I read Via Ukraine’s post about RESOLVE.org’s National Infertility Awareness Week Bust a Myth project and wanted to lend my voice to the Domestic Adoption category (share my thoughts? Shocker of all shockers, I know).
RESOLVE listed a number of myths about domestic adoption, but let’s focus on “The birthmother will take the child back”, shall we?
Although we did our best to educate family and friends on the nature of adoption while we were going through the process, when Dictator finally arrived, one of the first questions was invariably “Aren’t you afraid that her birthparents are going to take her back one day?”
Here’s the Cole’s Notes version of the way private, domestic adoption works where I live:
- A pregnant woman who is considering adoption gets in touch with an adoption agency, which spends a significant amount of time educating her on her options (all of them: adoption, abortion, parenting). This serves to ensure that she is making a very conscious, very informed decision. If she decides to pursue adoption, she creates a profile of the kind of adoptive family she wants for her baby, and is shown the files of prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) that match her profile (presuming that she also matches the PAPs’ criteria).
- Once a match is made, both parties meet and decide if they want to pursue the adoption, and Intent agreements are signed. (Nothing’s official yet, but this means that the PAPs’ file can’t be shown to another birthmother, and the birthmother won’t be shown any more PAP files.)
- Until the baby is born, the prospective birthmother and the PAPs may spend some time getting to know each other through visits, emails, etc.
- Once the baby is born, the prospective birthmother cannot give legal consent to place for adoption until 48 hours after birth. This gives her time to bond with her baby and reflect on her decision. If she still wishes pursue adoption, the child will typically be placed with the PAPs shortly after consent is signed (I say “typically” because some PAPs choose to have a third party “friend” of the adoption agency care for the baby for the first 21 days after consent).
- For 21 days following consent, the birthmother has the right to change her mind. During that period (I call it the Waiting Game), the agency encourages a number of visits, which become more and more spaced out throughout those three weeks. These visits are meant to help the birthmother see that her baby is well and being properly cared for; this often helps her grieving process. (Birthmom also remains in close contact with the adoption agency, which provides her with support in the form of post-placement counselling.)
- After that, there is still a 30- to 60-day window before the courts approve the adoption, but the birthmother no longer has legal recourse for changing her mind (unless coercion/bribery/other bad, bad things can be proven).
Okay, so I lied about the Cole’s Notes. But hear me out: The reason I gave you so much detail is to illustrate that the whole process is designed to ensure that everyone involved is educated properly, making well-informed decisions, and comfortable with each other (this is a relationship you’re going to have for the rest of your lives, after all). No one involved arrived at the decision to pursue adoption lightly.
I don’t want to minimize it - reversals do happen - but because the law is clear and because the adoption agency is required to educate both parties
very thoroughly, a) reversals are very rare, and b) they’re not constantly hanging over your head. Knowing that there was a finite period of time in which Dictator’s birthparents could revoke consent made getting through the Waiting Game a lot easier. (So did birthmom’s “You know we’re not going to change our minds, right?” at a visit on Day 15, actually!). up the yin yang
And while we don’t ever worry that Dictator’s birthmother is going to “take her back”, we do still get that question on occasion. It’s usually in connection with a discussion about seeing birthmom recently, which makes me wonder if people hear “open” adoption and think “temporary” instead…
I think that’s a post for another day.