Questions about Adoption: Birth Mothers’ Questions Answered
If you are pregnant and not yet ready for the full responsibilities of motherhood; you may be considering all available options. The following are answers to some commonly asked questions by birthmothers about the adoption process. The laws differ from state to state. Answers are according to Ohio laws.
Q.: I don’t have much money. How much would an adoption cost me?
A.: An adoption does not cost you anything. This is true if you are a single birth mother or if you and the birth father are both involved in making a plan of adoption for your child. All the costs associated with the adoption, such as counseling fees, lawyers and agency expenses, hospital and doctor expenses, pre-natal vitamins and, in most cases, maternity clothes, are covered by the adoptive family.
Q.: Might I actually get paid for placing my baby for adoption?
A.: No. It is illegal for a birth mother to get paid for placing a baby for adoption. The birth mother’s adoption-related expenses are paid, however.
Q.: I don’t want anyone to know that I plan to place my baby for adoption. Can this be kept confidential?
A.: Yes. If you want the fact that you’ve placed your baby for adoption to be kept confidential, that is up to you, and your decision will be respected.
Q.: Do I have to tell my parents – or anyone else – about my plans to place my baby for adoption?
A.: No. We do encourage girls to tell their parents, because parents may be able to provide good support and advice. If you do not want your parents to be informed, however, that is your choice to make and we will respect your decision.
Q.: What if I’m underage? Can I still decide to place my baby for adoption?
A.: Yes. The law considers you to be an adult if you are making a decision about whether or not to place your baby for adoption, even if you are underage. Therefore, you don’t need your parents’ permission to place the baby for adoption. We do recommend that you talk with an attorney, even if you’re working through an adoption agency. We also recommend that you receive counseling through the process.
Q.: If I talk with an attorney, won’t the attorney pressure me and try to talk me into something I do not want to do?
A.: No, not usually. Adoptive families understand the problems they could face, down the road if the birth mother places the baby for adoption in response to pressure, when it is not what she really wants to do. Our law office exists to provide a service, and birth mothers must be given a lot of space to make a free and unpressured decision.
Q.: I haven’t spoken with the baby’s father for quite a while. Do I have to tell him that I’m pregnant and am considering placing the baby for adoption?
A.: No. You don’t have to tell him anything. Ohio law says that, if a boy or man has had sex with a girl or woman, and, as a result, that girl or woman becomes pregnant, she does not have the duty to call him to let him know. He is the one who has the duty to contact the girl or woman to ask how she is doing and to find out if she is pregnant. If he fails to contact her during the period of time that ends one month after the baby’s birth, then the birth mother has no obligation to tell him about the child.
Q.: Under what circumstances might the birth father have rights to our child?
A.: The birth father’s rights depend upon how he acts during your pregnancy. For example, if he called you following intercourse and said he wanted a relationship, or if, when he found out you were pregnant, he asked you to marry him, or he has given you financial and emotional support throughout your pregnancy; then we need his consent for the adoption. If, on the other hand, he has not called or shown any interest, and it’s been a month since the child was born, then the birth father’s rights are automatically terminated. However, most of the time, the father’s actions fall somewhere between those two scenarios, so determining whether he has rights can be tricky
Q.: What is the Putative Father Registry, and how might it affect me as the baby’s mother?
A.: A “putative father” is a man who may be the father of a child, but who either is not married to the child’s mother by the time the child is born or has not established his paternity through a court or administrative proceeding or by completing an acknowledgment of paternity affidavit before an adoption petition for the child is filed. The Registry was established to determine the identity and location of a putative father so that the putative father can be notified before an adoption petition is filed. If a man does not register with the Putative Father Registry before the child’s birth or no later than 30 days after the child’s birth, the child could be permanently adopted without the putative father’s knowledge or consent.
Q.: Can the baby’s father keep me from having the baby, even though I want to continue the pregnancy?
Q.: Can the baby’s father keep me from placing the baby for adoption?
A.: Yes, but only if he has established the right to be consulted about the adoption. If he has been sufficiently involved and shown enough concern during your pregnancy, then you must have his consent before you can place your baby for adoption. If he refuses to give his consent, he can prevent the adoption from taking place. He cannot, however, eliminate your parental rights. Also, he cannot force you to consent to having him or his parent(s) adopt the baby. If he were to refuse to consent to the adoption, you and he would share parenting time and duties.
