There are a lot of unknowns when you enter into your adoption journey. You don’t know when you will be matched, when your child will arrive, where he will be born, or what gender she might be. Another unknown that many adoptive parents have a lot of trepidation about is what will happen if you are matched with a birth mother who decides to parent. Every state’s laws are different regarding how long a birth mother has after birth to decide whether she is going to place and how long after signing the paperwork she might have to retract her decision.
If you are looking to adopt within your state, investigate your state’s laws regarding the termination of parental rights (TPR) as well as the revocation period. In most states, birth mothers can sign TPR anywhere from 48–72 hours after birth. In many states, TPR is irrevocable, meaning once the paperwork is signed, it is impossible for the birth parents to change their mind. However, other states have revocation periods that last anywhere from one week to 30 days. During this time, the child is either being cared for by the adoptive parents or by a third party. If you live in a state where there is a long revocation period—some states allow up to 30 days for birth parents to change their mind and decide to parent—consider if you would be more comfortable adopting from a neighboring state.
If you are working with an agency that works nationwide, talk to them about what states they tend to place most often in and what the laws are like there. Talk to them about what procedures they have in place for states with long revocation periods. Will the baby be in your care during the revocation period? Will he be in the care of someone else affiliated with the agency? Also, how does the agency vet expectant mothers? How do they confirm this is a valid pregnancy, and what types of counseling do they offer the expectant mother to help her determine what is the right decision for her and her child? A reputable agency or attorney will do their due diligence to try to assess if there is any potential element of fraud or any potential red flags that indicate this woman is not serious about placing.
Once you have determined what you are comfortable with in terms of state laws, you still have to steel yourself for the possibility that a match could dissolve before or shortly after birth. Many prospective adoptive parents want to know what they should do or say to help make the expectant mother “more likely” to place, but the truth is, an expectant mother’s decision to parent her child generally has nothing to do with how she feels about the prospective adoptive parents and more to do with her feelings about how capable she is of parenting this child. Situations can change, and if an expectant mother has decided she is capable of and wants to parent her baby, as heartbreaking as it is for the prospective adoptive parents, this does not make her a selfish or bad person. You cannot begrudge someone the desire to parent their own child.
If you find yourself dealing with a disrupted match or placement, make sure you treat this as a true loss. Give yourself time to grieve before moving on to another match. If you can find a therapist near you or a support group for adoptive parents who can help you walk through this grief, it is in your best interest to do so before presenting yourself to another potential expectant mother. There is nothing you can do to prevent a disruption and no way to prepare yourself for the emotions you will feel if it happens to you. Give yourself time and space to grieve and ask that others give you that as well. Know that, though this match may not have been the one for you, there is a child coming if you are willing to be patient and trust in the process.
Julianna Mendelsohn lives in sunny South Florida where, odds are, it is hot enough right now that she’s sweating just a little, no matter what she’s doing. She is the brains, brawn, blood, sweat, and tears behind The Adoption Mentor and is thrilled to be able to help others build their families through adoption. She is a former elementary school teacher, current MS in school counseling student, Sephora junkie, and the momma via domestic adoption to one lovely daughter.