Information for Birth Mothers

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Placing a child for adoption is a very loving and unselfish act. However, that does not make it an emotionally easy decision. You want to be sure you not only select the right adoptive parents, but the right adoption professional to assist you as well. For your and your child’s protection, you want a skilled, ethical professional who knows how to complete the adoption properly and smoothly. In our "State-by-State Listing of Adoption Agencies and Attorneys" section, only lists adoption agencies which are licensed by their state, and adoption attorneys who are admitted to the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

There are many questions you may have. We hope the following question and answer session will assist you. You have the power to create a family and make someone’s greatest dream come true. Do not deny yourself the pride in yourself and your decision which you deserve.

Do I have to pay anything to the attorney or agency assisting in placing my child for adoption?

You should never have to pay any costs involved with the adoption. By law, the adoptive parents are permitted to pay for the services of the attorney and/or agency. Do not work with anyone who asks that you pay any fees.

Why do women place their child for adoption?

There are many women, of all ages, who have an unplanned pregnancy, and do not feel they are ready to parent. They know there are countless couples who cannot conceive a child, and who have a loving home ready for a child. The greatest dream of these couples is to be parents and make a child the center of their lives, as every child deserves.

There are many factors leading women to feel placing their child for adoption is not only best for the baby, but best for themselves. Sometimes there is an absent birth father, and a two parent home is desired. There may be a lack of sufficient income or time needed to take care of a child, particularly in the demanding early years of infancy. Some women already put all their energies and resources into raising one child, and feel to raise another child would detract unfairly from what she can offer in raising two children on her own. Many women have life goals which would be impossible to accomplish while caring for a baby, such as college or a career. They may feel that to give up on those goals due to an unplanned pregnancy may later cause resentment toward the child.

Most significant, however, is simply the feeling that she is not ready to be a mother. Not everyone is ready for this most important and demanding of all jobs, particularly when the pregnancy is unplanned and the surrounding circumstances are not as she wants them to be. She would prefer to parent at the right time, with the right person, and under the right circumstances.

Some women feel they have to "be responsible" and keep the baby, even if they know inside they don’t feel ready to be a parent. Often, however, a true definition of being responsible means putting your own feelings aside, and putting a child’s interests first. Adoption is not the "easy" option in many ways. It is a loving act, and like all loves, involves a great deal of sacrifice and pain.

What about my medical costs for the doctor and hospital?

Adoptive parents are permitted to pay for your pregnancy-related medical costs. If you have insurance or some type of state Medi-Caid, the adoptive parents can pay any portion not covered.

What about if I have living costs, such as rent and food?

Almost all states permit adoptive parents to assist birth mothers with living costs while incapacitated due to the pregnancy. There is usually a requirement, however, that any monthly income the birth parent has be used toward her own usual expenses. For example, if a birth mother had $800 in combined monthly rent, food, utilities, etc., and she had a monthly income of $400, the adoptive parents could provide her with $400 monthly. If she had no job or income, the adoptive parents could pay the full amount. Usually financial assistance is only needed in the last few months of the pregnancy, and for a month or so after the birth while she recovers. Of course, some women need no assistance, as they may live at home or have a job. Money for maternity clothes can also be provided.

Most states have strict requirements to obtain court approval for financial assistance. The rationale is that it is certainly reasonable and morally proper for adoptive parents to assist the birth mother by making sure she has a safe place to live and healthy food to eat. The assistance cannot exceed reasonable expenses, as it could be perceived by the court as either the birth or adoptive parents illegally using money to influence the adoption decision.

Am I entitled to free counseling?

Yes. In fact, the adoption professional you work with should not only agree to it, but encourage it. A good adoption attorney or agency wants you to be sure adoption is best for you and your baby, and be prepared for the emotions ahead. Counseling is important to obtain those goals. If someone refuses to arrange free, neutral counseling, with only your best interests at heart, you should not work with that adoption professional.

Can I be paid a fee to place my child for adoption?

