Birth Parent Rights

Adoption laws vary from state to state and so do birth parent rights.  Below are just a few of the universal rights in open adoption. Many of these are either misunderstood or not commonly known.

Most women who are considering adoption want to know more about the baby’s father’s rights. You can read more about birth father rights by selecting a topic under “Explore Topics” on this page.

What follows are a birth mother’s basic rights in an adoption.

Avery, adopted 2013
Avery, adopted 2013

The right to choose the adoptive parents

In an open or closed adoption, you, the birth mother, have the right to choose the adoptive parents. You have the right to know where they live, if they’ve been married before, what religion they practice, and if they have other children. 

You also have the right to know if they have ever been convicted of a crime, have a medical condition that would impact normal daily activities or life span. In order to be preapproved to adopt, prospective adoptive parents must also show that they are financially stable.

You have the right to know anything you want about them before you choose them to adopt your baby.

There are many different different types of adoptive parents to choose from. You can choose from a traditional couple, a couple with or without children, a same-sex couple, or a single parent.

You decide what’s most important to you, and you choose who will adopt your baby.

The right to choose an open or closed adoption

You have the right to choose an open or closed adoption. (Read more about open vs. closed adoption here.) However, it’s important to know that once your parental rights have been terminated, the adoptive parents will decide what’s in the best interest of the child. This includes whether there is ongoing contact. Therefore, it’s really important that you:

  • Choose adoptive parents who you are confident want the same type of adoption that you do

  • Confirm the adoptive parents are educated about the type of adoption you want and that you are on the same page about what is in your child’s best interest

  • Create a contact agreement that outlines your ongoing contact.

If you or the adoptive parents don’t honor your agreement for ongoing contact, you can go to court to try to enforce the agreement. It is usually not possible to overturn the adoption, however, if one side fails to honor the agreement.

If you want an open adoption, it’s really important that you choose a family who wants what you want. I can help you find that family.

The right to change your mind about the adoption

You have the right to change your mind about the adoption and choose to parent, up until a point. A birth mother cannot sign a consent or relinquishment to an adoption until after the baby is born, and usually, not until after she been discharged from the hospital.   

Each state also has its own laws about how much time a birth mother has to revoke her consent to an adoption. This can range from 24 hours to 30 days.  Once this revocation period has passed, you cannot change your mind about the adoption. 

I always recommend that a birth mother wait until she is absolutely sure about the adoption before signing anything.  There is no law that says when a birth parent has to sign their consent or relinquish to an adoption agency, only that a certain amount of time must first pass. 

Sometimes the birth family will want to finalize an open adoption agreement with the adoptive family before they sign adoption paperwork with an attorney or adoption agency.

The right to spend time with the baby in the hospital

Birth mothers have the right to be with their child in the hospital, if they wish. They have the right to hold and feed and spend quality time with the child. 

You are your baby’s parent until you say otherwise. 

By the same token, you aren’t required to spend time with your baby at the hospital. However, I always do recommend that a birth mother at least take a moment to look at her baby. It can be an important moment of closure and a first step toward moving forward.

The right to name the baby

In every state, the birth mother has the right to name the baby.  This name appears on the baby’s original birth certificate. 

Many birth families like to discuss names with the adoptive family.  This is a great time to get to know each other better.  It’s also a nice opportunity for the birth family to be involved in the process. 

After the adoption is finalized, a new birth certificate is issued with the name the adoptive parents give the child. 

Frequently, birth mothers and adoptive parents will talk about the names they plan for the child.  Sometimes the adoptive parents will keep the name the birth mother has chosen. In other cases, they may incorporate this name into the child’s middle name.

Whatever you decide, just make sure you’re honest with yourself about what you want.  Honor your feelings and don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with.  Talk with the adoptive parents about your feelings.  

The right to take your baby home from the hospital, if you wish

You have the right to take your baby home from the hospital. Some women aren’t sure about adoption after their baby is born. If this is the case, they can take their baby home from the hospital and decide at a later date if adoption is right for them. This is true even if they have chosen an adoptive family or have accepted financial assistance from an adoptive family.

If your or your baby produce a positive toxicology test, it is possible that the department of child and family services, or child protective services, will not allow you to take your baby home. (Read more about child protective services and adoption.)

It’s unusual that a woman would take her baby home before choosing adoption. However, if you really aren’t certain that adoption is right for you and your baby, then taking baby home may be the best choice.

The right to request and obtain counseling

You have the right to request counseling both before the baby is born and after. Adoptive parents cover the cost of counseling.

Some states require at least one counseling session prior to a birth parent signing consent paperwork.  This counseling can happen with a licensed therapist or an adoption social worker.

If the birth mother wants additional counseling, the adoptive parents generally cover the reasonable cost of this. 

Counseling is typically done with an experienced social worker who specializes in adoption and working with birth parents.  The counselor usually discusses alternatives to adoption.  She may explore why a birth parent has chosen adoption. Additionally, she also talk about the adoptive family the birth parent has chosen.

Lucy Z, adopted 2014
Lucy Z, adopted 2014
Jason and Angela adopted Taylee in 2014
Jason and Angela adopted Taylee in 2014

The right to make a post-adoption contact agreement with the baby and adoptive family

Most open adoptions will include a plan for contact before birth, after the baby is born, and beyond.  This future contact can include photos, letters, phone calls, and in-person visits.  Studies show that some future contact between the birth family and the adoptee benefits all parties involved.  If you aren’t comfortable with direct contact with the adoptive family, you can arrange for contact through your adoption agency.  Any open adoption agreement should take into account the best interests of the child, the adoptee.  The adoptive parents and the birth family should continue conversations throughout the adoptee’s life to make sure those interests are clear.  Finally, in many states, the parties file open adoption agreements with the adoption paperwork when the adoption is finalized. This makes the agreement court-enforceable.

Contact me today to using the button below to learn more about your rights.  I’m a birth mother and an adoption attorney, and my services are free to women considering adoption. .

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