As you are considering adoption for your baby it is important to understand the legal rights that you have. From the very start of the adoption process to the very end, be sure to make sure your needs and wants are being met by your adoption agency or professional that you are working with.
Below are 13 important rights that you have as a birth mother. Keep this list with you throughout the adoption process to ensure that you are receiving the best service possible.
1. As a pregnant woman you absolutely have the right to give your baby up for adoption
There are many reasons why birth mothers may consider putting their baby up for adoption. For example, they may not be ready or cannot afford to be a parent, they are not in a relationship with someone they want to parent a child with, or they believe adoption will give their child a chance at a better life.
No matter the reason, if you find yourself facing this very personal and difficult decision, it’s important to understand that you are fully in charge of the choice. No one should pressure you to keep or give up your child.
At the same time, it’s a decision that you can make when you are ready. There is no set timeline. While some individuals start planning for an adoption early in their pregnancy, others ultimately decide after they baby is born while they are still in the hospital.
2. You can choose to parent and stop the adoption process at anytime before birth
It is not unusual for expectant mothers to question whether or not they have made the right decision about adoption. If at any point during the pregnancy you change your mind, you have the right to stop or cancel the adoption. This is called a disrupted adoption.
Once you give birth to your child, you can still change your mind, however, you only have a limited amount of time to do so, and it varies by state. For example, in Tennessee, you have the right to change your mind about the adoption at any time before you sign a surrender form in front of a judge and for 3 days after you sign the surrender form.
In California, on the other hand, if you enter into an independent adoption you have 30 days after signing the consent form change your mind, unless you have signed a Waiver of the Right to Revoke Consent form in front of a judge.
It’s important to consider, however, when making the decision the potential emotional ramifications it will have on the adoptive parents.
3. You have the right to work with an ethical licensed adoption agency or professional
An adoption agency or professional can help you navigate the often-complicated adoption process. They can help ensure you understand your rights and the state laws for adoption.
These professionals will also help you develop an adoption plan. They will help you find the best home and future for your child and will conduct screenings of potential parents. These agencies and professionals also often provide counseling for you and the potential adoptive parents.
4. You can to request financial support for living and medical expenses
It is illegal for you to be paid to choose adoption for your baby. However, you are typically eligible for financial assistance from the adoptive parent or couple when you enter into the adoption process. This support is meant to cover your health and living needs and to cover pregnancy-related expenses such as doctor visits, medicine, food and maternity clothing.
It is important to work with a licensed adoption agency or professional who can walk you through your rights when it comes to support in your state.
5. You have the freedom to make choices about the labor and delivery plan
Even when you enter into an adoption agreement, you still have the right to plan how your baby will be born. This includes such decisions as who will be in the delivery room and whether or not you will want medication when giving birth.
6. You have the choice to select an adoptive family for your baby or let an agency choose for you
Experts estimate there are millions of couples out there who are waiting to adopt a child. As the birth mother, that means there are options for you to choose from when it comes to finding the right home for your child.
If you would like, as the birth mother, you have the right to select who you believe will make the best future for your child.
Some of the characteristics to think about are religion, whether or not the couple already have children, and their ability to take care of your child.
If you do not wish to be a part of the process, you can also work with an agency or professional that can manage the selection process for you and provide that consent for adoption to the family and parents they select.
7. You have the right to in-person or online adoption counseling before and after birth of your baby
Placing your child for adoption is not an easy decision and the emotions of this decision will ultimately stay with you for the rest of your life, even if you never regret your decision.
Pre-adoption counseling will help to prepare you for the birth of the child and for what emotions you may feel about the adoption. The counseling could also help you ultimately decide whether or not adoption is the right decision for you and your family.
That is why adoption agencies and professionals will offer counseling as part of the adoption process. This counseling will help you deal with the feelings of grief or loss you may feel after your child is adopted and will help you deal with the way the decision as affected other relationships in your life, for example, with the child’s birth grandparents.
8. You can choose to work with your own adoption attorney if that makes you more comfortable
There are state and federal laws that guide both the birth mother and adoptive parents during the adoption process. To help navigate these laws, you must work with an adoption attorney.
Your attorney will not only ensure you understand your legal parental rights, they will also work with the judge during the legal process and ensure the paperwork is filed and filled out correctly.
9. You have the right to choose adoption no matter what your family or friends think
It is important to understand that when you decide to place your child with an adoptive family, not everyone in your family will agree with the decision. Some in your circle may see it as abandonment. Counseling can help you deal with this. As the birth mother, however, termination of your rights as a parent is a decision only you can make.
If you are a minor, you still have the right to give your child up for adoption. However, depending on the laws in the state where you live, you may need to get your parents involved. A licensed agency or professionals, as well as an adoption attorney, will be able to advise you on these laws.
10. You can absolutely ask for some time with your baby right after birth
After you give birth, some birth mothers may not want to see their child and some may before the give their final consent to adoption. It is important to understand that you have the right to spend time with your child after giving birth and before you give custody to the adoptive family.
As with all decisions in the adoption process, it is about what you as the mother would like.
11. You have the right to rest after birth before signing the adoption paperwork
Birth mother should not be asked to sign paperwork when they are still groggy from labor or the medication of giving birth. Instead, you have the right to visit with your child and rest before signing adoption paperwork.
12. You have the right to name your baby and have it printed on the original birth certificate
Ultimately, the adoptive family will have the final say on the name of the child they are adopting. However, many families will work with you to name the child or let you name the child and keep that child.
13. You have the right to stay in contact with the adoptive parents through pictures and letters
All adoptions are different and as part of the adoption process and adoptive family selection process, you can identify the situation that will best work for you. Today, more and more adoptions include some plans for open communication, either via email, phone calls or text.
There are some adoptions, as well, that include plans for visitation for the birth mother so that you can foster a relationship with your child. The goal is to create a situation that best works for the child and everyone involved.
Placing your child with an adoptive family is never an easy decision. But once you understand your rights and your options, you will be better prepared to make the process as easy and safe for you — and your child — as possible.