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Can I keep my baby even if I’ve accepted financial assistance?

Dear Megan,

Hi, I’m a birth mom, giving my baby up for adoption, and I’ve accepted financial assistance from the agency.  I thought I had my mind made up a couple months ago, but now I’m not so sure.  My baby’s kicks are getting stronger, and now I can feel my self starting to attach.  I don’t know where or who to go to for legal advice because I’m not working right now.  If I do go to the agency I’m working with, I know she will be like “they are willing to help you pay your bills etc.”  I don’t think she would see where I’m coming from.  Honestly I’m scared and don’t know what to do.  This didn’t come to mind until a few days ago.  I also really like the adoptive parents.  They are really good people and I don’t want to hurt them.  Can you help me please?  – D.J.

Dear D.J.,

It’s not totally clear to me what you’re asking, so I’m going to answer based on what I think you should know regarding financial assistance and attaching.

Ask the agency for your own attorney if you’ve accepted financial assistance from the agency.

First, you should have an attorney help you through this.  You have a right to ask for this, and the adoptive parents will cover the cost of this representation.  Your attorney should be your independent legal counsel, not someone who works for the agency.  It’s critical that you understand your legal rights and what the consequences will be if you decide to parent your baby.  The laws in every state are different.

You can change your mind about the adoption even if you’ve accepted money from the agency

You absolutely have the right, before you sign paperwork, to change your mind about the adoption and to parent your baby.  This is true even if you accept money from the agency.  Every agency knows that a mother might change her mind about the adoption even if they’ve accepted money, and the agencies are willing to take this risk.  If you are unable to pay this money back, consider making a plan to do so over time.  I believe this is the ethical thing to do, if you are able, though it is not required by law.  I’m not aware of laws in any state that require you pay the money back.

can I keep my baby if I've accepted financial assistanceConsider what’s best for you and your baby.  Don’t consider the fact that you’ve accepted money.

You might feel bad about accepting money and then changing your mind about the adoption.  I think it makes sense that you’d feel bad about it, but I also think that you were put in a tough position when the agency offered you this assistance.  It is almost too tempting for a pregnant woman in crisis to accept financial assistance.  These same women might later feel pressured to give their babies up for adoption.  You should consider only what is best for you and your baby when choosing adoption.  The money you’ve accepted should not be a consideration.

The parents you have chosen will recover from the loss if you choose to parent.  You might not recover from the loss of your child.  Put yourself and your child first.

I have no doubt that the parents you have chosen are wonderful people.  I also believe that they only want to do this adoption if it’s what you really want.  If you decide NOT to go through with it, the adoptive parents will almost certainly be disappointed.   But I can also promise you that they will move forward from this and recover.  There’s a good chance they will find a different mother who will place her baby with them.  If you aren’t sure about adoption and give your baby up, you might not be able to move forward from the regret and grief.  Don’t worry about the adoptive parents as you make this choice.

Just because you’ve attached to your baby doesn’t mean adoption isn’t the right choice for you

Finally, attaching to your baby is really common.  In most cases its unavoidable.  This doesn’t mean, however, that adoption isn’t right for you.  I strongly encourage you to speak with a counselor about this.  Ask the agency to provide you with a counseling referral.  It should be someone who does not work for the agency and is not associated with the agency.  You need to talk with someone who is totally unbiased and has your emotional well-being and best interests at heart.

You are in a really difficult and vulnerable position.  I hope that you have friends or family that support you and who you can talk to as well.  Don’t rely entirely on the agency for this.  They work for the adoptive parents and might be biased.  You need your own team of support, including an attorney and a counselor.  I’m so glad you reached out and hope that this was helpful to you.

All my best, Megan

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Sincerely,

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Megan Cohen, Birth Attorney

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