Q.: What if his mother wants to keep the baby, but I don’t want her to? Can I keep her from getting the baby?
A.: Yes. If you give birth in Ohio, the law considers the baby to be your child. Grandparents do not have rights without a court order. If you do not want his mother to raise the child, she cannot force you to allow her to adopt your baby.
Q.: What if I’m not entirely sure which of two men (or more) the father of my baby is? Who has parental rights in this case?
A.: You do and the birth father, whoever he may be, if he steps forward and emotionally and financially supports you throughout your pregnancy. If neither man steps forward to emotionally and financially support you during your pregnancy, then neither has any rights and you do not need the consent of either to place your baby for adoption. If both men have supported you emotionally and financially, you can have DNA testing done to determine which is the father. Once the baby’s parentage is determined, the father can be asked if he will agree to an adoption, or if he wants to take parental responsibility.
Q.: What if the father asked me to marry him, but I told him to get out of my life? Does he have rights anyway?
A.: Yes, he does. If his intentions are to emotionally and financially support you, and he tries to but you prevent him from doing so, then the law considers that he has fulfilled his duty and you would need his consent in order to place your baby for adoption.
Q.: What if I love him and want to keep his baby? Would he have to pay child support?
A.: Most likely he would. If you decide to keep your baby rather than to place the baby for adoption, but he does not want to be involved in rearing the child, you would probably want to file a paternity action with the court. The court would order that he be given a DNA test to confirm that he is the father. If he is proven to be the father, then the court would order him to pay child support.
Q.: Who decides who gets to adopt my baby?
A.: As is generally true in private adoptions, if you place your baby for adoption through my office, you are the one who makes that decision.
Q.: How can I decide who should be the parents of my baby?
A.: Of course this is an important decision, so you should base your choice on factors that matter to you. It is wise to think carefully about what you value. How much do factors such as the adoptive parents’ race, lifestyle or economic status matter to you? Are you concerned about the adoptive parents’ religious orientation or whether there are other children in the family? To help you decide what you value in adoptive parents, you can review the “life books” prepared by families who wish to adopt a child. These life books give you a picture of what a prospective adoptive family is like. You can contact them by phone and ask them questions. Also, you can meet with them and interview them.
Q.: How can I know if what the prospective adoptive parents write in their life book is true?
A.: Before a baby is placed for adoption with adoptive parents, they must be approved through a home study. In a home study, a social worker visits the family’s home, observes and talks with family members, and does a psychological evaluation to determine if the prospective adoptive parents would make good parents. The social worker then writes a report that becomes a legal document. In addition to evaluating the parents’ suitability, the social worker must verify marriage certificates, divorce decrees, income tax returns, employer verification, letters of reference, birth certificates, financial statements, income records and medical records. The social worker also must conduct a criminal background check on the prospective parents and make sure that there is no history of child abuse. Any prospective parents who have been approved for adoption will have gone through a thorough screening process before you see their life book.
Q.: If I decide not to meet the prospective adoptive parents before choosing them to adopt my baby, but then change my mind, can I still meet with them?
Q.: What if I decide I never want to meet the adoptive parents? Do I have to do that at some point anyway?
A.: No. This is your adoption. You set the rules within the boundaries of the law. You don’t have to meet the adoptive parents if you don’t want to.
Q.: My friend told me that some adoptions are closed and some are open. What does that mean?
A.: In an “open” adoption, you meet the adoptive parents, you know their first and last names and their contact information (such as a phone number and an address). In a “closed” adoption, you choose not to meet the adoptive parents and receive no information that identifies them. In practice, most adoptions are “semi-open,” meaning that you have met the adoptive parents but do not choose to know their last name(s) or have their contact information. Whether an adoption is “closed” or “open” or somewhere in between depends on what is comfortable for both you and the adoptive parents.
Q.: Can I decide to keep the adoption totally closed, so that I don’t know who the adoptive parents are and they don’t know who I am?
A.: If you feel very strongly that you want your adoption to be totally closed, then you can choose this option. A totally closed adoption is rare these days. Most birth mothers prefer to know something about the adoptive parents, and most adoptive parents wish to know something about the birth mother. However, there are adoptive parents who will consider a totally closed adoption.
