Adoption Consent FAQ

Prospective adoptive parents must complete a thorough background check and undergo an extensive vetting process before approval of the petition for adoption. State law determines laws for adoption. 

There are obstacles during the adoption process, including consent from biological parents. This article provides an overview of the following frequently asked questions about the adoption process.

Who Must Consent to the Adoption of a Baby?

Before an adoption, the court must have the biological parent's consent.

The birth mother must give her permission. The biological father must approve if he has established paternity. A father can establish paternity if his name appears on the birth certificate or demonstrates a commitment to parenting the child.

If there has been a termination of parental rights, then the court system must give consent. The state Department of Health or Child Services will act in the best interests of the child and consent to placement. Parental rights can be terminated for acts of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Can Minors Consent to Their Baby's Adoption?

A minor is anyone who has not reached legal adulthood or the age of majority. The age of majority in most states in the U.S. is 18. But the birth mother of an infant can consent to her baby's adoption regardless of her own age. State laws vary, but most allow a mother as young as 12 years of age to consent to adoption. Some states appoint a guardian ad litem to protect the interests of the infant.

What Types of Adoption Are There?

There are many types of adoption and placement. Voluntary surrender of a child is difficult, and birth parents, especially young ones, may be unsure about their decision. Later, the adopted person may want to find their birth parents. Some types of adoption will not permit them to do so. Legal parents should consider alternatives before giving up their rights.

  • Private adoption. This is sometimes called independent adoption. This adoption type occurs between the birth parents and the adoptive family. Private adoptions may involve family members, such as a grandparent who adopts a grandchild when the parents cannot care for the child. A private agency may handle the documentation.
  • Foster care. Courts may place a child with a foster parent if the birth parents are temporarily unable to care for the child. This gives the parents a brief time period to correct any issues at home, such as alcohol or drug addiction or domestic violence issues. If the problem persists, the foster home keeps custody of the child until adoption.
  • Adoption agency. These agencies work with the courts to locate adoptive families and assess the eligibility of prospective adoptive homes. With social services, they carry out the home study and other checks to ensure the adopted child is going to a suitable home.
  • Open adoption. In an open adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents know one another and remain in contact throughout the child's life. The child knows their birth parents or knows of them and can access their birth records after the finalization of the adoption.
  • Closed adoption. In a closed adoption, a court order seals the records and removes all identifying information. The adoptee cannot access them later without a court order.

Can Biological Parents Change Their Minds After Consenting to Adoption?

Adoption aims to provide a stable household for a child, so revocation of adoption is rare.

State laws permit biological parents to change their minds until the actual birth of the child. Adoptive placement cannot begin until the baby is born. Some states allow a “cooling off" period for a few days to a few months after childbirth. Because courts must act in the best interests of the child, they consider the existing parent-child relationship, not any bond between the birth mother and the baby.

If you are considering adoption, you should discuss the matter with a family law attorney or social worker if you believe you may change your mind later.

What Are Some Adoptions That Might Be Difficult?

Some children have special requirements for adoption. These children need more than the parents' consent for adoption. You will need legal help for these types of adoptions:

  • Foreign adoptions. Bringing a child from a foreign country need the consent of the home nation, the U.S. government, and the parents. You may need adoption help in the home country to do this.
  • Special needs children. Babies with health needs, developmental disabilities, or other issues still need adoption. Their adoptive parents need more adoption services to complete the process. These adoptions may involve human services or the health department.
  • Native Americans. In June 2023, The Supreme Court affirmed the Indian Child Welfare Act. This Act gives tribal governments final say over native adoptions. It prevents removal of native children from their families in adoption, foster care, and child custody cases. Even in cases of maternal consent or waiver, the Indian Child Welfare Act applies.
  • Stepparent adoption. If a stepparent wants to adopt their new spouse's child, they can do so via the courts. If all parties consent, the other parent may keep their parental rights in some states.

Get Professional Legal Help With Your Adoption Consent Concerns

Suppose you're a biological parent thinking about placing your child for adoption or a person looking to become an adoptive parent. In that case, you may need professional help understanding your legal rights and the adoption process. Adoption is a decision that lasts a lifetime, so it pays to make sure you do it right.

Find an experienced adoption law attorney near you for some peace of mind.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • It is a good idea to have an attorney for complex adoptions
  • An attorney can ensure you meet all legal requirements and that your adoption is finalized appropriately
  • An attorney can help protect the best interests of adoptive children, adoptive families, and birth parents
  • For simple adoptions, you may be able to do the paperwork on your own or by using an agency

Get tailored advice at any point in the adoption process. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

 Find a local attorney

Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Adopting a child is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

Start Planning