Making the decision to place your child for adoption can be an overwhelming undertaking to even begin. Along with the emotional struggles any expectant parent may be facing, trying to weed through all the information available online might have you thinking, “What is the process of adoption?” If you are an expectant parent trying to decide if moving forward with an adoption plan is the right choice for you, this article can help you understand what that process could look like. Every adoption journey is different, however, and this article is only outlining the basics. Each state also has different laws regarding the details surrounding things like birth father rights and relinquishment paperwork. As a birth mother, I am writing this article to help another expectant parent, like I once was, figure out what is the process of adoption.
In order to even get to the place where adoption is something you may be considering for yourself and your child, you would first need to obviously be pregnant. Not only pregnant but be in a place where you are weighing the differences between the options of abortion, parenting, and placement. All three are valid options, but for the sake of this article, we will go straight to adoption.
Deciding to Place for Adoption
What qualifies someone for being able to place their child for adoption? There are no qualifications. Any expectant mother can make the decision to pursue adoption. If an expectant mother is single, married, a minor, a student, already parenting, a teacher, a nurse, or anything in between, she can choose to place her child for adoption. The circumstances of why a woman may choose adoption are also different for each person. Maybe she is not ready to be a parent yet, or maybe she never wants to be. Maybe she envisioned a two-parent home or a life with more access to education. Maybe things are not safe for the child, or the pregnancy stems from trauma. The reasons do not matter. All that does matter is an expectant mother has decided to place her child for adoption.
Once a woman decides on adoption, she might wonder what the adoption process is when it comes to the birth father? A man has just as many rights as a woman does, and generally speaking, he has to sign relinquishment papers for a legal adoption to occur. The adoption protocols in each state are another example of how different each story can be. In Texas, for instance, a man has to prove they are the father before being able to pursue contesting the adoption. He would need to prove that he is the biological father and that he can care for the child. This process would involve lawyers, courts, and the child unable to be legally adopted until the matter was sorted out. There is also a six-month statute of limitation for birth fathers. That means that after six months, a father cannot legally pursue any type of legal rights to the child. This situation is for men who may not find out about the child until after birth or for a mother who is unsure who the father could be. However, the six-month limit means men are held responsible if they suspect they may have fathered a child, and it is their obligation to find out if that is the case.
Choosing an Adoptive Family
Now that we have sorted out the decision-making process and the expectant father details let us move to the process of choosing an adoptive family. In keeping with our theme of different situations for each story, there are many ways an adoptive family can be selected.
In private adoptions, family members or friends of the family are often chosen. Any type of relative or acquaintance can adopt the child. A private adoption lawyer often facilitates these adoptions.
Expectant mothers who may not already have a family in mind often choose to work with an adoption agency. Working with an agency such as The Gladney Center for Adoption can ease the burden on an expectant mother because they can help with many different aspects of the adoption plan. They can not only help match with a prospective adoptive family, but they can also help with housing, medical costs, and other needs during pregnancy. In addition, the agency will take care of all the legal paperwork and help with post-placement agreements.
Choosing an Adoption Agency
It is particularly important for us to stop here and discuss ethical adoption practices. An agency is there to help the expectant mother during and after the adoption process. An agency should never, under any circumstance, make an expectant mother feel obligated to place her child for adoption. There should never be any pressure, guilt, or coercion placed upon an expectant mother, or father for that matter. Unfortunately, some agencies use certain tactics to make a woman feel obligated to place their child for adoption after accepting services or help during pregnancy, but that is absolutely not the case. You can change your mind and decide to parent or go with another agency at any time. Even after birth, you can decide not to move forward with the adoption and do not owe anyone anything. If you feel any type of pressure being placed upon you to pursue adoption, please do not hesitate to question these practices or reach out to a third party for help.
Back to how an agency can help assist you in your journey of answering what is the adoption process. If you decide to utilize the services offered by an ethical adoption agency, like Gladney, they can really help streamline the things you have on your plate during your pregnancy. For me, I was able to spend my time focusing on things like selecting the adoptive family versus worrying about all the legal legwork. Working with an agency also helps with family selection because your caseworker can help match you with families that meet the criteria you are looking for. For example, I wanted a two-parent home with other children who wanted an open adoption. Those were the only profile books I looked at. A profile is a physical or digital book the prospective adoptive family puts together to help you as the expectant parent get an idea of who they are and their lifestyle. It is immensely helpful for many to have a picture to put in their heads of what kind of life their child might live with that family.
