienced adoption specialists can help you figure out what is legally possible in your situation and will walk you through the steps you need to know.  

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions 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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