No. Although surrogates are permitted in some states to be paid a fee for acting as a surrogate, it is NEVER permitted in adoption. (A surrogate is woman who agrees to carry another person’s child in her uterus, usually with an implanted egg.) In adoption, paying a fee is a crime for both the person giving and receiving the payment. If any adoptive parents, or adoption professional, offers you money for anything other than proper medical, living, legal costs, etc., you should not consider working with that individual, and they should be reported to your local law enforcement agency. Fortunately, most adoption professionals and adoptive parents are dedicated, moral people, working together for the worthy goal of creating loving families. Like any profession (doctors, ministers, police officers, etc.) there is occasionally a bad apple.

Sadly, there is also small number of bad birth mothers. There have been cases where women attempt to obtain financial assistance when they are not even pregnant, or when they don’t truly plan to place their child for adoption. Or course, a birth mother has the legal right to change her mind if after the birth she has determined she cannot proceed with adoption as planned. Although this is rare, sometimes she is unprepared for the emotions of birth and cannot continue. However, when there was never a true intent to place the child for adoption, or if a birth mother receives financial assistance from more than one family at the same time (each thinking they are the only selected adoptive parents) the birth mother has committed a crime and may be prosecuted. As you would expect, such cruelty toward couples hoping to adopt is rare, but it is an ongoing problem.

What is the difference in working with an adoption attorney or agency?

Many years ago, attorneys only did "independent" adoptions (also called direct or private adoption), while agencies did "agency" adoptions. Although this is still somewhat true, nowadays many adoptions involve both the services of an agency and attorney. Depending upon the state in which you live, you will find most of the adoption professionals are of one type or the other, depending upon the type of adoption favored by your state. Some states do primarily independent adoptions, while others do mainly agency adoptions. Most are fairly equal in popularity.

To summarize the difference, in an agency adoption, the same agency will do the adoptive parent home study, provide you counseling, and accept your written relinquishment of the child. Some states permit the sharing of identities in agency adoption, while others keep names confidential. In an independent adoption, you and the adoptive parents will usually meet via an attorney, but an agency might still be involved to do the adoptive parents' home study. The attorney does the legal work needed.

Most birth mothers do not particularly care whether they work with an attorney or agency. Instead their prime concern is finding the right adoptive parents, and an adoption professional (either agency or attorney) who will make sure things go smoothly or properly. To find the right professional to assist you, you may with to call or meet with several, so you have a feeling for their demeanor toward you, and your comfort level in working with them over a period of several months. Does this person seem to genuinely like talking to you? Do they clearly to know the process well and answer all your questions fully? Are they assisting adoptive parents who impress you and whom you want to meet? When you ask for their qualifications as an adoption professional, are you impressed by what you hear? Do they give you the information you need without pressuring you to make a decision?

For a more complete review of the differences, you may with to attend the "Independent Adoption" and "Agency Adoption" seminars. Although they are written mainly for adoptive parents, you may find them interesting.

Can I work with an attorney or agency out of my state?

Yes. You may find an agency or attorney right in your area that can serve you well, and introduce you to adoptive parents you feel are the best qualified. Many women, especially those who live outside of major metropolitan areas, may feel they don’t have a broad choice of adoption professionals or adoptive parents locally. Other women may find their state’s closed or rigid adoption procedures not to their liking. For this reason, many birth mothers plan an adoption where the adoptive parents (and their agency or attorney) live outside her home state.

When you select adoptive parents outside your home state, usually you will first get to know them by phone. If after doing that you feel they is the right family for you, normally they will either travel to meet you in your home state, or buy you a ticket to come to visit them in their home state. After getting to know each other personally, you can be sure it is the right family for you.

After that, the adoption can proceed in one of two ways. If you want to give birth in your home state, you would return there to give birth. When you go into labor, you would usually call the adoptive parents, who will rush to be with you. Most states then allow you to release the baby to the adoptive parents’ custody directly from the hospital. There is usually no temporary "foster home." Your baby can go home directly with the adoptive parents in most adoptions, especially if it is an independent adoption.

