Obstacles to the Adoption Process

Adoption issues are often obstacles in the adoption process. Adoptive families and birth parents can overcome them. Although some obstacles feel unnecessary, they ensure that the adoption is legal. Each adoption journey has the same goal: finding a loving home for the child.

Adoption is a permanent decision. Each adoption goes through the adoption process to avoid later difficulties. This is why the adoption process can seem complicated for everyone, including the adoptive parents.

Below is a summary of common obstacles to the adoption process, including challenges by the birth parents and difficulties that may arise in an open adoption.

Challenges for the Birth Parents

It is important to remember that adoption comes from loss. Birth parents choose to give up their newborn baby in open or private adoptions. They also relinquish their parental rights through the legal process. This decision can cause the birth parents, especially the birth mother, to face mental health issues. These issues include numbness, shock, and grief.

Mental Health

The adoption process can pose severe mental and emotional tolls on the birth parents' well-being. In addition to physically giving up their child, they must cope with relinquishment of their parental rights. There are support groups and other support services to help struggling birth parents. Support groups cater to the unique challenges posed by the adoption process. Support groups are part of some adoption services. Birth parents will also need support from their friends and family members during their time of need.

Birth Mother's Challenges

Many prospective adoptive parents fear the birth parents will change their minds and petition to reverse the adoption. In many states, birth mothers have the legal right to withdraw their consent to the adoption. In some states, this can happen at any time before the finalization of the adoption.

By law, birth mothers can't consent to an adoption until after the baby is born. However, states like Alabama and North Carolina allow pre-birth consent in certain circumstances. But there are often strict rules regarding consent. For example, a birth parent proven to have deserted the child may have no legal right to give or revoke consent, depending on the state. The birth parent may contest the adoption and termination at a hearing.

Putative Father's Challenges

Many adoptees are the children of single women who may not know the father's identity. However, birth fathers can exercise their rights to claim their children. This legal issue can be an obstacle in the adoption process. Unwed or "putative" fathers can establish their legal rights thanks to changes in state laws since the 1970s. Putative fathers must prove their commitment to their children in several ways. These include the following:

  • Signing the birth certificate
  • Providing child support
  • Communicating with the child
  • Getting a court order establishing paternity

If the state has a putative fathers registry, they should also submit their names. States vary on what may happen should paternity be established after filing the adoption petition. Court cases involving putative fathers who tried to revoke adoptions have resulted in clarification of state laws. Putative fathers may have the law on their side, but only if they can prove they're concerned for their child's welfare.

Multiethnic Issues in Adoption

Allowing the adoption of children of one race or color by parents of another race or color is a source of controversy. Some believe mixed-race adoptions are good because they break down cultural barriers. Others see mixed-race adoptions as diluting adopted children's cultural and ethnic heritage.

Multiethnic adoption presents a compelling problem for two reasons. One is that, as noted above, there are many more minority children available for adoption (including mixed-race children) than non-minority children. The other is that there are many more whites than minorities who are willing to adopt. Insisting on matching race to race can leave many children without available parents to adopt them. For children of mixed ancestry, matching race to race is hardly possible.

Federal Adoption Laws

Federal law protects parents and children from this dilemma. Under the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994, adoption agencies receiving federal funds cannot deny or delay a placement based on race or ethnicity. MEPA doesn't cover children of Native American ancestry. The purpose of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is to protect Native American children from placements outside their tribe. Parental or tribal consent is necessary for the adoption of Native American children.

The Challenges of Open Adoption

In an open adoption, the birth family has visitation rights with the child and their new family. Maintaining contact with the birth family is beneficial for the child. This arrangement helps the child with identity development and identity formation.

Open adoption is legal if the adoptive and birth parents sign an agreement and the court approves the agreement.

States have different rules about open adoption procedures. This issue requires careful consideration by prospective parents.

Searching for Birth Parents

State laws vary on adopted children's access to their biological parents' information. Some adopted children need this information for medical reasons. In open adoptions, birth parents share their information. In closed adoptions, courts seal the adoption records. Regardless of the type of adoption, the situation raises legal issues for all parties. Adoption agencies and intermediaries—such as adoption attorneys—can answer these questions.

Get Help

While there are barriers in the adoption process, there is also help. Birth parents and prospective adoptive parents should speak to a local family law attorney or adoption law attorney.

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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.

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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.

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