Q.: What if I want a very open adoption that includes some sort of ongoing relationship with my child?
A.: Many open adoptions are set up this way. If you decide you would like to have a continuing relationship with your child after the adoption, make sure you select adoptive parents who are receptive to an open adoption and encourage you to maintain some kind of relationship with the child. You should be aware, though, that, when you place your child for adoption, you must terminate your parental rights. This means that, if you do have an ongoing relationship with the child, you will not be considered the child’s mother. The adoptive parents have the right and responsibility to make all decisions about the child’s welfare just the same as if the child had been born to them.
Q.: What will my baby know about me as he or she grows older?
A.: How much your baby will know about you will depend on what you tell the adoptive parents about yourself, what you ask the adoptive parents to tell the child about you, and what they decide to tell the child about you. The trend in adoptions today is to tell adopted children the truth. Most adoptive parents are open about the adoption and, when appropriate, share information with the child when he or she asks for it.
Q.: What if the adoptive parents agree to an open adoption, but then do not communicate with me after promising they would?
A.: Not every adoptive couple is open to adoption, so if you want an open adoption, you should choose a family that is willing to consider an open adoption. Also, before the baby is born, you should discuss with the adoptive parents what an open adoption means to you and to them. Even if they agree to an open adoption before they adopt the baby, they do not have a legal duty to continue with that agreement. If they start, at some point, to feel uncomfortable with the level of openness in the adoption, they do not have to continue to communicate with you. In my experience, however, every adoptive couple that has agreed tohave some level of openness and communication has abided by that agreement.
Q.: What if, after the baby is born, I suddenly change my mind about going through with the adoption. How long after the baby’s birth do I have before I lose my chance to back out?
A.: In Ohio, you must wait 72 hours after the baby’s birth before you consent to placing the baby for adoption. You cannot consent to an adoption before 72 hours after birth. If you consent to the adoption after the 72-hour period, and then change your mind, you still can revoke (take back) your consent, but you only have one year after the adoption is finalized to revoke your consent to the adoption. If you decide to revoke your consent, you must hire an attorney and the court will decide your case based on what is in the best interests of the baby. In Ohio, it is very difficult to go through this process, and to convince the court that it is in the baby’s best interests for the baby to be taken from the adoptive parents and returned to you. It is very important that, before you make a plan of adoption for your child, you think carefully about your decision and do not consent to the adoption unless you’re sure it’s what you want.
Q.: Who determines where I give birth?
A.: You do. You can select the hospital where you feel most comfortable.
Q.: What happens once I’m in the hospital?
A.: Within the bounds of hospital regulations, that’s up to you. Each person is different and each hospital has different rules and regulations. When you go to the hospital, our office notifies the hospital and the nursing staff about the adoption so there are no awkward moments for you. We try to make you feel as comfortable as we can. Some birth mothers ask to be kept on a separate floor from the baby. Sometimes the birth mother wants to breast feed the baby. Birth mothers are usually released from the hospital within 24 hours if there are no complications. It is completely up to the birth mother to decide if she wants the adoptive family there during the first 72 hours after the baby’s birth, whether or not she authorizes the adoptive family to keep the baby’s hospital bracelet, or if she just wants to have the baby alone for the three days.
Q.: Will the adoptive parents be with me in the hospital?
A.: That’s up to you. You may want the adoptive parents to be at the hospital with you and present throughout the birth process, and many adoptive parents will agree to help and support you through the process. If, however, you prefer those three days to be private for you and your family, you may choose that instead (and many birth mothers do choose this). The adoptive parents will only come to the hospital if you ask them to come. If you don’t want them to come, they won’t. If you decide you want to see them at the hospital and show them the baby, it is likely they will come.
Q.: Can the adoptive parents be in the delivery room with me?
A.: Yes, if you choose. If you want them to be in the delivery room with you, they can be. If you don’t want them to be there, then they will not be.
Q.: Can I see and hold my baby after I give birth?
A.: Of course! You can see and hold and hug and love the baby. This is your child. Many psychologists say that this is good for the baby and for the mother, and it may give you some closure after the birth experience.
Q.: How much time will I have with my baby before I have to place him or her for adoption?
