We are living in unprecedented times for many reasons. It seems like every day there is something new on the national stage. Fortunately, we are also living in unprecedented times for adoption. There is a tangible and positive push for change within the adoption community all across the nation. Whether it be in ethical practices, professionalism, or pre- and post-placement care, adoption is changing in proactive and impactful ways. Social media, as most would assume, has greatly impacted the positive shift within adoption. Within the adoption community, we are seeing ongoing dialogues about open adoption, and empowerment among birth families, especially birth mothers. All of these things are exciting shifts. Tennessee, while known for being a Southern hub of culture and down-home values, has a thriving adoption community that is breaking barriers among all people and parties. As a member of the adoption community in Tennessee myself, I can attest to the fact that adoption is becoming a common component to family dynamics and family building throughout the state. In the beginning of our adoption journey, I did not anticipate that Tennessee would be a state that would navigate adoption so well. My family and I were pleasantly surprised to discover that adoption is well-organized and widely accepted throughout the state. Although each adoption is different, Tennessee has made great strides in completing families through adoption.
Is Adoption the Right Choice?
You may be considered an “expectant parent” if you are pregnant and possibly considering placing your child for adoption. It is important to note that you are not considered a “birth parent” until after you have placed your child for adoption. In Tennessee, you will be considered an expectant parent until or if your adoption is completed. Adoption vocabulary is a significant component of the adoption process, but one that is often overlooked. As a result, I wanted to clarify those two commonly used phrases. As an expectant parent living or planning to place a child for adoption in Tennessee, the question of “Is adoption the right choice?” has likely flooded your mind over and over. The decision to place a child for adoption is never an easy or clear-cut answer. It is a decision full of multiple dynamics and lasting consequences. Let’s face it: it’s also full of many unknowns. If you have found yourself in a situation that involves an unexpected pregnancy, it is important to thoughtfully consider all of your options in order to make the most informed decision as possible. If you have access to pre-placement counseling with a social worker or other adoption professional, it would be to your advantage to seek out those professional services. Partnering with an adoption professional can help you navigate your choices you have for your pregnancy. If you decide to work with an adoption professional to explore the choice of adoption, some questions to discuss with your adoption professional could include:
- In Tennessee, what is the overall process of adoption?
- What rights do I have as an expectant parent?
- Are there professionals I can partner with for pre- and post-placement care? An important note is to ensure you will have access to post-placement care so that if you do place your child for adoption, you have services in place to help you navigate your personal healing.
- What is the difference between placing my child with an agency and some other service?
- What is the process for the expectant father, and what rights does he have?
- What types of adoptions exist?
I’m a Hopeful Adoptive Parent: Is Adoption the Right Choice?
As a hopeful adoptive parent living or planning to adopt a child in Tennessee, you may have questions regarding adoption in Tennessee. This article may not be an extensive list, but will guide you through some important concepts regarding adoptions in Tennessee. It is extremely important that you research adoptions laws in Tennessee, since adoption laws vary within each state. As a hopeful adoptive parent, you will need to decide now what perspective you have on post-placement agreements, expenses and adoption professionals and other adoption related topics. Begin researching now so you know your limits and perspectives. Although this article provides a general understanding of adoption in Tennessee, it is still wise to get further information from adoption professionals in your area. Adoption professionals can answer your questions and cater to your personal adoption journey.
First Things First
The following information includes things within adoption that I am truly passionate about. It also includes things you need to establish now so that you can begin your adoption journey aware of what is likely to come. As an adoptive parent, my husband and I experienced six disrupted adoptions before meeting our son through infant domestic adoption. For clarification purposes, a “disrupted adoption” means that the adoption was not finalized, and that the birth parents or family chose to parent the child. As difficult and as heartbreaking as that was, we now understand and believe that when birth parents feel empowered to parent, that it is something to celebrate, despite the hurt. In a perfect world, there would be no need for adoption. As we know, the world isn’t perfect, so adoption is part of it. To put it frankly, adoption is not about you as the hopeful adoptive parent. There is often an underlying belief that thinks adoption is for the adoptive parents, that you are not rescuing a child or coming in to save the day. It is not. Rather, you are helping provide a home to a child whose birth parents believe that adoption is the right choice for them for a multitude of different reasons that vary within every situation. As birth parents, they are making quite literally the most sacrificial decision one can make. You are agreeing to honor their decision at all costs. You are agreeing to incorporate them into your child’s story. You are agreeing to do the messy and hard work of adoption throughout your child’s life.
Although it may be difficult to hear, I want you as a hopeful adoptive parent to be informed. Adoption is hard work, and it is not for people who think that once they adopt a child, the work is over. There is no instruction manual for adoption, so it takes a great deal of intentionality, sacrifice, and selflessness to make it work. For example, my son will soon be three years old, and we are now in a season where we are learning to navigate our relationship with his birth mother. When we began our adoption journey, we never dreamed we would have an open adoption, but now we would never have it any other way. Once we embraced the fact that it was not about us and allowed the relationship to evolve, we are discovering a mutually respectful and love-filled partnership.
