Do I have the right to see my child? Am I legally protected? Will I receive compensation? Can they change the baby’s name? Does the biological father have any rights? Does it make a difference if I am married, dating or single? Will I get in trouble if I do this? How does the adoption process work? Will my child have to go into foster care before placement?
These are just some of the questions that I had when I made the decision to put my son up for adoption. No matter how firm one is in their decision, it is still scary. I didn’t want to lose my legal rights until I knew where my son was going and I had to be sure that I had chosen who I was going to place him with.
In the state that I lived in, there were quite a few laws that I had to become aware of. Some examples are:
- Once I terminate my parental rights, I have lost all legal rights to my child. This meant that his parents could change his name, make medical decisions for him, and make any other legal decision they wanted for him. (They didn’t change his name. They have respected the immunization schedule. They have made amazing choices for him.)
- I was required to notify the birth father of the adoption in order to give him an opportunity to contest. He wasn’t on the birth certificate, he had never met my son, and he hadn’t signed an Affidavit of Parentage. None of those things mattered. I was required to notify him legally of the proceedings. (I was not in a relationship with the birth father beyond my first trimester of pregnancy.)
- The county court that we would appear in was determined by where the mother or the child lived. I actually moved to a different county during the proceedings so that my child wouldn’t have to go into foster care until he was placed with the family that I chose. I also moved because it would be harder for the birth father to win contesting the adoption. (He did contest, and pulled out at the last minute so that I could follow through with the adoption.)
- I have no legal rights to see my child. The open adoption agreement is not legally binding. My son’s parents set the boundaries and the communication level that they are comfortable with. (They are wonderful, by the way, and I receive updates and pictures every six months and I speak to my son on holidays and see him about once per year now.)
Don’t let anyone tell you what the law is, making sure that you know it for yourself. I was blessed in the fact that the adoption agency I used hired a very experienced lawyer. I highly recommend that you do your homework before choosing a lawyer and an adoption agency. Ask all of your questions up front and make sure you are comfortable with the information that you are receiving. I know that there are horror stories about adoption processes, but I believe a lot of that had to do with ignorance.
My adoption agent used to joke, “You always know what Lindsay is thinking because she doesn’t hold anything back.”
Sure, it’s funny, but it’s also true. I didn’t hold anything back with my adoption agent and I asked the lawyer every single question I had. I was active in the legal proceedings and made sure I understood what was going on. Because of the fact that I educated myself and was empowered in this area at the time, my son was placed directly from my arms to the arms of his parents. There was no foster care home that had to take him. His biological father didn’t win contesting.
I stress knowing the law for two reasons: it is what is best for the birth mother and it is what is best for the child. Be empowered. Be educated. Be verbal. Ask questions. Do your research. Know what is happening in your process. Make sure that you are comfortable with your adoption agent and that you actively pursue and stay in the loop.
Most of all, don’t give up. Get creative. I moved counties so we would stand a better chance in court. Once you know where your child is meant to be, I know you will do anything to get them there. After all, that is what we do as parents: we do absolutely everything we can to ensure the health, happiness, and success of our children.
– Lindsay Arielle
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption 7 years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.