Can a Birthmother Reclaim an Adopted Child?

A newborn adopted infant peacefully sleeping in a bed next to a parent

Can a birth mother reclaim an adopted child? If so, how can adoptive parents reduce the possibility of reclaim after adoption occurs?

Once the adoption is finalized legally, it is irrevocable. However, for a period of time after the baby’s birth, as set by most state’s law, the birth mother as the biological parent has the right to change her mind after she has signed the legal papers relinquishing parental rights to her child. This is known as a reclaim.

In some states, the biological mother has 48 hours after signing the legal adoption papers, in others, it’s 30 days. In a handful of states, she does not have an opportunity to change her mind at all.  Be assured that the attorney will inform both the birth mother and you of what time frames exist for changes like these.

This can be a challenging time for an adoptive family. The idea that a birth mother can revoke consent to the adoption after putting a child up for adoption and going through the adoption process can seem unfair.

Adoption laws, though they can differ a great deal from state to state, are set up to protect everyone involved. This includes, naturally, the birth mother, but also the birth father, who also has a say in the voluntary termination of parental rights and the decision to appeal or reverse an adoption.

Reducing the Risk of An Adoption Reclaim

In our experience as a domestic open adoption agency, an adoption reclaim is unlikely to happen if the birth mother has emotional support from her family, the adoptive parents, and an adoption professional or counselor.

Spotting so-called “red flags” — i.e., signs that a birth mother is having second thoughts — is one of the most important services your adoption professional can provide. These indicate that a birth mother may be at risk of reclaiming her adopted child or having a change of heart resulting in an adoption disruption.

This job starts with the initial screening of potential birth mothers. Most adoption professionals with years of experience will know the important questions to ask. They will find out precisely what she’s looking for in her life and if adoption is a good choice for her and her child. Also, they should ask what she desires in adoptive parents.

Adoption experts should be able to spot from the outset any warning signs that a particular mother fits the profile of a woman not ready or willing to see the adoption through. It is hard if not impossible for adoptive parents to do this on their own.

Reclaim Rates

The national adoption reclaim rate varies greatly between professionals. We have seen one attorney claiming 40% reclaim as normal. This is not an acceptable reclaim rate.

At Lifetime Adoption, our reclaim rate is around 3% to 4%. In most adoptions, the birth parents need to have follow-up support offered to them.

This number — the reclaim rate percentage — often depends on when the birth mother changes their mind: before the birth, at the hospital, or when the child has been in the adoptive parents’ care. As hard as any change of heart is, it’s much easier to have the birth parents make this decision before you’ve received the child in your arms.

A qualified adoption professional who properly screens, monitors and provides options for counseling or peer counseling for birth mothers should have a reclaim rate similar to that of Lifetime Adoption — somewhere around 4% to 6%. Our reclaim rate is very low because there are many services available to birth mothers and we give them lots of attention and support.

Can a birth mother reclaim an adopted child? Yes. But with experienced, compassionate, adoption professionals working side-by-side in an open adoption process, the likelihood is greatly reduced.

Lifetime Adoption: A Domestic Open Adoption Agency

Discover why our success rate is much higher than most other adoption organizations by contacting Lifetime Adoption today.

We can also provide extensive information on preventing scams and frauds, information that can be found in Chapter 4 of “Adoption: Your Step-by-Step Guide.” For access to this book, please visit to purchase a copy.

Lifetime Adoption is an American adoption agency founded in 1986. We provide direct adoption assistance, ongoing 24/7 support and open adoption planning— all of which are provided free to expectant mothers. Our mission: to help connect adoptive families and birth parents to provide a stable, loving home for adopted children.

We complete between 8and 15 adoptions per month. We specialize in assisting and supporting birth parents in their search to find qualified loving adoptive families. Our expert and supportive approach has proven to be very successful, both in finding families and getting them to come together successfully,  limiting the number of reclaims.

If you have any questions about this topic or any other topic related to adoption, get in touch with us today. Our team is made up of adoption professionals, all of whom are dedicated to helping find adoptive families for the birth mothers in our program. 

Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., is an adoptive mother, award-winning author, and an internationally recognized adoption professional. Founding Lifetime Adoption Center in 1986, she has helped complete thousands of adoptions nationwide. Caldwell often reminds prospective parents that “there is a baby for you,” acknowledging that there is truly a child for everyone who seeks to adopt. Her adoption center accepts applications at no cost from parents seeking to adopt.

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“Hi Tiffany, Thanks so much for your e-mail! I was actually downloading the resources for a woman who my organization is trying to help choose life for her baby! She has decided for life and is going to parent, so we won’t need any more adoption resources at this time. I just wanted to let you know though that your website was so, so helpful in making her feel supported and like she had real options! Keep up the good work! You’re in my prayers!”



Mardie Caldwell



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