A.: You can have as much time as you want to be with the baby before placing him or her for adoption. The law says the child cannot be placed before 72 hours has passed, but you may want more time than that to make your decision. If you want more time, you can take it. You have as much time as you want and need with the child before placing the child for adoption.
Q.: Can I take the baby home before I place him or her for adoption?
A.: Yes, you can, but this is usually not recommended, and most birth mothers do not take the baby home after birth and during the time before placing the baby for adoption. It is your child, though, and you can make this decision for yourself.
Q.: If I get out of the hospital within 24 hours and decide not to take the baby home with me, what happens to the baby for the rest of the 72 hours until I can give my consent for the adoption?
A.: The attorney and the hospital usually make provisions for the baby to stay in the hospital during that 72-hour period.
Q.: What if I change my mind and, after the baby is born, I decide not to place my child for adoption after all?
A.: Then you will take the baby home when you are discharged from the hospital.
Q.: What if I just can’t decide? What are my options, and where does the baby go in the meantime?
A.: You can choose to place the baby in foster care while you make your decision, but you will have to pay for the foster care during that time. You can also choose to take the baby home with you while you make your decision, or you can give the baby to a relative to take care of while you make up your mind. Keep in mind, though, that it is not good for the baby for you to prolong your decision; the child needs a committed, loving parent as soon as possible.
Q.: Assuming I decide to go through with the adoption, how does it work?
A.: After the 72 hours has passed, a social worker will either come to your home or meet you in the social worker’s office, according to where you feel more comfortable. If, after the 72 hours has passed, you have decided to go through with the adoption, you will relinquish your parental rights to the adoptive parents and consent to the adoption. You relinquish your rights through an attorney, in which case you will give your consent in court, or through a social worker, in which case you will relinquish your rights to an adoption agency.
Some birth mothers like to have a “handing over” ceremony to mark the occasion of your relinquishing of parental rights to the adoptive parents. If you decide you want a ceremony, this can be done at the hospital chapel. During such a ceremony, you would physically pick up your child and hand it over to the adoptive parents. Sometimes people exchange gifts or poems, etc. Some birth mothers like to have the baby baptized, and then hand the child over to the adoptive parents in the church. Some birth mothers prefer not to have any kind of handing over ceremony and would rather not even be at the hospital when the adoptive parents come to the hospital to pick up the baby.
Q.: Can I create whatever type of handing-over ceremony I want?
A.: Yes. This is your adoption. You can have as much say in how the adoption is handled as you want, within legal bounds.
Q.: What are some options for a handing-over ceremony?
A.: Some birth mothers create a very elaborate ceremony that includes baptizing the baby in church and then handing the baby over to the adoptive family. Other birth mothers opt to read a poem in a very simple handing-over ceremony in the hospital chapel. Still others do not choose to be present when the adoptive family picks up the baby. You can choose how you want to handle this based on what makes you feel best.
Q.: What if I don’t want to see the adoptive parents, or even the baby?
A.: You do not have to see the baby or the family. You should talk this over with your counselor and do what is best for you.
Q.: Does the adoptive family take the baby to their home right from the hospital?
A.: In most cases, yes, but it depends on the choices you make. If you decide to take the baby home or have a relative care for the baby during the 72-hour waiting period, or you decide to have a handing-over ceremony at a place other than the hospital, then the adoptive family will take the baby from whatever location you choose.
Q.: Will my baby hate me when he or she gets older?
A.: Most adoptions now are handled with truth and integrity, and most birth mothers choose to write a letter to the child saying something like this: “I do love you and I do want what’s best for you. Right now I am not in a position to take care of myself, much less to properly give you everything you deserve as an innocent child.” Many birth mothers are not in a position, either financially or emotionally, to properly care for a child. In placing a child for adoption, a birth parent is doing what she believes is in the child’s best interests. In my experience, most adopted children understand this and are grateful to have been placed in a loving, stable family.
Q.: Do I have to write a letter to the child?
A.: No. This is only a recommendation, but if you don’t feel up to it, or just don’t want to, you certainly don’t need to do it. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, other than consent to the adoption or relinquish your rights to the child, assuming you have decided to place your baby for adoption.
Q.: What do I do if I have more questions or want to meet a possible adoptive family?
A.: Pick up the phone and call (888) 34-ADOPT. We are here to help you.