25 Factors to Consider When Adopting from the United States (Private Domestic Adoption)
Click on each factor to learn more. Current as of July, 2014. This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an agency for the most current information.
Private domestic adoption is also known as birth mother placement, birth mother relinquishment, or domestic newborn adoption. Each state and territory in the US has separate and different laws that govern how parents can relinquish their parental rights for their child to be adopted. As a result, it is difficult to make sweeping statements that will cover the laws in each state. More information can be found at the Domestic Adoption page. Adoption laws are hard to interpret by non-lawyers and even by lawyers that don’t specialize in adoption. We strongly suggest that you contact an adoption attorney or adoption agency in your state to better understand the meaning of these laws.
Expectant parents usually choose the adoptive family for their child. Adoptive parents prepare a “profile” which usually includes pictures and a letter to the pregnant woman or couple telling about themselves and why they want to adopt. The pregnant mother is usually shown several profiles from which to choose. Often, but not always, she will meet with several families or at least speak with them over the phone before she chooses a family to parent her child.
The issue of when a birth parent can give consent varies by state law. In all states, expectant mothers cannot legally consent to an adoption until after the child is born. Until that time, even if she has chosen an adoptive family and received monetary support for her expenses, it is easy for her to change her mind. Several states will allow the birth father to consent prior to birth. Most states require a waiting period after birth before the birth mother can give her consent. This time ranges from one day to two weeks, with the average being three days.
After a birth parent consents to the adoption, in most states they can only revoke this consent if they can prove that it was obtained under fraud or duress. Most states also allow a set period of time for birth parents to change their mind to the adoption after they have consented. The law in each state differs on this length of time ranging between 0 to 180 days, but in most states, it is not more than one to two weeks. After that time, it is very unlikely that the child can be removed from the adoptive parents. Unknown birth fathers present legal difficulties and must be handled carefully according to state law.
Prospective adoptive parents can adopt through an agency or independently (usually through an adoption lawyer). Facilitators, or someone hired to find a pregnant woman who is considering adoption, are not legal in all states. Most agencies provide counseling for birth mothers to help them make this decision. I strongly recommend that adoptive parents insist that birthmothers received counseling even if not required by state law, or their agency or attorney.
Most domestic newborn adoptions are open to some degree. There is a great deal of misunderstanding in the adoptive parent community on what is meant by “open adoption“. We suggest that if you are considering open adoption, you check out these resources:
- Open Adoption: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (1 hour CAF podcast – you can listen on your phone, tablet, iPod, or computer.)
- Open Adoption: How Open is Open? (1 hour CAF podcast – you can listen on your phone, tablet, iPod, or computer.)
- Open Adoption (8 minute CAF video)
- Top Ten Essential Topics Every Prospective Adoptive Parent and Birth Mother Should Discuss Prior to the Adoption (CAF fact sheet)
- Why Open Adoption? CAF (blog)
Average cost for using an agency: $32,000 – $37,000. Average cost for using an attorney: $28,000 – $32,000. (Total cost, including travel) Cost varies greatly depending on many factors, including:
- Whether adoptive parents spend money searching for prospective birth mothers
- How early in the pregnancy adoptive parents are matched, and thus how many months of living expenses adoptive parents must pay
- What expenses are allowed by the laws of the birth mother’s state (for a great summary of what expenses different states allow, go to the Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Whether the birth mother has health insurance
- Whether the adoptive parents can recoup their expenses if a birth mother changes her mind after the birth and decides not to place her child
- Travel costs
Adopting Through an Adoption Lawyer (CAF show)
What Expectant Women Look for When Choosing Adoptive Parents (CAF show)
Adoption Options: What Type of Adoption is Best for You? (CAF show)
Evaluating Health and Legal Risk Factors for Domestic Adoption (CAF show)
How to Prepare an Adoptive Parent Profile for Domestic Adoption (CAF show)
Red Flags for Birthmother Placement Falling Through in Domestic Adoption (CAF video)
Child Welfare Information Gateway
© Creating a Family
Available from www.CreatingaFamily.org, the national adoption and infertility education and support non-profit. Please do not reprint without giving credit to Creating a Family and a link to the website.
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