After you select a family to place your child with, relationships can differ through this time. Some women do not select the family until after the child is born, while others choose early on in the process. Whatever that relationship looks like is up to you, as are the circumstances and how they unfold when a woman gives birth and the days following.
For myself, I selected the family when I was around seven months pregnant, and we met several times during the remainder of my pregnancy. After I gave birth, I did not see them again until my child was five days old. That was the length of time I chose to wait until I signed the relinquishment papers. During that time, my child was in transitional care.
Transition care is where your child will live until the paperwork is signed and the child can go home with their adoptive parents. These are families similar to foster care, and they care for the children while adoption paperwork is finalized. Sometimes this paperwork takes place in the hospital, and the baby can go directly home with their parents; other times, it can be several weeks while paperwork is worked out, usually pertaining to the birth father.
I chose to spend the days with my child, to make some memories of that time together and be sure my decision was the right one. Again, if you ever find yourself in a situation where an agency or lawyer is pressing you to sign, remember that you are 100 percent in control until you sign the relinquishment papers.
After the paperwork is signed and your child is safely in their new home, you are now in what is called post-placement. Post-placement means you have already completed the adoption. I am now 15 years post-placement.
What is the adoption process when it comes to this time period? Every single birth mom has a different experience. An agency can prove helpful in this area by helping navigate this difficult time. The majority of the states in America do not have legal agreements to define what level of communication happens between birth parents and their birth children. Still, it is extremely beneficial to the adoptee and the birth parents to maintain some level of communication if they so wish. This is typically something you would think about while choosing an adoptive family so you can be matched with a family that would like something similar. Open or semi-open adoptions are more commonly seen now versus the majority of closed adoption in the past.
There are many different examples of what post-placement agreements can look like. You may agree to meet with your birth child and their family once a year or more or less. Sometimes these things are not pre-planned but just have a general agreement to remain in contact throughout the years. Sometimes the contact just means that you would receive an update on your child’s life once per year. Sometimes, what starts off as once a year will fade into something less or something more. Receiving updates is something that birth parents live and breathe for, so staying true to your word as an adoptive parent is of utmost importance. Post-adoption agreements can change in the same way that your relationship with the adoptive parents can change. All relationships have ups and downs, and yours will, too, as you navigate through the tricky post-adoption waters. Having open and honest communication can help any major problems before they can even begin.
For birth parents, making sure to take care of yourself and your mental health post-placement is a top priority. Choosing to place your child for adoption is like choosing to live your life without a vital organ and doing it willingly. Grief, loss, and trauma all play a large role in adoption, and making sure you have access to counseling or support from other birth parents can make that journey more manageable. A good agency will offer lifelong support to birth parents and be available through the years as their post-placement journey ebbs and flows. Just like each topic we talked about today, how someone processes their grief is an individual journey. Please do not be afraid to let yourself feel whatever you might be feeling because there are no wrong ways to feel about this difficult decision. Connecting with other birth parents can help you realize you are not alone in this season of life. Making sure to set yourself up for success in dealing with these emotions can have a lasting positive impact on your life.
Making the choice to place your child for adoption is difficult but can be rewarding to all involved if done properly. Hopefully, you have learned from this article what the adoption process can look like, although it can look many different ways for different people. Being transparent, selecting an ethical adoption agency, and staying true to yourself and what you think is best for your child are the most important aspects to remember during this time. Reach out to an agency like Gladney today if you think this journey is the right one for you.Are you considering adoption and want to give your child the best life possible? Let us help you find an adoptive family that you love. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.
Lacy Davis is a birth mom who enjoys educating and speaking about how adoption has shaped her life. She has spent time connecting with other birth moms at local support groups and has spoken on panels educating prospective adoptive parents. She grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and placed her child for adoption in 2006. In her free time, she is an avid reader and enjoys watching Law and Order episodes on repeat as well as spending time outdoors with her husband and two children.