You might be wondering what rights you have as a birth mother. The short answer is it depends on where you live.
Lifetime Adoption works with birth mothers across the country, in every state. We help pregnant women as they make the loving choice to make an adoption plan for their child and find adoptive families for their babies. We often get questions about adoption birth mother rights.
As laws change all the time, a full state-by-state breakdown of adoption birth mother rights would likely be outdated almost instantly. Working since 1986 in domestic open adoption, we’ve learned a lot about adoptions in every state! In fact, this experience has made Lifetime Adoption experts in working with the various state requirements for things like open adoptions, private adoptions, and home studies. An adoption home study is the process of ensuring that adoptive parents are safe and ready to adopt.
Similarly, we work with adoption attorneys in every state to ensure that adoption placement, custody of the child, and the requirements of an adoptive family becoming legal parents are all followed as required by law.
Open Adoptions in the United States
The open adoption process lets birth mothers decide which adoptive family will adopt their child. We believe that birth mothers should have access to review as many adoptive families as they need to find exactly what they’re looking for in their baby’s parents. You also have the right to interview the adoptive couples you’re interested in, asking them questions about their parenting beliefs, how they will tell your child they were adopted, and more.
Lifetime provides access to hundreds of profiles of hopeful adoptive families from across the United States. Visit our Search Families page to choose search items that are important to you. Then, you can learn more about an adoptive couple by reading their adoption website, checking out their photos, and watching their adoption video.
Open adoption also means that birth mothers can put together a plan for how much contact they will have with the family and their child after they’re adopted.
If you wish, your Lifetime coordinator and your attorney can help you draft up a Post Adoption Contract Agreement (PACA) and file it with the legal adoption papers, if allowed by your state law. A PACA sets the expectation for communication going forward. It’s going to lay the groundwork for the relationship that you have in the future. As with everything in life, relationships change, so what you agree on today may be different from how contact is going to be in six months or a year. There’s going to be less contact sometimes, while others there’s going to be more. The point is to put it in writing so that everyone has reasonable expectations and that everyone can be held accountable.
Please know that all waiting Lifetime families are hoping to have an ongoing relationship with you — they want to include you as part of your child’s life.
When Lifetime began, open adoption was a new concept. Now, all these years later, we are proud that it is normal for an adoption to have ongoing contact. In fact, when you talk to prospective adoptive parents as well as Lifetime’s peer counselors, asking about what the open adoption relationship can be is a great way to learn more and help you decide what you want for your adoption.
Here’s a short video which answers a question we’re often asked, “Can I ever see my baby again?”
If the birth mother decides to keep the baby after signing the papers that place the child with her chosen adoptive family, this is known as a reclaim.
In some states, there is no time to revoke consent. Other states set the period of time anywhere from 48 hours up to six weeks! So you can see how wildly different adoption laws are from one state to another.
As adoption is a matter of the heart, there are times that a woman changes her mind before delivery. Or other times, circumstances honestly change that make parenting possible. It is important always to be open and honest about how you are feeling with your adoption coordinator so that she can provide you with the best help possible.
You deserve to have power over every aspect of your adoption plan. And we want to make sure that you are delivering in a safe location, surrounded by a team that has your best interest at heart.
If you’re wondering, “what happens if I change my mind about adoption?” this short video provides the answer:
There’s another topic that we’re asked about in open adoptions and adoptions in general: What if the birth father is against adoption?
Laws are different from state to state. Each state will have its own rules for birth fathers who don’t agree with the adoption. As a biological parent, the birth father’s rights can be as important as yours as a birth mother.
We understand that there aren’t always easy answers to this, and our caring adoption coordinators will help connect you with an adoption attorney that can help.
Birth Mother Rights, Generally
There are some basic rights that most people agree birth mothers have.
First, expectant mothers have the right to make a personal, custom adoption plan. This means that they can choose the adoptive parents and they can choose to have ongoing contact. In most cases, you can choose how things go at the hospital too. Lifetime ensures that all pregnant women have these options. Even for women who don’t want to pick the parents, we will ask about certain traits like race or geographical location, and select a family that meets your desires.
Mothers learning about adoption do not have any obligation to complete an adoption. We understand that a pregnant woman needs to learn what adoption can be for her in order to make the best decision for their baby. At Lifetime, there is never any pressure or judgment — you are the mother, and it is your choice.
Expectant mothers also have the right to their own attorney at no cost to them. The adoptive parents you choose will pay for your legal representation. This lawyer should not also be representing the adopting family. Your attorney will meet with you to review all of your paperwork so that way you have a safe, unbiased place to ask all of the questions that you want to ask to have everything really explained to you.
For anyone who wants to dig in and learn more, ChildWelfare.gov has a comprehensive report called “Consent to Adoption.” It’s filled with information about each state’s laws “regarding the proper execution of consent when a child is placed for adoption.”
There are also online resources with State Statutes Search and State Laws on Domestic Adoption. Please know, there is no requirement for you to try to figure these things out — we, along with the lawyer (or other adoption provider) provided for you, will explain everything as we move through the adoption process. Adoption can be a complicated process, but with Lifetime on your side, it doesn’t have to be!
Post-Adoption Care for the Birth Mother
Once the adoption is finished, your relationship with us can continue — just as it does with your child! We have a lot of free resources that you can still use after the adoption, such as no-cost professional counseling, support from a peer, and eligibility for an educational scholarship. Our kind and compassionate coordinators are happy to help you find counseling services, opportunities to continue your education, and more!
Post-placement care will help more than just with the grief after placing. It’s really going to help you emotionally and mentally prepare for the next steps in life after making an adoption decision. We want to make sure that birth mothers are in a position to parent after placement, have a healthy relationship with a significant other, and have healthy relationships with their friends and family.
Reach out to connect with one of our caring adoption experts when you’re ready for a helping hand! And you can click here to get info on how the adoption process works or read commonly-asked questions about choosing adoption.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 11, 2020, and has since been updated.
Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., is nationally recognized as an expert on open adoption. A Certiﬁed Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P.), Caldwell is the founder of Lifetime Adoption Center, established in 1986. She has assisted in over 2,000 successful adoptions and was one of the ﬁrst adoption professionals on the Internet.
Caldwell’s life work is dedicated to educating and helping birth parents find the right adoptive parents for their child. She spreads the word about modern adoption through speaking appearances, webinars, online resources, and as a podcast show host.
She has written several award-winning books, including So I Was Thinking About Adoption, the first book of its kind. There are many reasons women choose adoption, and this short book is a comprehensive resource to make the best plan for you and your baby. Caldwell wrote So I Was Thinking About Adoption as a handy guide to the details of the adoption process.
Caldwell has made over 150 media appearances, including ABC News, CBS News, Larry King Live, CNN Headline News, NBC’s The Today Show, CNN’s The Campbell Brown Show, NBC News, KGO Newstalk Radio, CNN’s Black in America II, MSNBC, Fox, PBS, BBC, and Dr. Laura.