The vast majority of people don’t know much about the adoption process— after all, most people are not confronted with the process at any point in their lives, even if many other people have experienced adoption. For this reason, there are many things you might not know as you head into the process.
It is of the utmost importance that you, as the Birth Parent, are fully informed about what will happen in the adoption so that you can make an informed decision. ANLC strives to set the highest standard for all adoption professionals and agencies in ensuring the safety and protection of our Birth Mothers. While adoption can be a wonderful journey for everybody involved, there have, sadly, been too many cases where Birth Mothers get taken advantage of and have the facts hidden from them. This is through no fault of the Birth Mother, but is rather the fault of people who shouldn’t be in the adoption system at all: people who don’t have the needs of the Birth Mother first and foremost in their mind. At ANLC, your needs will always come first!
With that in mind, here is a list of some things to consider, whether you are still deciding to go with adoption, or are already heading down that path:
While you will be advised about this as you head into the process, it is a good idea to have an idea of what you want beforehand. In an open or semiopen adoption, you can remain in contact with the adoptive family in the way that fits your needs best. Some Birth Mothers just want to be in touch every so often, while others want to play an active role in their child’s life. In a closed adoption, you will not have contact with the child or adoptive family. This is not to say that you cannot meet up with the child later, but only that there is no arrangement for ongoing and active involvement in place.
Open adoptions are increasing in popularity because, while many Birth Mothers find themselves unable to raise the child for a variety of reasons, they still want to have a role in their child’s life. Some are unsure about whether they want to have a role or not, and so, they arrange an open adoption so they can have that option in the future. Open adoption has been shown to decrease the level of grief and feelings of loss that Birth Mothers sometimes experience postadoption because they still get to play an important role in their child’s life.
This is not to say that these feelings disappear in an open adoption scenario: some Birth Mothers still feel a sense of loss because they are not the primary caregiver in the child’s life. Nevertheless, if you are struggling with the adoption decision, it may help you to know that you still have the option to maintain contact with your child.
2) Open adoptions are not legally enforceable.
If you do pursue the open adoption route, it is important to remember that the open adoption scenario is strictly an arrangement between you and the adoptive family. Even though you may have an agency or adoption professional guiding the process, once the adoption is made, it is up to you and the adoptive family to maintain that open adoption. This means that if the adoptive family decides to close the adoption, they do not have to provide a valid reason, and you do not have the ability to go to court and fight for your right to an open adoption. Likewise, if you decide at any point that you no longer wish to have contact with your child or the Adoptive Parents, the decision is also yours to make.
It is also important to note that families who are adopting are choosing the open adoption too. Many families are very receptive to this arrangement, and will work with you to accommodate all of your needs. Adoptive families can find lifelong friends in the Birth Parents of their child, and continue a happy relationship through the child’s life.
Have an open and honest conversation with the adoptive family about what you want out of this situation, and work to make sure all of you are on the same page. Parents who really want to pursue open adoption will say so on the profile or to you in person, and won’t show uncertainty about which option they want. The best options are the ones who come into the process looking for this kind of arrangement. Be on the lookout for signs that they don't really want an open adoption
But in the end, there is no legal system in place to protect birth mothers in these situations, and that is definitely something to keep in mind as you move forward. ANLC’s Adoptive Parent Screening Process (link to that page) ensures that our Adoptive Parents are genuine about their desire to maintain an open adoption, and encourages open communication between Adoptive Families and Birth Parents.
3) You get to choose the adoptive parents of your child.
One of the powers of the Birth Mother, in the vast majority of situations, is being able to choose not just the type of adoption you desire but also the family to which your child will go. If you are working through an adoption professional, you will be able to view profiles of prospective parents and you can then contact them through the agency/professional to arrange a meeting.
It is often thought that Birth Mothers have no control over the adoption process, but in reality, she has a great deal of power in this situation. If you meet a family and you decide you don’t feel comfortable placing your child with them, then you are in no obligation to do so, as long as the adoption hasn’t already been set.
4) In most cases, there is still an opportunity to change your mind even after you have signed the adoption papers.
