The Birth Parents
When you find yourself facing an unplanned pregnancy in Oklahoma, there are many choices that you will have to make. Every circumstance is different. For example, your circumstance may be one of financial difficulties, and it might seem daunting to raise a child on your own. You may be in a position in which an unplanned pregnancy is the result of unpleasant or criminal circumstances. Whatever the reason, a selfless solution may be to place your child for adoption. Only happiness and unending love, for both the birth mother and the child, is the goal of this decision.
There are a couple of ways to place your child for adoption. You can go through a private attorney or an adoption agency. If you know of, or have already met a couple that you feel comfortable placing your child with, perhaps you’ll choose to go through an attorney. The attorney should handle all the paperwork necessary, along with any court filings and/or appearances. Some private attorneys have information on hopeful adoptive parents as well. Your attorney should walk you through the process step-by-step, with your goals in mind.
You can also contact adoption agencies to help you handle your adoption. Each agency has its own process, but often, they already have information on potential adoptive parents for you, as an expectant parent, to look over and pick whom you feel is best to parent your child. These potential adoptive parents should already have gone through extensive background checks, and most, if not all, have already gone through the application process and home study. Adoption agencies are normally very thorough, and ethical adoption agencies should only place potential adoptive parents on their list if the hopeful adoptive parents have been deemed safe and capable as parents for your child. Of course, situations arise where the hopeful adoptive parents are not good people. It can happen. But the home study, extensive background checks, financial review, parent training, and more are put in place to ensure, to the best of the agency’s or attorney’s ability, that the child will be placed with good parents.
Oklahoma is an open adoption state. What this means is that you and the adoptive parents will work out what works best for your adoption situation. Not all adoptive parents are willing to have a completely open adoption, for example, with visitation by the birth parents and their extended family. Likewise, some birth parents would rather not be involved in the life of the child they placed for adoption. The openness of the relationship should be thought through and addressed early on when birth parents are picking who they would like to raise their child. All parties should be on the same page before the adoption process is complete. This can help eliminate hurt feelings or misunderstandings in the future.
Typically, expectant parents may be helped with some financial expenses during and sometimes for a period of time after pregnancy (check with your adoption agency or attorney to understand what specific expenses you may be helped with as this differs by agency and by state). It should not cost birth parents any money to be helped to place their child for adoption. Ethical adoption agencies should not charge birth parents anything to place their child.
Oklahoma also maintains a putative father registry. This registry protects birth fathers who want to raise a child born of an unplanned pregnancy. The potential birth father must register, with the state, his wish to assume responsibility for a child, or children, he may have fathered. The state of Oklahoma maintains this centralized paternity registry (CPR).
Likewise, if a birth father is no longer in communication with the birth mother, she must file a plan for adoption through an agency, or through an attorney, to notify this alleged or presumed birth father of the potential placement. This notice will advise a child was conceived and that the birth mother intends to place this child for adoption. The birth father then will file a notice indicating his acknowledgment or denial of paternity of the child. If this is not filed within 30 days of service of the notice of plan for adoption, the birth father waives his right to receive any further notifications of the adoption, and his parental rights are at risk of termination. This whole process can be avoided if both birth parents are of like minds and work together to pick the adoptive parents and participate in the adoption process.
Likewise, both birth parents should be involved when discussing open adoption parameters if possible. As the birth parents, you must deeply consider what you expect out of an open adoption if you choose to have an open adoption relationship with the adoptive parents and your child. You should consider your future and how an open adoption would fit into those plans. Sometimes, it is just enough to know where your child is and to receive updates and photos of your child. Others might want to have visits with the child. This is a great time to contemplate your future. Will your future be improved with ongoing visits or would you rather just receive yearly emails updating you about your child? Would you rather have a closed adoption and have no contact at all? You, as the expectant parent, will need to decide what level of openness, if any, you would like to have with your child.
This whole situation may seem unnerving or tedious but know that you are not the first to go through this. The people you could encounter through this process might have had similar experiences and may work alongside you to put your, and your unborn child’s, best interests first.
There are a variety of reasons you may choose to become a potential adoptive parent. You may be a couple who has struggled with infertility and are now looking at your options to bring a child into your family. Alternatively, you may be a single parent looking to start a family. You might even already have children and wish for more. In whatever case, you may be wondering if you want to foster a child or adopt. The process to get approved for either option can be very similar. It may be to your benefit to be dual-licensed for any opportunity that pops up.
In general, there are four steps to get approved to foster and/or adopt. First, locate an agency or private adoption attorney. Next, you will complete an application with whichever outlet you choose to work with. Third, you will attend training sessions that will provide you with the opportunity to learn about children who are in care, meet other families, and prepare your family to choose whether to adopt or foster. Last, you will complete the home study.
