For all my fellow southerners out there, this Louisiana Adoption Guide is for you. Whether you are birth parents looking at your options for your unborn child, or adoptive parents assessing all of your options in the State of Louisiana, the following details will give you a good starting point for your future.

Unplanned Pregnancy—Adoption Decision

Adoption Choice

If you were at a crossroads with an unexpected pregnancy and reached the decision to place your child for adoption, thank you for choosing life and putting your child’s needs before your own. The decision of adoption in tough circumstances is one of the most commendable decisions a woman can make for her child. Don’t ever forget that or lose sight of that fact along the way. There may be many moments in which you question the road ahead, but holding onto the reasons you initially made this important decision will keep you focused.

A Louisiana native and LSU law student named David Scotton shared his adoption story from the interesting perspective of an adoptee and his first meeting with his birth mother in a documentary movie entitled “I Lived on Parker Avenue.” It details how his birth mother was scheduled for an abortion but changed her mind at the last minute, and decided to place her child for adoption. David’s personal story was a wonderful look at adoption from an adoptee’s perspective, and also details his first meet and greet with his birth mother. It is certainly a poignant adoption story and worth watching.

Finding an Agency or Adoption Attorney

Once you make the decision of placing your child for adoption, the next step in your journey will be finding the adoption professional which will help you each step of the way. In the State of Louisiana, there are plenty of agency options and adoption attorneys that can help facilitate the process. Although adoption agencies are generally the initial choice people think of for adoption, an adoption attorney also provides similar support, a network of waiting for adoptive families, and the essential knowledge of Louisiana law needed to complete adoption finalization.

Here are some helpful links to get you started on your search for both an agency or adoption attorney in Louisiana:

-Gladney Center

-Beacon House

-St. Elizabeth Foundation

-Decolores Adoptions

-Catholic Charities

-Terri Hoover Odom

Setting Up Prenatal Care

Once you have decided on the professional you will choose for the adoption process, the important step of prenatal care should be your top priority. Make sure your appointments aren’t missed, and the child you are carrying is monitored along the way. Agencies typically have representatives that will even attend the prenatal visits with you if support isn’t available to you. In addition, agencies are equipped with resources to enlist special medical services and coverage for expecting birthmothers. Aside from the medical, counseling, transportation, housing, food, and clothing needs, these resources are all things you will need help with during the pregnancy. Agencies and adoption attorneys will help set up accommodations once a match has taken place with adoptive parents. It is the adoptive parents which will cover the costs of the pregnancy.

The Perfect Match

Whether you are choosing adoptive parents through an agency or attorney, you will have plenty of pictures and profiles to browse through and will have a very important decision on your shoulders. Making a personal connection with the prospective adoptive parents usually helps in making the decision. Sometimes, that connection is as simple as an extra hobby, hometown, or vacation spots.

As my husband and I were walking through our own adoption journey, I will never forget the reason one birth mother chose us as parents for her child. In reviewing our profile, it turned out my husband and I worked with the birth mother’s father years prior. That simple connection was the sign she needed. Although that particular adoption plan didn’t work out, it showed me the smallest and most unexpected connection could be the reason a birthmother chooses an adoptive couple.

Planning Your Road Head

As you navigate through the initial phases of the adoption process, you will likely begin to discuss the adoption plan. Usually at this point in the process, the big decision of open, semi-open, or closed will begin. Deciding how to open or closed your adoption will determine how much contact you will have with the adoptive parents before and post-birth, yearly updates or visits, and adoptee communication through his or her life. Another facet of the adoption plan is the details surrounding delivery and post-birth preferences.

Louisiana Legal

As a birth mother placing her child for adoption, there are certain requirements in Louisiana. A birth mother must complete at least two counseling sessions by an approved counselor, licensed in the State of Louisiana before placement is made. It helps to have a session at the beginning of the adoption journey but can also be completed shortly before birth. The timeline typically depends on how much time between the decision of adoption and birth.

Recently, Act No. 652 was passed in Louisiana which not only places a cap on birth mother expenses but also helps to clarify ambiguous language surrounding what expenses adoptive parents can and cannot pay for birthmothers during the adoption process. Approved birth mother expenses up to $7,500 are allowed under this new act.

