What are some of the most critical issues for women considering adoption? Here are five tips for planning the right adoption for you, which I have learned during 30 years as an adoption attorney.
1. Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities
• Choosing a family for your baby is probably the most important decision you will ever make. The starting point is almost always an online search to connect with families hoping to adopt, and the resources are overwhelming.
• Your primary goal and right is a safe, loving adoptive home for your baby. Ascertain that the adoptive parents are legally qualified to adopt under the laws of their state and that they are represented by an attorney who will help them finalize their adoption in court.
• You must provide the adoptive parents with your social and medical history and access to your prenatal and labor and delivery medical records. Even if you have medical issues, such as a genetic illness, substance abuse, or mental illness, you can find an adoptive family open to raising your child.
• You have the right to medical care, legal representation, and counseling, paid for by the adoptive parents, whether or not you place your baby for adoption after birth.
• You will plan the adoption before the birth, but you will not consent to the adoption and have your rights terminated until after the birth.
2. Find an Adoption Attorney to Represent Your Interests
• The best way to protect your rights and understand your responsibilities in an adoption is to be represented by an experienced adoption attorney.
• You are entitled to an attorney separate from the adoptive parents’ attorney.
• The adoptive parents can pay for your attorney.
• Your attorney can help you ascertain that the adoptive parents are legally qualified to adopt and are represented by an attorney who will help them legally finalize the adoption in court.
• Your attorney can help you obtain medical care, counseling, and assistance with your living expenses.
3. Learn What Financial Assistance You Can Obtain
• Adoptive parents can pay for your reasonable living, medical, counseling, and legal expenses during the pregnancy and for a month or two after the birth under the laws of most states.
• Don’t expect to obtain financial assistance until you provide your social and medical history and prenatal medical records to the adoptive parents’ attorney.
• Payment will generally be made directly to your providers of services, such as your landlord or phone company.
• Ask your attorney to advocate for the payment of your expenses, rather than asking the adoptive parents for financial assistance.
4. Understand the Rights of the Birth Father of Your Baby
• The law in most states requires birth fathers to provide financial and emotional support to the birth mother during her pregnancy and after birth. In those states, a birth father cannot interfere with an adoption unless he can show a court that he is able and willing to raise the child himself.
• You should discuss with your attorney how the birth father’s rights will be ended. In many states, if the birth mother refuses to identify or cannot identify the birth father, the court will end his rights.
• The safest way to end a birth father’s rights is to obtain his consent to the adoption or to serve him with a legal notice of the adoption proceeding. If he consents to the adoption or is served with notice and does not object to the adoption, the court will end his rights.
5. Steer Clear of Facilitators
• Avoid facilitators, which are individuals or companies that make money by connecting adoptive parents and birth parents, but are not licensed under state law as adoption agencies or attorneys.
• Many adoptions created with facilitators fall apart for legal reasons, leaving birth parents and adoptive parents devastated.
• The safest bet is to have resources you find online, such as agencies and websites posting adoptive parents, reviewed by your attorney.