Adoption Choices of Missouri is committed to advocating for birth mothers and ensuring her adoption plan captures her needs and desires. As a birth mother, it is important that she know and understand her parental rights. In every adoption she has the right to make many adoption choices. These choices might include what type of child adoption, such as open adoption, semi-open, or closed adoption. With respect to her emotional and financial well-being, she should never feel compelled to relinquish her parental rights without first understanding how that decision might affect her in the long run.
This article discusses the legal rights that birth mothers have.
Birth Mother Rights
As the biological mother of the baby, whether born or unborn, you have the right to control your body and to determine how you and the baby are to be cared for. Your rights are limited only by the laws of the country and state in which you reside. Adoption Choices of Missouri will assist with a legal counselor that can provide assistance if you have questions.
Once the baby has been born you have the right to make all the decisions about both your care and the baby’s as long as your decisions do not jeopardize the health and safety of the baby. If you have been thinking about raising the child or placing the child for adoption, none of the decisions you made or the documents you signed prior to the baby’s birth are binding on you. You have every right to change your mind as often as you want. However, as regards the adoption process, there are limitations in your ability to change your mind.
Regarding an adoption, you are not the only one who has rights and you can not make all the final decisions on your own. The birth father always has parental rights and in many states even the child’s grandparent on both the mother’s and the father’s side have rights.
Termination of Parental Rights
The right most birth mothers are concerned about is the ending of their parental rights and the amount of time you, the birth mother, has to change your mind regarding the ending of these rights.
To address this issue you need to recognize that your parental rights can be ended voluntarily, that is with your signature and permission, or they can be ended involuntarily, without your permission. The involuntary ending of parental rights is usually done only with children who have been placed into foster care within the state child welfare system. If you are working with a private adoption agency or with and adoption attorney, over 98% of the time the your parental rights will be ended voluntarily and only with your approval.
Every state in the U.S. has their own unique legal requirements for the voluntary and involuntary ending of parental rights, so there are at approximately 50 different laws for involuntary ending parental rights and 50 other laws regarding the voluntary ending of these rights.
The ending of the parental rights, called the termination, surrender or relinquishment, is different in every state. However, in every state, any document regarding the ending of the birth mother’s parental rights that was signed before the baby has been born is not legally binding. After the baby has been born some states allow a birth mother to voluntarily end her rights immediately after the birth and other states allow the ending of these rights only after the passage of 1-3 days, or 15-21 days, 30 days, or more. Depending on the age of the birth mother and the circumstances involved, some states even require a birth mother to appear in court before her parental rights can be ended. Again, every state is different. Please discuss this with your counselor.
The laws of the state in which you end your parental rights as a birth mother will also help define your rights regarding such issues as your ability to receive pictures and updates and your ability to have ongoing contact with the child and the adopting family. Again, this is all dependent on the adoption plan that you have created with Adoption Choices of Missouri and the adoptive family.
As a general rule, consent to adoption is irrevocable since consent is meant to be a lasting and binding agreement to help ensure a stable environment for the child. Some states do not allow birth parents to revoke their consent to adoption. Other states allow extremely limited situations for revoking consent to adoption – usually before adoption has been finalized – and may include the following circumstances:
- Fraud or coercion was involved
- The state allows a set period of time for revoking consent
- The state (or other governing body) determines that revocation is in the best interest of the child
- The birth parents and adoptive parents mutually agree to revocation
Because adoption laws vary, it is important to check the adoption laws in Missouri and discuss any questions or concerns with your Adoption Choices of Missouri counselor.