Termination of Parental Rights

In the State of Louisiana, the termination of the parental rights timeline is pretty straight forward, no matter if you are using an adoption agency or an adoption attorney. If the adoption is being facilitated and handled by an agency or an adoption attorney, that termination process may take place five days after the child is born, not including the date of birth. Other states may have shorter periods, but Louisiana has remained five days for quite some time. In the State of Louisiana, the termination is irrevocable, and can only be reversed if proven to be taken during fraud or duress.

In the matter of the birth father, Louisiana is one of the states that allows an assumed birth father to consent to the adoption prior to the birth of the child. It is different from a formal act of termination of parental rights but serves the same purpose as the birth father acknowledges he is the father of the unborn child and is consenting to the adoption plan in place.

Louisiana also has a Safe Haven Act, which allows a mother to anonymously terminate her parental rights her unharmed child, up to 60 days old with an employee of any medical facility, fire department, hospital, police department, emergency medical services provider, pregnancy crisis center, medical clinic, public health unit or child advocacy center. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, but it is still important there is such a law in place for unusual and emergency situations. Babies that are in this situation through the Safe Haven Act are placed in the care of foster parents until a permanent situation is found, whether through family members or an adoption situation.

Adoptive Parents Interested in Adoption

Adoption Services (Agency/Attorney)

Once a couple has decided on expanding a family by adoption, the first and one of the most important steps is to find an adoption professional to facilitate the process. An adoption agency typically has representatives/employees that handle every aspect of the adoption, assisting adoptive parents with profile books, matching birth parents with adoptive parents, counseling birth mothers, supporting birth mothers on medical visits, setting up financial assistance for birth mothers, and assisting and supporting adoptive parents throughout the pregnancy up to birth. While agencies are equipped with everything under one umbrella, there are certainly additional fees that adoptive parents cover in the adoption process when using an agency. When using an adoption attorney, the network may be a little smaller in regards to birth mothers, the assistance along the way for both birth mother and adoptive parents may look different, but the cost is significantly less.

Because my husband and I were already personally connected to the birth mother of our daughter, an adoption attorney was the more logical choice to facilitate the adoption. The legal process was professionally handled, guidance and advice were readily available, birth father parental rights termination was completed prior to birth, and personal attention to our daughter’s birth mother was made throughout the process.

Financial Preparation

Any couple that has decided to adopt a child has serious conversations regarding the financial implications of such a decision. Some couples have the financial reserves to begin the adoption process right away and pay whatever fees or expenses necessary to get the adoption profiles in the right hands. Not all couples are in that position and may need time to save or fundraise. When using an agency or an agency with consultant fees, adoptive couples could have a financial burden of $30,000 – $60,000 for one adoption. Agency fees and birth mother costs, depending on which state the birth mother is located, can rise very quickly. If the child is born early, or if there are health complications, medical costs rise quickly too.

When using an adoption attorney, the adoption fees are significantly less than an agency, but the birth mother costs and unknown medical costs still need to be considered and discussed beforehand. Adoptive couples should prepare for the “what ifs” and be financially prepared for any curveballs along the way.

Whether you have the funds in savings, take out a loan, cash in stock or CDs, whether you ask family for financial help, or take the time to save, the finances of adoption is one of the biggest parts of the process. Although the financial portion of an adoption decision is scary and overwhelming, it shouldn’t be the reason to not move forward if that desire has been placed on your heart. God has a wonderful way of providing and taking care of the unexplained and matching your needs in the very best way.

As my husband and I begin our discussions about adopting a sibling for our daughter in the coming years, the financial aspect is one of the main components. We don’t want to stretch ourselves too thin because we still have a daughter to provide for, and want to give her a wonderful life. Making financial decisions to prepare for a future adoption has been a priority for us this past year. It takes time to prepare for such a large investment, but it is important to create a well-rounded life for our daughter and hopefully give her a sibling.

Profile Book

After choosing your adoption professional and securing the funds for adoption, creating a profile book is your chance to articulate through pictures and short descriptions who you are as a couple, values, hobbies, travel adventures, the community you belong to, and what you will provide to your child. Most agencies and adoption attorneys are utilizing technology and providing PDF versions of profile books to birth mothers to review. Especially now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, I can imagine PDF profile books are the only books requested. Before, adoptive couples would print so many copies of profile books and provide to the agency or adoption attorney.

