How Soon Is Adoption After Birth?

It was a day like any other. No different than those that had already passed before her. Yet, her anxiety lingered at the back of her mind as she walked into the pregnancy center. She nervously sat in the waiting area, mindlessly scrolling on her phone as she waited for her name to be called. “Alexandria?” She looked up, seeing a nurse in bright teal scrubs holding a door open. She rose and followed the nurse around a corner to a scale, where she was weighed, before being navigated to a small room down the hall. The nurse began asking typical doctor visit questions. “Do you smoke?” “Any history of X, Y, Z in your family?” “When was your last menstrual cycle?” Once the pop quiz was completed, Alexandria was handed a pregnancy test and directed to a nearby restroom. She exited the restroom a few minutes later muscles tight with anxiety. She felt worried and scared of what would come next. “You’re pregnant.” The words seemed to be screaming in her head. She was overwhelmed. The nurse soon came back and sat with Alexandria. She began explaining the girl’s options: abortion, parenting, and adoption. The nurse gave her pamphlets filled with resources and information for any option that Alexandria wanted to pursue. She gave her some words of encouragement before sending the younger woman on her way. 

I don’t know about you, but I have been in Alexandria’s shoes before, and it was scary. I knew that I had a lot of thinking to do before taking the next step. There was a lot of fear in my life at that point. I knew my parents would be upset with me. I knew that I wasn’t even living paycheck to paycheck most weeks. I knew that I didn’t have an eligible, upstanding father, ready to come to my aid. I grew up in a Southern Baptist home, so I did not consider abortion as an option for my body, personally. So, I was left with the choice of parenting or placing for adoption. With my first pregnancy, I chose to parent, only to find six months down the road, I was desperate for my son to have better things than I was able to give him, at that time. My parents ended up adopting him, and I have a very open adoption with him, meaning I see him almost daily. However, when I was faced with my second pregnancy, two years later, I knew that I needed to make a solid plan this time. I immediately decided to go talk with an adoption agency, to answer how soon adoption happens after birth and how I should go about the adoption process.

The agency I placed my child with was The Gladney Center for Adoption; they were located less than ten minutes from where I lived at the time, they had a solid reputation (even my parents shared that they had always heard great things about Gladney), and when I went in to chat with them it was authentic and pressure-free. I was already beyond overwhelmed, so I was thankful that the options counselor that spoke with me was easygoing, gracious, and kind. She spent a lot of time breaking the ice and getting to know me before we ever talked about adoption. When I decided to move forward, I went through a lot of paperwork and logistics, but then I had a long waiting period until the next step. Mind you, I was only a few months pregnant when I began this journey, so how soon adoption happens after birth may not look the same for someone who decides at six months pregnant that they want to investigate adoption.

Once a bit of time had passed and I was about six or seven months along in my pregnancy, I was ready to look at couples hoping to adopt through the agency. A couple of things that I really enjoyed about this part of the process is that Gladney vetted every single person that I looked at, meaning they went through a home study, they had lots of background checks, training, and all of the proper diligence that a parent should possess. Also, my caseworker discussed with me what traits I would like in parents, for my daughter, so she had a strong idea of people I might be interested in. This discussion helped narrow the number of people on my radar, and I felt much less overwhelmed. Adoption agencies can show you as many profiles of hopeful parents that you want, though, so don’t fear you’ll have too small of a selection. Plus, you can look online at parent profiles anytime, as well. 

When I chose the couple to be my daughter’s parents, I just knew in my heart that I wanted them to parent my daughter. Speaking with many other birth moms through the years, I have heard that statement over and over. They just knew the individuals before them would be amazing parents for their baby. 

The next step is meeting the parents and getting to know them, as little or as much as you’d like. Once it is time for birth, you can even have them at the hospital with you, if that’s something you desire. 

