FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS BY PROSPECTIVE ADOPTIVE PARENTS:
We wish you well on your adoption journey. We represent adopting parents who are hoping to adopt a child by an independent or identified agency adoption. These questions and answers relate primarily to independent and identified agency adoptions in California. Please understand that these answers are general and specific legal advice is needed for a particular situation. We can be contacted on specific situations.
1. WHO CHOOSES THE ADOPTIVE PARENTS FOR A BIRTH MOTHER?
The birth mother chooses the adoptive parents for her child in an independent or identified agency adoption. The birth mother does not delegate this choice to an agent, such as an attorney, doctor or counselor.
2. CAN ADOPTING PARENTS HAVE CONTACT WITH THE BIRTH MOTHER BEFORE THE BIRTH?
Yes, absolutely. The birth mother is asked what kind of contact she would like. There can be telephone and/or email contact. Usually if the birth mother wants it, as she often does, a meeting can take place between the adopting parents and the birth mother. This contact gives everyone the wonderful opportunity to get to know each other better, to ask more questions, and to make sure they want to proceed with an adoption plan.
3. WHAT CONTACT IS THERE WITH THE BIRTH MOTHER AFTER ADOPTING PARENTS ARE MATCHED WITH A BIRTH MOTHER?
After a birth mother has chosen adoptive parents, they can remain in contact with the birth mother, if they and the birth mother agree to do so, until the birth mother delivers the baby. The type and extent of post-birth contact with the birth mother varies in every adoption. Most birth mothers ask to be sent letters and pictures of the child as the child grows up. Some birth mothers wish to have visits with the adoptive family and child and some birth mother want no post-adoption contact at all. It is important for the birth mother and adoptive parents to reach a clear understanding about the post-birth contact to which they all agree.
4. WHAT INFORMATION ARE ADOPTING PARENTS ABLE TO GET ABOUT THE BIRTH MOTHER AND BIRTH FATHER?
Background information is obtained about the birth parents, as are medical records for the birth mother’s pregnancy. It is helpful to know about the birth mother’s and birth father’s families, and what the birth father’s position is regarding the adoption. Since adopting parents usually get to know the birth mother, they are able to ask and exchange information that is helpful both for the adoption plan as well as for the child in the future.
5. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE CHILD IS BORN?
With the birth mother’s and hospital’s permission, adoptive parents are able to be with and take care of the baby in the hospital. Normally, in California, the baby can be discharged directly to the adopting parents allowing the baby to go home directly with the adoptive parents. There is normally no foster care.
6. ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS FOR A PROSPECTIVE ADOPTIVE PARENT TO BE ABLE TO ADOPT?
Since the birth parent selects the adoptive parents, they can, generally speaking, place the child with whomever they choose. Married couples, singles and same sex couples are allowed to adopt in California. There are no restrictions in independent adoptions on the age, religion, marital status, or racial or ethnic background of the adoptive parent as long as the birth parent has personal knowledge about the adoptive parent. There will, however, need to be a favorable home study conducted on the adopting parents.
7. WHEN IS THE HOME STUDY DONE?
In a California independent adoption, adopting parents who live in California can either choose to have a home study done before the birth or they can wait until after the baby is placed in their home if the baby is born in California. However, if the baby is born in a state in which the adopting parents do not live, the adopting parents will need to have a home study or pre-placement assessment done before the baby can go home with the adopting parents.
If adopting parents are doing an identified agency adoption, the home study is done before the child can be placed with adopting parents. The advantages of having a home study done before the placement of the child with the adopting parents include: the birth mother can be secure in the knowledge that the adopting parents have met all the home study requirements and the adopting parents are “adoption ready,” that is, ready to proceed with an adoption no matter where the birth mother lives.
8. WHAT ARE THE RIGHTS OF THE BIRTH MOTHER?
The birth mother does not sign her final legal documents until after the child is born. She has the right to change her mind as long as the law allows. The mother has the right to have counseling sessions. She has the right to make an independent decision about whether she wants to place her child. The mother has the right to an independent attorney if she wishes.
9. WHAT ARE THE RIGHTS OF A BIRTH FATHER?
There are several types of birth fathers under California law. If the birth mother is married, whether or not the man is the father of the baby, he is a “presumed father” and, as such, he must consent to the adoption, waiver his right to further notice, or his rights must be terminated by the court. If the birth mother is not married, most birth fathers would be considered to be an “alleged father.” As such, he is entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard. Such a father can sign a document before or after the child is born either denying paternity or waiving his right to further notice. If he does not sign a document, his rights would need to be terminated for the adoption. If the birth mother does not know the name of the birth father or if a named birth father cannot be located, the court can terminate his rights and the adoption can proceed.
There is a third type of father established by the California Supreme Court in the Kelsey S case. That is an “alleged father” who takes diligent steps the moment he learns of the pregnancy to assert his rights as a father.
It is important to have good legal counsel to advise you regarding the birth father in any possible adoption situation.
10. WHAT CAN THE ADOPTIVE PARENTS PAY FOR LEGALLY?
In California, adoptive parents may pay pregnancy-related expenses for a birth mother during the pregnancy and for the recuperative post-delivery period as long as they are paid as an “act of charity” and not in exchange for the birth mother’s promise to place for adoption. Such expenses may include maternity clothes, living expenses (rent, utilities, etc.), counseling costs, medical costs and legal fees.
All monies paid in connection with the adoption must be disclosed to the court before the adoption is finalized.
11. WHAT IF THE ADOPTIVE PARENTS DO NOT LIVE IN THE STATE IN WHICH THE BABY IS BORN?
Adopting parents who live in California or in any other state are allowed to adopt in California. If the baby is born in a state in which the adoptive parents do not live, the adopting parents will need to obtain permission to return home to their state. The adopting parents attorney or agency would help with obtaining that permission.
12. DOES FELICE WEBSTER REPRESENT BOTH THE ADOPTIVE PARENTS AND THE BIRTH PARENTS?
While California law does provide that a lawyer can represent both the adoptive parent and the birth mother as long as both parties so agree in writing, Felice A. Webster represents either the adoptive parents or the birth parents in an adoption, not both. When she represents the adoptive parents, under the law in California, the birth parent must be given the opportunity to have their own independent attorney if they so desire, for which the adopting parents can pay.