You're pregnant and you don't want to be? Maybe it feels like the world is collapsing. But even if you can't imagine life with a child, that doesn't mean terminating the pregnancy is your only option. One choice is to give the baby up for adoption. While this may be a tough decision, it deserves respect. By releasing the baby for adoption, you are giving the child the chance to grow up safe and secure. However, this step should be well considered, because adoption is usually final. Therefore, it is best to take your time to get good advice. Your best bet is to contact an adoption agency. There they will help you with all questions around an adoption. Contact details for adoption agencies can be obtained from youth welfare offices (Jugendamt), pregnancy advice centres and on the Internet, for example at www.familienportal.de/adoptionsvermittlung.

Adoption legally makes someone else your child’s parent or parents. You are then officially no longer the parent of the child. You are no longer entitled to have contact with your child or to make decisions for your child. You also have no obligation to take care of the child's living expenses. This applies to both you and the child's father. If your child has been adopted, they are no longer legally related to you or your family. This also ends all inheritance claims, for example. Instead, the child is related to their adoptive parents after the adoption. They will have their adoptive parents’ surname and their nationality. Legally there is then no difference between and adoptive child and a child born to the adoptive parents. For you as the birth parent, the release for adoption means a final separation from the child.

The first thing you do is contact an adoption agency. You don't have to worry about being pressured into a certain decision there. Experienced counsellors work in the placement offices. You can talk to them about all your worries and fears. If you want, they can also help you find ways that might enable you to raise the child yourself. After the consultation you can decide calmly and without pressure. If you decide to give the child up for adoption, you tell the placement office. They’ll then searches for a suitable adoptive family for the child. The professionals at the placement office will advise and support both you and the prospective parents throughout the adoption process. The baby can be placed in an adoptive family immediately after birth if you decided to do so during pregnancy. Still, they don't just take the baby away from you in the hospital. You decide whether you want to see the child after delivery or whether it should be taken straight to the children's ward. Plus, in Germany, you always have eight weeks after the birth to change your mind. Only then at the earliest can you give final consent to the adoption.

In order for the child to be adopted, you must confirm with your signature in a notary's office that you agree to the adoption. At the earliest, this notary appointment can take place eight weeks after the birth and is the decisive step. After that, you can't reverse your decision.

The placement office decides which adoptive parents the child will go to. But you can specify your wishes. This includes, for example, whether the future adoptive parents should belong to a certain religion and whether you would prefer they live in a city or in the country. The placement office can often accommodate such requests. However, the professionals there always make sure that the future parents are a good fit for the child, that they have a stable partnership and that their livelihood is secure.

Normally, both parents must declare in the notary's office that they agree with the release for adoption. There are a few exceptions, though. If you do not have custody of the child, the legal representative must also agree. That's usually the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt). Another case is if you don't know who the child's father is or if he has died. Then your consent alone is sufficient for a valid adoption.

If you have decided during pregnancy to give the child up for adoption and have informed the placement agency accordingly, the child will usually go to its future adoptive parents immediately after birth. The child then lives with the new parents. From a purely legal point of view, however, the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) is usually still responsible for the child for about a year. During this time, the Youth Welfare Office observes whether the adoptive parents are taking good care of the child. Finally, a court decides on the adoption. Only when it has consented to the adoption is it complete.

How much contact you will have with the child after the adoption depends on you and on the adoptive parents. Basically, there are many different options. They range from regular direct contact between you and the child to a closed adoption, where you have no contact at all with the adoptive parents or the child. Any contact is voluntary for both parties. So it's also possible that the adoptive parents reject contact even though you want it. Then you must accept this. In a what’s known as a semi-open adoption, you have no direct contact with the adoptive family and the child. But you can get information and pictures of the child through the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt). The third option is open adoption, where you have direct contact with the adoptive parents and the child. The advantage of this option is that you can witness how your child develops. Conversely, the child learns from the beginning where they come from and perhaps why they live in an adoptive family.