Deep in the southeastern region of the United States, Georgia (GA), is a state known for its beautiful beaches, the southern charm of Savannah, and the historical and cultural richness of Atlanta. If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy in Georgia, it is important to understand how adoption in GA works.
Facing an unplanned pregnancy can be a scary time. Even for the most even-keeled individuals, news of an unplanned pregnancy can turn your world upside down. You may feel alone, even if the baby’s father is in the picture, and unsure what path to take. Emotions usually run high, and it can be nerve-racking to consider the next steps. Take a deep breath.
First and foremost: Know you are not alone. There are other women who have walked this path, and there are counselors and agencies available to talk with you. Secondly, know you have options. You may choose to parent the baby by yourself, parent the baby with the baby’s father, place the baby for adoption, etc. Whatever you choose, know that it is your decision to make. What is right for you may not be right for someone else. And that is okay.
If you are considering placing your baby, the first thing to decide is if adoption is right for you. Choosing to place your child is not an easy decision but know that it can be one of the most loving sacrifices you can choose to make. Adoption is the termination of parental rights of the birth parents and the legal granting of parental rights to the adoptive parents. If you are not in a position to parent at this time, that is okay. It is not because you do not love your child. On the contrary, adoption occurs because of the love you have for your child and because of your choice to put the needs of that child first.
This article will walk you through the question of how adoption in GA works. It will detail those involved in the process—the adoption agency, the adoptive parents, the expectant father, and the adoption lawyer—and what you can expect at every step of the journey.
The first point of contact for many expectant parents considering adoption is an adoption agency. If you are considering placing your child, you can meet with an agency counselor and discuss your options. A counselor can meet you at the agency, at a coffee shop, or even in your own home—wherever you are most comfortable. Know that meeting with an agency does not mean that you have to work with that agency. In fact, you may choose to meet with counselors from several agencies until you find one that feels right to you. Nor does meeting with an agency mean that you have to commit to placing your child. Should you choose to parent your child, agencies can connect you with resources to help you on your path. All services provided to you by an adoption agency are free.
When meeting with an agency, you should feel empowered to ask any and all questions you may have. Ask questions like what type of counseling do you provide, how do you find and vet prospective adoptive parents, do you work with prospective adoptive parents only in Georgia or around the United States, how do you connect expectant mothers with prospective adoptive parents, what type of adoption attorneys are available to you as an expectant mother, what kind of resources do you offer, and what kind of prenatal and postnatal support is available. Review their answers and consider if their agency is right for you.
An agency adoption is just one avenue, and independent adoption (placing a child without the assistance of an adoption agency) is possible. In GA, both agency and independent adoptions are possible but, due to a new law, independent adoptions may be more difficult to facilitate. In September 2018 a new law went into effect that banned prospective adoptive parents from advertising to expectant mothers. The law also banned the payment of adoption facilitators. As adoption facilitators and advertising by prospective adoptive parents is not possible, it can be difficult to connect with prospective adoptive parents as an expectant mother. Connecting through social media or with the aid of a mutual friend or acquaintance is of course possible, but if you have not identified prospective adoptive parents, you may find working with an agency to be an easier option.
Another benefit of a good agency is that they will connect you with a counselor who can walk you through each step of the process—from sharing your adoption plan, to deciding on prospective adoptive parents, to hospital plans, and financial assistance. Choosing to place your child for adoption will not cost you anything. In the state of Georgia, the prospective adoptive parents can cover all medical expenses related to your pregnancy and the birth of your child. Legal expenses, living expenses, and counseling fees are also covered, but in Georgia, the prospective adoptive parents may not pay you directly. Instead, payment will go through either the adoption agency or your adoption attorney who will then reimburse your expenses. Both the adoption agency and the adoption attorney will keep a financial record of all transactions, which must be submitted to the court before the adoption may be finalized.
Prospective Adoptive Parents
One of the most common questions of how adoption in GA works is how do you choose prospective adoptive parents? The first thing to consider is the type of adoption you would like to have. There are essentially three different types of adoption: open, semi-open, or closed adoption. In an open adoption, you may have regular interactions with your child and the adoptive family. Contact may be in the form of letters, phone calls, video chats, or even in-person visits. With semi-open adoption, you can expect to receive periodic updates from the adoptive family. These updates may come every six months or so and may include photos and letters. With a closed adoption, the child will not have any contact with you until he or she is legally an adult, at age 18. When the child reaches 18, provided you have registered on Georgia’s Reunion Registry, the child may seek you out or vice versa. Even if you do not register, it may still be possible to connect with your child when he is older, particularly given the advent of companies like 23andMe.