On another note for hopeful adoptive parents, it is important to identify what is bringing you to adoption. Is it a result of infertility? Is it a call to do something noble? Regardless of what is bringing you to adoption, you must have that clear in your mind. For the majority, adoption comes as a result of infertility. Many hopeful adoptive parents overlook the need to grieve their infertility prior to adopting. Processing and healing from your own infertility will allow you to have more emotional space and health for being an adoptive parent. We have all heard the culturally savvy phrases like, “Family is more than DNA,” and “Adoption makes a family.” Such phrases are positive, but the truth of the matter is that you have to be okay with your story. You have to own your story. Once you grieve and heal your own loss from infertility, you will not only be healthier to parent, but you will cherish the gift you have been given through adoption all the more. Please don’t overlook this part of the adoption journey as you prepare to be an adoptive parent.
Before you can be an adoptive parent, you must first immerse yourself in understanding what adoption really means, especially in terms of the adoption triad. As a reminder, the adoption triad includes the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. Each part of the adoption triad has its own unique set of challenges.
The Nuts and Bolts of Adoption in Tennessee
Expectant Parent Rights
You are the most important individual in the adoption process, and everything advances at your speed and permission. With the help of your adoption professional, you will review profiles of hopeful adoptive parents to determine who you would like to parent your child. Once this has taken place, your adoption professional will begin to facilitate the relationship between you and your prospective adoptive family. This process will progress with your desires and preferences at the forefront.
Relinquishment occurs after your child is born. Adoption in Tennessee mandates that birth parents wait until three days after the date of the child’s birth to give consent to adoption. The actual relinquishment of a child and consent to adoption must be done before a judge. Once this is completed before a judge, birth parents will swear that they are freely relinquishing their parental rights. The judge will also make sure that your decision to place your child for adoption was not done under any duress or coercion. Birth parents can change their mind within ten days of consenting to the adoption. As a result, nothing is finalized permanently until ten days after the relinquishment.
Birth Fathers in Tennessee
Birth mothers are legally required to provide the name of the birth father. Some states do not require this, which adds to Tennessee’s effort to be as thorough as possible. If the birth father is married to the birth mother, the birth father’s permission for adoption is legally required. If the man has begun the process to establish paternity, he is also required to give adoption consent. However, if the man is not married or has not started the process to establish paternity, he has no legal rights. An important note concerning birth fathers in Tennessee is that a punitive registry exists, which allows potential birth fathers to publicly announce their effort in establishing paternity.
Expectant Parent Expenses in Tennessee
Prospective adoptive parents can provide financial support to expectant parents to help with expenses related to pregnancy, birth, and the placement of the child. Some of these expenses include medical, legal, and counseling services. However, the expenses for counseling only cover up to one year after placement. Living expenses can also be included for up to ninety days prior to birth and forty-fives days after the consent to adopt. Your adoption professional will ensure the financial aspects are done ethically between both parties https://adoption.com/tennessee-adoption-guide.
Post-Placement Care in Tennessee
Post-placement is the phase that begins after you have placed your child for adoption. During this time, it is important to get the services you need. In this phase, you have gone from an expectant parent to a birth parent, since you have successfully placed your child for adoption. Your title changed, but your importance has not. Your adoption professional will facilitate the post-placement agreement you want to make with your child’s adoptive family. A post-placement agreement is an agreement about the ongoing contact between you, the child, and the adoptive parents. Post-placement agreements vary within each adoption, as they are specific to each family. Post-placement agreements include how much contact will be maintained after the adoption is finalized. In Tennessee, the law allows adoptive families full control in making decisions about post-placement agreement details such as contact and visitation with birth parents. As a birth parent, it is important for you to know that post-placement agreements are signed in good faith and are not legally enforceable.
Finalization in Tennessee
Six months will have to elapse between the time of placement and the time of finalization in Tennessee. Before finalization can occur, your rights as the biological parent must be terminated. Then, the adoptive parents, with legal assistance, will file a petition to adopt.
Post-Placement Care in Tennessee
Post-placement care is critical for the emotional health of birth parents. It would be naïve to think that once an adoption is completed that there is no residual grief. While your emotional health is important, post-placement counseling is also helpful in navigating the relationship between yourself, your child, and your child’s adoptive parents. Processing your adoption story and maintaining a healthy perspective for all members of the adoption triad—especially you as the birth parent—is paramount.
Now that you have a general understanding of the adoption process in Tennessee, you are better equipped to make a more informed decision about your adoption journey. As a hopeful adoptive parent or an expectant parent, adoption remains a choice you have. Make the most of it, and commit to being informed and open to how the journey of adoption will shape you and your family.
Sarah Beth is an adoptive mother through infant domestic adoption. She and her husband experienced six disrupted adoptions before meeting their son. Sarah Beth has experience walking alongside numerous expectant mothers and birth families. As an adoption advocate, she enjoys sharing her experiences in hopes of advocating for both birth and adoptive families and impacting the adoption community. When she is not with her family, she is busy as a middle school Assistant Principal. Sarah Beth enjoys reading, coffee, documentaries, and all things adoption related.