by Robin Fleischner, Attorney at Law | www.adoptsurrogatelaw.com
Over the course of eighteen years as an adoption attorney, I have found myself repeating the following ten principles of advice for achieving a successful private adoption.
1. You and the birth parents deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.
As a result of the very emotional nature of the adoption process, you and the birth parents are extremely vulnerable. Since you all want to act ethically and humanely, you should treat each other with respect and compassion. It is equally important to demand that attorneys, doctors, agencies, and social workers involved in your adoption treat you with respect and compassion as well.
2. Come out of the closet and broadcast your decision to adopt.
Once you decide to adopt, make the adoption your central focus, and be proactive. Tell and write to as many people as possible about your desire to adopt – friends, family, acquaintances, business associates, doctors, dentists, teachers, clergy, congregants, nurses, social workers, counselors, college roommates. And ask anyone you contact to spread the word of your adoption crusade. In addition, you should advertise in newspapers and on the Internet.
3. Keep it safe. Keep it legal.
Almost all of the practical aspects of your adoption have legal importance. Before you take any action, choose an experienced adoption attorney so that you will be able to finalize your adoption safely and legally in the New Jersey or New York court. Excellent resources for locating an attorney are: support groups, such as the Adoptive Parents Committee (www.adoptiveparents.org) and Resolve (www.resolve.org); and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (www.adoptionattorneys.org).
4. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.
Generally, adoptive parents connect with a pregnant woman and make an adoption plan with her during the pregnancy. However, birth parents’ rights are not terminated until after the baby is born. You should proceed with optimism, but with a realistic understanding that the birth mother may choose not to place the baby for adoption. Continuing to explore all leads is always helpful until a child is placed for adoption with you.
5. The first healthy baby is the best baby for you.
Don’t second guess yourself. If you have the opportunity to adopt a healthy baby, act immediately and do not pass up the chance for an adoption because you have heard about another situation that might appear more attractive.
6. You have to connect the dots.
Remember connect-the-dots coloring books from childhood? As you began connecting the numbered dots, the picture emerged, but you usually recognized what the image would be even before you were finished. To spot an adoption scam, you need to connect the dots, the clues that let you know whether a birth parent, attorney or agency is legitimate. Support groups for adoptive parents like APC and Resolve are invaluable in helping you obtain reliable referrals. The home study process is another way to obtain reliable adoption referrals from the social workers who visit with you. Once you retain an experienced adoption attorney in your state, he or she will help you screen birth parents. Listen to your attorney’s advice.
7. Expenses are a legal issue.
The goal is that you succeed in your adoption with a minimum of risk, both financial and emotional. You should never give money to a birth mother. Your attorney will approve and monitor all expenses, which will be paid through an attorney trust account. Although you can pay for the birth mother’s medical expenses, many birth mothers qualify for Medicaid and some have medical insurance. Your medical insurance will cover the baby from birth, but not the birth mother. In addition, you can pay for the birth mother’s counseling, reasonable living expenses during the pregnancy and recovery, and legal expenses.
8. Objective information is key.
Your attorney will help you evaluate whether a potential birth mother is pregnant and committed to an adoption by speaking with her and sending her a social and medical history questionnaire and an authorization for release of her prenatal medical records. Once your attorney receives the completed questionnaire and signed medical release, he or she will obtain the birth mother’s prenatal medical records and forward them to you with the social and medical history. You will have your doctor review the medical information and advise you about the baby’s health.
9. Establish a relationship with the birth mother.
The best way to ensure that a birth mother is committed to the adoption plan is to establish a caring relationship with her. Adoptive parents usually set up a weekly phone call with the birth mother during the pregnancy and meet with her (without revealing their identities if they wish) before placing the child for adoption. Connecting with the birth mother is the best way to obtain background information for your child. After the baby is placed for adoption, the adoptive parents and birth parents can correspond. Adoptive parents can exchange letters and photos with birth parents without disclosing their identity by opening a confidential post office box for the correspondence.
10. Never give up hope.
Do not allow yourself to be discouraged by setbacks. Remember that you are one lucky phone call or contact away from your dream. Everyone who continues to work toward an adoption will succeed.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally published in the fall 2004 newsletter of The Adoptive Parents Committee, Inc.