Let’s face it; there are numerous adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, and adoptive families out there to choose from for assisting you with your adoption plan. As a potential birth mother, you will carry your own expectations and goals during and after placement. This is what makes you stand out, and what makes your decision extraordinary. The reasons for why you are choosing adoption are what make your decision even more special. Every birth mother has a story to tell, and each story is remarkably different. An important aspect that potential birth mothers should focus on is their total confidence in the decision they are making. This is why it is imperative to choose honest and reputable adoption agencies that advocate for you. Below is an important list to look over during the adoption process, so that you are confident in your decision:
LOOK FOR ADOPTION AGENCIES AND/OR ATTORNEYS THAT…
- Carry the same moral views as you do regarding all aspects of your unborn child, adoption, and parenting
- Care about your wishes and expectations before and after the adoption process
- Answer all your questions and concerns honestly
- Can show you a certification or license to provide adoption services
ASK ADOPTION AGENCIES or ADOPTION ATTORNEYS…
- What kind of children do they place (ages, backgrounds, etc.)?
- How many children have they placed in the past few years?
- How will they conduct searches for the birth father if needed?
- What kind of training is provided for the adoptive parents, and do they offer support classes for the birth mother and birth father?
- What criteria does the adoption agency use to match children with families?
- What type of adoptive parents do they seek?
- How long, on average, must one wait for a child?
- What does the home study entail?
- If an adoptive parent learns of a child in another state, will the adoption agency pursue the child?
- How much does a completed adoption cost — in total and each part?
- Can the adoption agency help me with sources of financial aid, including subsidies before or after relinquishment (free housing, clothing, food costs, etc)?
- What if the adoption doesn’t work out? Exactly when is my final decision set in stone?
- Can the adoption agency or attorney provide references from birth mothers who have placed through them?
- What resources do they provide that birth parents can connect to before or after placement?
- Do they provide adoption counseling services by an unbiased social worker, or a therapist that supports the birth parents’ interests?
- Can they guarantee in a formal agreement what has been agreed upon during the adoption process, and what is expected after the birth parents have signed papers for relinquishment?
DURING YOUR ADOPTION PROCESS…
- Do not rely on any verbal promise of an open adoption plan as a basis for your decision to relinquish your parental rights. Whether it is annual updates of pictures, letters, or visitation rights, your decision should never be based on such promises, as they may not be enforceable by law in some states. There are legal steps that a birth mother can take to enforce an open adoption plan, including putting the terms in writing, making it an express condition precedent to the effectiveness of the relinquishment, referencing it in court documents, and selecting a state’s law to apply where open adoption agreements are enforceable. 1
- Be wary of adoption agencies that push you to look at prospective adoptive parent profiles immediately upon you seeking their counsel. First, explore your parenting alternatives, such as the possibility of the birth father or another family member’s interest in parenting the child before choosing an outside family.
- Be careful of adoption agencies or attorneys who tell you that you should not seek advice from your family, friends, or trusted professionals. Requesting advice from others is your prerogative. If someone is rushing you past people in your support group, they may be rushing you into a decision you are not ready to make.
- Be careful of agencies that push total involvement of prospective parents during your pregnancy, delivery, and recovery. You may want time to be alone with your baby after the delivery to reassess your previous decision.
- Be careful of adoption agencies or attorneys that tell you it is okay to lie to a birth father (or anyone for that matter).
- Be careful of any adoption agency or attorney that tells you that you can keep your intentions a secret from the birth father in hopes that he either does not find out, or finds a way to timely protect his rights. If an adoption agency or attorney tells you to do such things, they may be “cutting corners” in other areas, and you may find yourself stuck in a long hard-fought legal battle. Transparency is needed for a healthy and safe adoption process. 1
- Be careful of any adoption agency or attorney who tells you exactly how to fill out paperwork pertaining to the adoption; especially in a manner that is not a hundred percent accurate.
- Be careful of adoption agencies or attorneys who read or explain important adoption documents to you, but do not give you comfortable time to read the documents yourself before you sign or ask questions about it.
- Do not work with adoption agencies that want to induce you before your due date. Odds are they are encouraging you to place your child for adoption prematurely in order to beat a clock. Either this, or they want to minimize the window of opportunity for others to get involved and change your mind (because they perceive your decision as tenuous), as well as reduce the amount of time the birth father has to file to protect his parental rights. Such disingenuous approaches to the process challenge the validity of the placement.1
- Be careful of any adoption agency or attorney willing to just hand you a wad of cash at the time of relinquishment, instead of paying your living expenses directly to those whom it is due, like your landlord. Any agency willing to engage in such a questionable practice may be “cutting corners” elsewhere, and you may not know where until it is too late. 1
- Never sign relinquishment papers before giving birth.
*The above information does not concern state-initiated adoptions in child neglect, dependency, abuse cases, etc.
YOUR PRE-ADOPTION COUNSELING SHOULD…
- Make you aware of any problems or uncertainties surrounding your decision, and help you find solutions that work for you
- Advocate for you, and not just the organization for which they work
- Bring up questions pertaining to why you are choosing adoption
- Explore your fears and see if they are a product of doubt, or if there is any truth to them
- Be tailored to your current situation
YOUR POST ADOPTION COUNSELING SHOULD…
- Be supportive and non-judgmental
- Aim to work out any difficulties or uncertainties you may have
- Aim to find positive alternatives or solutions in dealing with any uncertainties you may have
- Help you sort out your feelings (whether positive or negative) regarding your decision
- Be tailored to your current situation