In our case, before we were even matched with our daughter’s birth mother, we provided PDF versions of profile books to a few local adoption attorneys, one version for open adoption, and one for a closed adoption. Printed versions of our profile books weren’t even used at that time. One tip I will pass on would be the birth mother’s letter we included in the very beginning. Before we even dove into our personal information, we wanted to connect with our future child’s birth mother, the woman that was carrying our son or daughter. We took the time to explain our hearts, our decision to adopt, and our spiritual desires for not only her as a birth mother but for the child that she was carrying. It was a special touch that I believe makes a personal connection from the start. For birth mothers looking through books of strangers, it can be hard to connect on a personal basis. Words can be very powerful to a reader and being genuine, sharing from the heart, will always resonate with the birth mother.

Home Study

The biggest consumption of time will be the home study in preparation for adoption. A social worker, through an agency, or found independently, will walk you the step by step requirements for the State of Louisiana, from background checks/fingerprinting (state and federal), child abuse/neglect registry check in every state lived in within the past 10 years, personal reference letters, health certificates from a doctor, financial assessment, and home visits. The paperwork portion of the adoption process is the most tedious because of the forms required, background information, an extensive interview process. The home visits are pretty minimal compared to the rest of the work needed for a home study. The good part is each couple may move at a personal pace to complete the home study. In the State of Louisiana, there are three home visits required for the home study certifications. Pre-placement certification is valid in the State of Louisiana for up to two years. After that period, a home study update will need to be completed by a licensed social worker. Post-placement home visit requirements are three weeks after birth, every two to three months after that, and within 30 days prior to adoption finalization.

Waiting for the Match

Once a home study is complete and profile books are ready for birth mothers to review, the only thing left is to wait for the perfect match. Some couples are matched almost immediately, and others have a much longer wait. There is a perfect child for each couple, and although waiting can be excruciating, it the ultimate blessing when you are finally matched and welcome God’s beautiful blessing into your home and your hearts forever.

My husband and I experienced a disrupted adoption early on in our journey, and it seemed like forever before we were ready to embark on adoption again. In actuality, it was only six short months, and we were back on the list, only to be matched with our daughter’s birth mother through family friends shortly thereafter. Our situation was extraordinary and doesn’t happen a lot. We realized that very early on in our journey with our daughter’s birth mother.

Forever Family

Once matched with a birth mother, adoptive couples usually are updated on the pregnancy or part of the process with the birth mother each step of the way. Either way, it is a journey, and your forever family finally begins to come together. Adoptive parents nest and prepare for the baby, even though he or she is not biological. There are lots of ups and downs usually along the way, but once the baby is born and your child is finally in your arms, there are no words to describe the love in your heart. The hard parts of the journey to that point disappear and you don’t remember or focus on the struggles because the light and love that is in your arms washes it all away.

Adoption Finalization

Whether you use an agency or an adoption attorney will determine the length of time before the adoption is finalized before a judge. If using an agency, adoptions may be finalized within six months of birth, as long as post-placement visits, background checks, and all requirements are met. If using an adoption attorney, the adoption may be finalized within one year of birth. There are the same finalization requirements, and all of the work initially completed for the home study will need to be updated. Again, can seem very tedious, but worth it once the adoption decree is placed in your hands.

No matter which shoes you are in, a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy, or prospective adoptive parents, adoption is an amazing undertaking, one filled with lots of love and commitment by all members of the adoption triad. There are so many resources available at your fingertips, and the birth mother, adoptive parent and adoptee communities are growing more each year. Hopefully, this Louisiana adoption guide helps anyone considering the decision of adoption or just beginning the adoption journey for a family.

Legal assistant by day and farm girl by night, Catherine Spivey enjoys the simple life in South Louisiana with her husband, daughter, and a menagerie of rescued farm animals by her side. After walking through several years of infertility, one disrupted adoption, foster parent certification, and many farm animals later, the Lord blessed her family with a beloved baby girl that changed the course of their life and everyone’s in between. Sharing her own experience, hoping to impart wisdom, and encouraging those walking through the beautiful roller coaster ride of adoption has become her passion. Catherine enjoys sharing it all through writing and photography on her blog and Instagram @thebayougypsy.