Once you have started the process and the official paperwork begins, you will meet your assigned caseworker who will walk you through the application process. Be open and honest with the caseworker on all of your answers on the application and in the personal interviews. Supply all the necessary information as completely as you can. Be accurate and timely. Certainly, ask for help if there is anything you don’t understand. Be cooperative with the home inspection and required criminal background checks. If you are concerned there is something that may interfere with the application approval, talk to your caseworker about it. If the caseworker suspects that an applicant is being deceptive or dishonest, your application may not be approved.
The basic requirements to adopt in Oklahoma are that you must be at least 21 years of age and in reasonably good health. You can be single, married, divorced, or widowed. Oklahoma permits same-sex couples, as well as single LGBTQ members, to adopt. You should have sufficient space, beds, and personal items for any and all children in your household. You are expected to be able to manage your income to meet all the financial needs of the family. You must be able to, or willing to learn how to, understand, love, and accept a child. Your role is to protect and nurture the child/children placed in your care, as well as to be a role model. If you have a spouse or a partner, he or she is also required to participate in the home assessment and attend the orientation sessions with you.
After you have completed the application forms, there are usually reference and background checks. In most cases, you will be required to have a medical exam and provide the report from your physician. You will be fingerprinted. Additionally, there will be a family assessment, which includes interviews with all family members. You must complete a 27-hour family resource orientation. Your home will be assessed for safety, often including a verification of vaccination for any household pets. Income sufficiency and automobile insurance are also often verified. Once this application process is completed, you are ready to be placed on the list to adopt or to foster a child. (Although this does depend on the agency or attorney whether or not you are ready).
The cost to adopt in Oklahoma can be substantial. Most of the costs are for the application process, legal fees, and court costs. However, there can also be expenses that go toward the birth mother. Typically, birth mother expenses may include transportation, living, medical, and other expenses. Although you will need to check with your adoption agency or attorney for what specific birth mother expenses you may need to help out with as it is different per agency and state.
There is another option to make your forever family as well. Fostering or foster adoption is legal in the state of Oklahoma. This is certainly an option worth considering if, after you have completed the orientation sessions, you feel foster care and foster adoption is right for your family. Although you must understand that the point of foster care is to reunite biological parents with their children. Fostering a child does not necessarily mean you will be able to adopt that child later on.
Oklahoma is an open adoption state. This means that identifying information of all parties in the adoption process are usually provided. The parties involved in the adoption will decide how open the adoption will be. The openness can range from closed to semi-open to open. Potential adoptive parents have a critical role in this decision. Research has shown that increased openness in adoption benefits all parties.
As an adoptive parent, you, alongside the birth parent(s), choose how much or how little communication there will be. Most adoptions in Oklahoma share at least contact information such as email addresses or phone numbers. There can be an exchange of phone calls, emails, letters, photos, and more. You may be open to family visitation.
Open adoptions do mean your child can ask questions about his or her adoption or history. This is different than in the past when adoptive parents often didn’t know. Open adoptions don’t necessarily mean your child will be confused about who their “real parents” are. Biological and adoptive parents are both the “real” parents. It also doesn’t mean that you will be co-parenting your child with her birth parents or extended family. Open adoptions allow the birth parents to remain an important part of their child’s life and allow them to watch their child grow up. It doesn’t mean the birth parents have the option to “get the baby back.” Open adoptions allow both you and the birth parents to stay close after the adoption is complete. If this is not something you care to have, you certainly have the option to maintain a semi-open or closed adoption.
Sometimes, there can be post-adoption agreements. Circumstances change with every family, and the best interests of the child must always be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Post-adoption agreements are not often legally binding, or legally enforceable, in the state of Oklahoma.
The waiting process can be unnerving and stressful. Know that you are not going through this alone, and there are many resources for adoptive families to connect with each other for moral and emotional support. Ask the agency or attorney you are working with for information on this.
This journey is worth the wait, the emotional upheavals, and the stress. I know this personally having adopted two children while living in Arizona. I am now a grandmother of one, another is on the way, and our son is engaged to be married in October. It was all worth it!
Deborah Ann Rang, mother of a beautiful adopted daughter, Nyssa, age 28 and a handsome adopted son, Dustin, age 25. A wife to John for 32 years and full-time domestic engineer since 2005. Mother-in-law to Nyssa’s husband and Grandmother of one perfect 2-year-old girl with her sibling to arrive in December. Exciting life event for Dustin coming up with a wedding in October. Dog mom to 2 feisty Border Collies and one not so feisty older Shetland Sheep dog. Former employee of St. Paul Travelers Insurance company, Senior Liability Claim Representative working in Phoenix, AZ for 15 years. Passionate about books, writing, and adoption. Currently a resident of Grand Rapids, MI, and looking forward to retirement for John in 2022.