Though it can be daunting to think about another person parenting your child, know that the prospective adoptive parents have gone through background clearances and a rigorous home study process. Part of the home study process is to ask prospective adoptive parents their motivations for adoption, their parenting styles, their values, their religious affiliations, their hobbies, and their interests. As a prospective birth parent, you will have access to all this information so you may choose the right family for your child. Read through a number of prospective adoptive Parent Profiles, watch their videos, look at their photos. Who feels like the right match to you? Is it important that your child be in a two-parent household, have siblings, be raised in a race or ethnicity similar to or different than your child’s? Consider whether you want your child to live in Georgia or somewhere else in the United States. Most adoption agencies operate across state lines, so the right fit for you and your child may be in the next county over or on the opposite coast.
When it comes time to connect with a prospective adoptive parent, be sure to ask lots of questions. If a prospective adoptive parent seems like a good match, trust your instincts. Contact them and see how you feel about each other. Remember, adoption is more than just a single event; it is a lifelong journey. Depending on the level of openness you choose for your adoption, you may be in contact with one another for many years to come—which can be a beautiful thing.
Something else to consider in how adoption in GA works is the role of the expectant father. Every expectant parent’s situation is different, and every state has different laws with regards to the rights of the expectant father. In the state of Georgia, if the expectant father is present in your life and agrees to the adoption, then the adoption may proceed provided both birth parents sign their consent. If the expectant father does not wish to place the child for adoption, then he must legitimize his relationship with the child and petition the court for legal custody of the child. Should this occur, you as the birth mother would have an opportunity to appear in court and voice your concerns and opinions. The court would then rule whether the birth father’s relationship with the child is legitimate or not. If the expectant father is not in the picture, he may still demonstrate his paternity, or possibility of paternity, through the putative father registry. Your adoption attorney will consult the registry prior to consent to see if anyone is listed. If the expectant father is found, he will be notified of the adoption proceedings. The adoption may then proceed if the father is not found, if he does not come forward, and/or if he has failed to exhibit a desire to parent the child.
Another question of adoption in GA is the role of adoption attorneys. Every state has different adoption laws, so whether you choose to place independently or with an adoption agency, it is vital to engage an adoption attorney who knows family law in GA. Typically, the adoption agency will put you in touch with one of their attorneys. If you are placing independently, the prospective adoptive parents may help you find an adoption attorney. All attorney fees will be paid for by the prospective adoptive parents. It is important to remember that though the prospective adoptive parents are covering the attorney’s costs, the attorney represents you and your best interests.
In preparation for your delivery day, your adoption attorney can help you draft a hospital plan. A hospital plan will detail who you would like in the room with you when you deliver, how much contact you want to have with the baby once she or he is born, and what your plan will be when it comes time to leave the hospital. Remember, it is okay if you change your hospital plan—either in the lead-up to delivery or even the day of. It’s important that you feel comfortable with how everyone will be involved with your delivery and the order in which things will progress once the baby is born.
In the state of Georgia, once the baby is born, you must wait at least 24 hours before you may consent to the termination of your parental rights and the adoption of your child. Consent must be given in the presence of a notary, which the adoption agency or adoption attorney can help facilitate. You can choose to revoke your consent up to four days after signing consent, but after those four days, you may not change your mind, and the adoption will be finalized.
Life After Adoption
Once you sign the consent and the four days have passed, you will become a birth mother. Life after adoption can be hard, so be sure to reach out to your counselor and ask for support. Remember, not only have you been through a life-changing experience, but you also have postnatal hormones racing through your body. You will experience grief, and this is perfectly okay. Talk with your counselor about strategies for coping. Surround yourself with those who love and support you. Seek out groups of fellow birth mothers who have walked a path similar to yours. And know that as hard as it is now, you made an incredible, loving, difficult choice that was in the best interest of your child.
Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller, and arts educator. In a small government office in China, Jennifer became an adoptive mother. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and “Is this really us?!?” whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.