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If You Regret Adoption, Can You Get Your Child Back?

For most birth parents, the placement of a child is the hardest decision they’ve ever had to make. But it’s a choice that they feel was in the best interests of their child — no matter how much it hurt. Few birth parents experience lasting regret over their adoption decision, but some do.

So, if you later regret your decision to place your child for adoption, and you hope to regain parental rights, what are your options? Is it possible to get your baby back after an adoption?

The answer is: Rarely. Adoptions are meant to be permanent. Nobody wants a child to experience any more disruption and trauma than is necessary.

However, reversing an adoption is possible in some situations. Before you do anything else, you’ll need to understand the window of time when you can legally revoke your consent and potentially regain custody. This article is here to help.

Below, we’ll explore some of the feelings you may be experiencing right now, and walk you through the options that may be available:

Is This Grief or Is This Regret?

You put no small amount of thought, effort and sacrifice into your decision to place your child for adoption. Even if, at the time, you felt fully confident that this was the best decision for you and your child, you may experience moments of regret.

When we experience loss, such as placing a child, we often go through the stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Sometimes, denial can come in the form of wanting to go back to life before placement, so you can stop feeling these painful emotions. You might bargain with yourself; if you regain custody of your child, you’ll get a new job, leave your relationship, or otherwise improve your situation. Other times, your adoption regret may stem from depression and sadness over the loss of your child.

So how can you tell if what you’re feeling right now is part of the normal grieving process, or if it’s regret? Self-reflection is usually the best place to start.

When you think, “I want my baby back,” stop and take a moment to identify what you’re feeling. Try to put a name to that feeling, and then try to identify why you’re feeling this way. This may help you determine if these thoughts are a natural (if painful) part of the normal grieving process, or a more serious sign of regret in your decision.

After the placement of a child, you’ll hurt for however long it takes to heal. Most birth parents do heal from their loss with time. However, if you think these feelings may be a sign of regret rather than grief, it’s time to learn about your options.

Understanding Your Legal Options

Each state establishes its own laws regarding when birth parent consent may be executed and at what point that consent becomes irrevocable. These laws give prospective birth parents plenty of time to decide whether or not they want to move forward with giving consent after the birth of their baby — and then adds yet more time to ensure that the birth parents still feel confident in their decision.

Depending on the state you live in and how long it’s been since placement, you may or may not still be able to legally revoke your consent. However, if the legal window of time has already passed, your decision is almost always permanent.

What to Do If You’re Able to Revoke Consent

If you’re still within the legal window where you can revoke your consent, inform your attorney immediately.

You may still be able to petition the court, even after the legal revocation period has passed. There are some instances where the adoption can be examined by a judge, and if you have a very definitive reason why the adoption should be reversed, then they may consider returning your parental rights.

When a birth parent decides to contest their adoption decision later, the court will determine whether or not the child’s current placement is within the child’s best interests or not. It’s important to note that it’s very rare for an adoption to be reversed, because the child has likely been with their (adoptive) family the longest.

What to Do If You’re Not Legally Able to Reverse Your Decision

If regaining your parental rights is not a legal option in your situation, it can be a very difficult thing to hear. Coming to terms with the permanency of the placement will take time.

Not all decisions can be reversed, and the past can’t always be changed. Instead of dwelling on “should have”s or “might have been”s, all you can do is focus on the future. Remember that:

  • You can still be a part of your child’s life through open adoption, even if that role isn’t parental.
  • You made the initial choice for a reason. Remember the reasons that brought you to adoption in the first place.
  • You chose your child’s parents for a reason. What was it about his or her parents that made you choose them?
  • Your child’s parents love, care for and support your child just as much as you.
  • Raising an adopted child is, in some ways, a team effort. Your child will want their birth parents in their life in addition to their (adoptive) parents.
  • You should seek support when you need it, whether that’s from your adoption specialist or from fellow birth parents.
  • You will heal from this, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

If you’re unsure whether or not you’re feeling regret about your adoption decision, reach out to your adoption professional for counseling and support. You should also reach out to your adoption attorney to learn what options are legally available to you in your situation.