There are many hot topic issues in the adoption community, as well as laws and procedures that some feel need to be changed. Today, I want to focus on a procedure I feel needs to be changed from my perspective as a birthmother and that is signing relinquishment papers.
First, I do want to say the laws surrounding relinquishment vary from state to state. The laws pertaining to your situation may be different. However, I know other states handle relinquishment similar to mine.
When I was 25 years old, I gave birth to my second baby boy. Before giving birth, I decided to place my child for adoption for a multitude of different reasons. Because I had to have an emergency C-section, I spent three days in the hospital loving on my sweet son. And then it was time for him to go home with his parents, which also meant it was time for me to sign relinquishment papers terminating my parental rights.
As I sat in the hospital bed wearing watermelon pajama pants and a red t-shirt, two attorneys walked into my hospital room. One of the attorneys I knew and recognized as the attorney I had met with multiple times throughout my pregnancy. Later, I found out the second attorney was my attorney, the attorney representing me as I signed those papers. I signed the papers terminating my parental rights right there in the hospital bed and hospital room where I had spent the last three days holding, loving, and getting to know my baby.
There are a couple of things that are wrong with this scenario. First, I’d never met the attorney who was supposed to be representing my rights until he walked into my hospital room literally five minutes before I signed those papers. While I agree birthmothers need their own legal representation, I think this relationship needs to be established earlier on in her pregnancy. I know other birthmoms who have met the attorneys representing them moments before signing papers as well. So I know my case isn’t an isolated example.
Secondly, I have a huge issue with signing relinquishment papers in a hospital bed. This is not treating the signing of those papers with the importance it needs to be treated with. If relinquishment papers must be signed in a hospital, then they should be signed in a conference room or office. Again, I know of many other birthmothers who have signed relinquishment papers in a hospital bed, so I know mine isn’t an isolated case.
Signing relinquishment papers is a huge deal. The laws and procedures regarding signing relinquishment papers should treat the process with the utmost importance and with caring and respect for the birthmother.