The actual adoption process doesn’t usually start before birth, which is why I always like to point out that you are still that baby’s mother in all legal and conventional senses. Also, it’s important to note that women who are considering adoption but have not signed relinquishment papers, are expectant mothers and not birth mothers. Birth mothers are women who have signed relinquishment papers and placed their child for adoption

So, you ask, how soon is adoption after birth? The answer varies by state. Take Arkansas, for example. They allow women who are considering adoption to consent to adoption pre-birth. This is a rare incident, something only found in a few other states. According to Alabama law, pre-birth consent is allowed, only if signed in front of a probate judge. This consent is revocable for 5 days. Pre-birth consent is very rare, as it is a more expensive and lengthy legal process. 

How soon is adoption after birth for most cases? The common waiting period is 72 hours or three days. This is the case in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana (for agency adoptions only), Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. In total, 30 states, and the District of Columbia, require a waiting period after birth before a mother can sign relinquishment papers consenting to the adoption. The states with the least waiting time are Kansas with 12 hours post-birth and Utah 24 hours post-birth. The longest period for adoption after birth is Rhode Island, where you must wait 15 days post-birth before consenting to the adoption. Where I live, it is 48 hours after birth. Take your time. Figure out the best plan for you and your baby. 

In most cases, adoption is irrevocable. That means that the process is final and you cannot change your mind after signing the paperwork. However, through my research, I discovered that there is, in some circumstances, a window of time that you can file a claim to revoke the consent to the adoption. According to The Children’s Bureau, in some states there is on average a three- to ten-day window that a birth mother could revoke her consent, but she has to provide evidence to all or some of the following, depending on the state’s procedures.

  • Consent was obtained by fraud, duress, or coercion.
  • The birth parent is allowed to withdraw consent within a specified period of time, after which consent is irrevocable.
  • The birth parent is allowed to withdraw consent within a specified period of time, after which consent is irrevocable unless there is evidence of fraud or duress.
  • The birth parent is allowed to withdraw consent within a specified period of time, after which consent is irrevocable unless it can be shown that revocation is in the best interests of the child.
  • There is a judicial finding that withdrawal of consent is in the best interests of the child.
  • The birth parents and adoptive parents mutually agree to the withdrawal of consent.
  • An adoptive placement is not finalized with a specific family or within a specific period of time. * 

According to Gladney’s General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Heidi Cox, JD, it is part of an agency’s job by licensing to require counseling and assure the court that there was no fraud, coercion, or duress. “In a private adoption (which is possibly revocable), there is no protection for the parent. So, the legislature tried to provide different avenues for the parent, as well as ensure the case gets in front of a judge timely.” In my opinion, it seems that the agency route is the best way to assure that there is a legal team advocating for you and your baby because, I don’t know about you, but the legal procedures are confusing and extremely detailed in each situation. I found it important to bring up that there are ways for the adoption to be revoked because I feel, as a birth mother, that should never be necessary. I want to implore women in the situation to thoroughly think through their decision before ever signing a paper. Why? Birth mothers go through a long emotional journey after adoption and I don’t think you should choose that unless you are sure. Let me go into detail more about post-placement in a common open adoption scenario.

After birth, the mother can choose to sign relinquishment papers based on her state’s required waiting time. Once she has signed the relinquishment papers she can decide when she would like placement to be. Placement Day is when the birth mother places their child into the adoptive parents’ care. It is an emotional day filled with many mixed emotions. Once that day has passed, the open adoption plan goes into effect. Usually, this is talked about before birth, but I think it is great to touch base with everyone involved to see where expectations lie. Some birth mothers decide they need time after placement to cope with loss and begin processing grief. Communication is so important in these cases.

Both birth mothers and adoptive parents should lay out their expectations and thoughts so that everyone is on the same page, but then that they must also honor what they have verbally agreed upon. The beauty of open adoption is that it can be customized throughout the years to meet everyone’s needs and expectations. Sometimes it takes time, but it can turn out to be a wonderful experience for all involved. My hope for you is that you really listen to your heart in weighing your options, what you want in a future with your child after adoption if that is what you choose, and that you will remember no matter the choice you make you are a mother who loves her child deeply. 

Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Do you want more choices with your adoption plan? Do you want to regain more control in your life? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98. We can help you put together an adoption plan that best meets your needs.

Katie Reisor is an adoptee and birth mom who is passionate about adoption advocacy and breaking stigmas around birth parents. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and hanging out with her dog, Chloe.