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, helping pregnant women make the loving choice to make an adoption plan for their child and find adoptive families for their babies. Because we work in every state, there are always questions about the adoption birth mother rights by state.
As laws change all the time, a full state-by-state breakdown of adoption birth mother rights would likely be outdated almost instantly.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 adoption home studies (which 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. Our kind and compassionate coordinators will help you find counseling services, scholarship opportunities, and more!
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.
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.