Adoption laws vary from state to state and so do birth parent rights. Below are just a few of the universal rights in open adoption that are either misunderstood or not commonly known.
Right to counseling
Many states require at least one counseling session prior to a birth parent signing consent paperwork to an adoption. This is typically done with an experienced social worker who specializes in adoption and working with birth parents. The counselor usually discusses alternatives to adoption, explores why a birth parent has chosen adoption, and may also talk about the adoptive family the birth parent has chosen. Most states also permit adoptive parents to cover the cost of birth parent counseling with a licensed therapist. This counseling can happen before and after the baby is born.
Naming the baby
In virtually every state, the birth parent has the right in open adoption to name the baby and to have that name appear on the baby’s original birth certificate. After the adoption is finalized, a new birth certificate is issued with the name the adoptive parents give the child. Frequently, birth parents and adoptive parents will talk about the names they plan for the child. Sometimes the adoptive parents will keep the name the birth parent has chosen or will incorporate this name into the child’s middle name.
Spending time with the baby in the hospital
Birth parents absolutely have the right in open adoption to be with their child in the hospital, to hold and feed and spend quality time with the child. You are your baby’s parent until you say otherwise. Unfortunately, some hospital workers will give birth parents the impression that they cannot see or spend time with the baby. Some will also come right out and tell birth parents that they should stay away to give the adoptive parents time to bond. While these workers may be well-meaning, they are wrong. The time a birth parent spends with the baby can be critical to the grief and healing process. It is also an opportunity for the birth parents and adoptive parents to share in the moment of their child’s birth, the shared love and respect for each other, and the basis for building a trusting relationship with each other.
Changing your mind about the adoption
A birth parent cannot sign consents to an adoption until after the baby is born, and usually, after the birth parent has been discharged from the hospital. This is true in almost every state. Each state also has its own laws about how much time a birth parent has to revoke her consent to an adoption. This can range from 24 hours to 30 days. Once this revocation period has passed, you cannot change your mind about the adoption. We always recommend that a birth parent wait until she is absolutely sure about the adoption before signing anything. There is no law that says when a birth parent has to sign their consent, only that a certain amount of time must first pass.
Contact with the baby and adoptive family
Most open adoptions will include a plan for contact before birth, after the baby is born, and beyond. This can include photos, letters, phone calls, and in-person visits. Many states have court-enforceable contact agreements that are filed with the adoption paperwork when the adoption is finalized.
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