The other option you have is to relocate to the adoptive parents’ home state. This allows you to get to know them better, and not require the baby to travel far after birth. The main decision is your personal comfort. If you like where you are living, and you have a physician you don’t want to lose, there would likely be no reason to relocate. However, if you don’t want to stay in your home state (perhaps because you don’t want friends to know you are present, bad weather, no job prospects, poor medical facilities in your region, etc.), you and the adoptive parents may believe having you move to their state is best. It would then be up to you if you wanted to stay and live in that state, or return to your home state at the adoptive parents’ expense.

If you do plan an interstate adoption, the adoption professional you work with will talk to you about the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children. This is a requirement between states that the adoptive parents have a completed home study prior to the child leaving your state and entering the adoptive parents state. Sometimes the paperwork required in the process necessitates the adoptive parents staying in the state of birth for several days until the paperwork is completed. Then the adoptive parents can return home with the baby.

When and how to I give up my rights?

A birth mother normally signs her consent to adoption after the birth. In most states this can be no sooner than 72 hours after birth, but each state is different. Some extend the consent process for more than a month. Only a few states require that a judge witness the signing of the consent. Usually, only a social worker or a notary is required. The goal is to make things easy for the birth mother while still making sure she understands her rights.

Each state has different laws regarding how long you might have to change your mind and revoke your consent. Some might allow just a few days, or up to a month or longer. Some make it permanent when signed, or require that you prove a good reason to stop the adoption.

Can I see the baby in the hospital?

Normally it is up to each birth mother if, or how much, she will visit with the baby at the hospital. Some birth mothers may feel that contact would be too painful. Most birth mothers, however, want their private time to say goodby in their own personal way. Adoptive parents, and the agency or attorney involved, should respect a birth mother’s decision in this area.

What is "open adoption"?

"Open adoption" is a vague term and people use it differently. Usually it refers to an adoption where the birth mother (and birth father if he desires to be involved) personally meets and selects the adoptive parents before the birth. Names are exchanged and there is no secrecy. After the birth, the adoptive parents send updating pictures and letters once or twice a year until the child becomes an adult.

A very small number of adoptions are what are called "cooperative" adoption. This term refers to very open adoptions, where the birth mother stays in face-to-face contact with the adoptive parents and child after the birth. Cooperative adoption is not common in all states, as some are only slowing moving to any openness at all. Of course, not every birth mother wants an open adoption. Some birth mothers only want to get to know the adoptive parents before the birth. After the birth, however, they tell the adoptive parents they do not want any further contact, perhaps feeling continued contact would be too emotional. What is most important is that you select adoptive parents who truly want the same type of adoption that you do - open, closed or somewhere in between.

Do birth fathers have rights?

In most states birth fathers have somewhat weaker rights than the birth mother, assuming they are not married. A non-marital birth father must usually be given notice of the pregnancy and adoption (or show that he can’t be found with reasonable efforts), then his rights may be terminated if he has not objected with the court. Most non-marital fathers agree that adoption is best for the baby, and birth father objections are rare. If a birth father is not willing to consent to the adoption, but neither does he object (he just wants to do nothing) the adoption can normally proceed without his involvement.

The fact that the seminars address only birth mothers is not meant to exclude birth fathers from the process. To the contrary, adoptive parents usually welcome situations where both the birth mother and father are involved in the adoption. Unfortunately, in more than 90% of adoptions, the birth fathers elect to leave the entire adoption process (selecting adoptive parents etc.) to the birth mother to handle alone.

What do adoptive parents have to do before they adopt?

A home study is a common part of adoption. Some states require a home study both before and after the child is placed in the adoptive parents’ home, while other states only require a post-placement homestudy. The theory of only requiring a post-placement home study is that the birth mother is using her own judgment to personally select adoptive parents based upon criteria important to her (their religion, age, existing number of children, education, hobbies and interests, etc.). Then after the placement, a further evaluation is done to be confirm the birth mother used appropriate judgment in selecting the adoptive parents.

Most home studies include home visits by a social worker, letters of reference from friends/neighbors, confirmed marriage, employment, financial status, good health, and a fingerprint clearance from criminal and child abuse registries. Because adoptive parents working with an adoption agency or attorney know in advance of the homestudy, it is very rare for someone to start the process knowing a negative fact would be discovered in the homestudy process.

Does anyone investigate me?

