In general, any person or entity who has the legal right to do so may place a child for adoption. Persons that have such a right usually include the birth parents or the child’s legal guardian or guardian ad litem; legal entities include State Departments of Social Services or child-placing agencies. All States (except Arkansas), the District of Columbia, and all the U.S. territories (excluding the Northern Mariana Islands) specifically designate which persons or entities hold the authority to make adoptive placements.

Most States allow "nonagency" placements of children for adoption, often referred to as "private" or "independent" adoption. One type of private adoption allowed in most States is the "direct placement" of a child by the birth parent with an adoptive family. Many States that allow direct placement have detailed statutory regulation in order to protect the interests of the parties to the adoption.

Approximately six States (Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia) require that all adoptive placements be made by the State Departments of Human or Social Services or child-placing agencies that are licensed by the State or meet certain standards. In four States (Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Rhode Island), parents who wish to make private placements must first obtain permission from the Department or the court.

A few States allow the use of intermediaries in arranging private placements. These intermediaries are usually attorneys, and their activities, as well as the compensation they are allowed to accept, are strictly regulated.

From the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)