The birth mother can be given up to around six months after the papers are signed to appeal a revoke in the adoption, though the specific amount of time can vary by state.
5) Make sure that you have an understanding with the Birth Father, if needed/possible, before heading into the adoption process.
What many people don’t know is that fathers have paternity rights that are determined on a state by state basis. Be aware of the putative father laws in your state, and make sure that you and the Birth Father have reached some sort of understanding before continuing with the process. These laws are designed to protect fathers of children born outside of a marriage and to ensure a potential for a legal tie to the child, should he want one. Every state also has a different definition of what it means to be a "father" (and some don’t have one at all), which may also be helpful information for you.
6) Be aware of the difference between voluntary and involuntary termination.
If you are reading this article considering adoption, then chances are that you are relinquishing your child by way of voluntary termination. This means what it sounds like: that you have voluntarily, and by way of free choice, created an adoption plan for your child. In order for this to happen, one or more of the Birth Parents must consent to the adoption.
An implication of this is that, if you are in a position where you are giving consent, then no one can do things that are more in accordance with an involuntary termination situation. Involuntary terminations occur in the case of child abuse, receiving jail time that interferes with one’s ability to raise a child or being a fitting parent, or other similar circumstances.
The fact that you are choosing adoption means that you have given your consent to this state of voluntary termination, which may seem obvious, but is still important to remember. If you are feeling coerced or forced to give up your child, and the above conditions of involuntary termination haven’t been met, then immediate legal action is necessary.
7) In most cases, all of your pregnancy and other medical costs will be paid by the adoptive parents, possibly including some other basic living expenses.
In most adoption situations, the adoptive parents cover all the necessary costs of pregnancy. In some situations, especially where the Birth Mother is unable to support herself due to the pregnancy, the adoptive parents may cover other living expenses like rent and food as well. Some adoption entities even provide residential living areas that cover your living costs during the time you are pregnant. When you are working with an adoption professional, make sure to understand what the financial situation will be like for you so there are no misunderstandings later on.
8) Adoptive parents will want what is best for the child, and their love for your child will be no less because of adoption.
One of the unfortunate prevailing myths about adoption is that adoptive parents are unable to love their child fully because of the lack of a biological connection. However, reality shows this to be patently untrue, and there are thousands upon thousands of families who have raised successful children from adoption.
And while some Birth Mothers are afraid of potentially being judged by their child or are concerned about how adoptive families talk to their children, there are endless case studies of how successful adoption can be, and how, with or without an open adoption, a birth mother can be in contact with their child and foster a relationship of love and mutual respect. Your child will know that he or she is adopted from an early age, and this will lead to them having a much more open and anxietyfree relationship with the fact of their adoption.
9) There are many resources for Birth Parents to get support and talk about their experiences.
One of the most important things to remember is that you are not alone in choosing adoption and in the feelings you are experiencing. Going through this process can seem like an alienating experience, but it can be a great idea to get into contact with people who are also considering adoption, or have already placed their child. There are also many places where you can find free or affordable counseling for Birth Mothers who are struggling with the adoption after the fact. In addition to ANLC’s FREE Birth Mother Support , other resources include:
- ANLC Birth Mother Mentors: REAL Birth Mothers that have created adoption plans for their children with ANLC are available for support and guidance, providing peer counseling and friendship to Birth Mothers.
- Families in Care provides independent counseling and advocacy for birth parents.
- BirthMothers4Adoption a site where you can read about the experiences of other birth parents and contribute experiences of your own.
- Pact you can find a ton of resources and places to talk about your experiences and feelings regarding adoption.
- BirthMom Buds provides peer counseling, support, and friendship to birth mothers, as well as forums to which you can contribute.
- Three Strands focuses on building local communities for birth mothers and providing other forms of assistance.
Adoption can be a greatly rewarding experience, as long as you are fully informed about all of the aspects of the adoption and are making this decision in circumstances in which you feel in control of your situation. If you are currently feeling otherwise in the process, or have other concerns about your role in and feelings about the adoption process, contact one of the resources above, or contact the Adoption Network for FREE, 24/7 support.