No. Although a birth parent is asked for a health and personal history, as these facts will be beneficial for the adoptive parents and the child’s doctor to know, there is no homestudy or investigation into the background of the birth mother.

What are most adoptive parents like?

Adoptive parents come from all walks of life. They are of every ethnic group and of every religion. They are young to past middle-age. They are tradespeople and professionals. They are famous people and "regular" people. Some are childless and others have one or more children already and hope to add to their family. The one thing they usually have in common is that they medically cannot conceive a child, yet desperately want to parent a child.

Adoptive parents have often been through years of heartbreaking infertility before turning their hopes toward adoption. Because of their advance preparation, motivation and hard work toward starting a family, a birth parent can feel confident in their dedication to parenting and making a child the center of their lives. Most adoptive parents have dedicated a great deal of time in preparing to adopt. Not only do they understand exactly how the adoption process works, but they have also studied important issues like talking about adoption with their future child.

When you talk to adoptive parents, you should not feel shy in asking all your questions about them. You are making a lifetime decision for your child, so there is no such thing as "too personal" a question. You want to feel completely confident in the family you are creating for your child.

How do adoptive parents tell their child he or she is adopted?

The days of hiding adoption from a child are basically gone. Although that may have been done with good intentions in the past, the potential for problems existed. The child could find out from someone else that he she was adopted, or be told by their parents at an older age, and wonder why they were not told sooner.

Nowadays, most adoptive parents are educated to know it is best to raise their child from infancy with the knowledge of adoption as a loving and common way of creating a family. The word "adoption" is spoken in a positive way and with a smile. (How could it be otherwise - it is how they created their family?!) The role of the birth family in selecting mom and dad, and creating the loving world known to the child as his or her home, can be told with respect and honor.

We now live in an era where adoption is not only common, but seen as a wonderful thing for all involved. Due to this greater openness, it is easy for children to not only see other adopted children in school and in their neighborhood, but in society. Famous people like former Presidents Gerald Ford and Herbert Hoover were both adopted. Country singer Faith Hill is adopted. There are many famous athletes and Olympians who have also spoken about being adopted. In the bible, one of the most famous individuals in the Old Testament, Moses, was adopted. In the New Testament, if you think about it, Jesus was adopted in a way. In the comics, Superman was adopted. The same is true with adoptive parents. Adoptive parents include Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rosie O’Donnell, and Steven Speilberg to name only a few.

This is a subject you can ask the adoptive parents you are considering about. They may already have some of the many children’s books which lovingly talk about adoption, and will be part of their child’s library. You can see for yourself the loving way adoption is approached from a child’s early years.

Are there any books I can read to learn more?

Two books discussing the emotions of placing a child for adoption from a birth mother’s point of view are DEAR BIRTHMOTHER by Kathleen Silber and Phylis Speedlin, and PREGNANT? ADOPTION IS AN OPTION by Jeanne Warren Lindsay. They are both excellent books and very helpful.

If you wish to learn more about the technical side of adoption, such as the laws of each state, and adoption attorneys and agencies within those states, you may wish to consider ADOPTING IN AMERICA: How To Adopt Within One Year by adoption attorney Randall Hicks, and THE COMPLETE ADOPTION BOOK by Laura Beauvais-Godwin and Raymond Godwin. Both books are written mainly for adoptive parents starting the adoption process, but offer a helpful overview for anyone interested in planning an adoption. 

What do I do now if I believe I am ready to learn more from an adoption attorney or agency, and start considering adoptive parents?

There are many ways to find adoption attorneys and agencies. You can visit our "State-by-State Directories of Adoption Lawyers and Agencies" section. Through the listed organizations you can find many licensed adoption professionals. You can read about their qualifications and in many cases link to their websites and view adoptive parents they are assisting who are waiting to adopt.

You may feel you need to talk to more than one adoption professional in selecting the one best for you to help you start the process. Once you find one you are comfortable with, he or she will help you personally meet adoptive parents, present counseling options, and make sure your pregnancy needs are met so you have a safe and comfortable pregnancy. wishes you the pride you deserve to feel in creating a wonderful and loving home for your child through adoption.

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