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Obstacles to the Adoption Process

Adoption is a permanent decision, and each adoption needs to be made ironclad to avoid difficulties later on. This is why the adoption process can seem so difficult and complicated for everyone involved, particularly the adoptive parents. The adoption process can present unique challenges that only people going through this process can understand. Adoption issues can pose as obstacles in the adoption process, but ultimately, they can be overcome. If you are considering adoption, you should know of these challenges of adoption.

Although some obstacles can feel unnecessary, they are meant to ensure that the adoption is completely and properly processed. Each adoption journey has the same end goal: to find a loving home for the child.

Below is a summary of the most 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 is born from loss. For one reason or another, the birth parents are faced with the difficult decision to give up their newborn baby. While there may be some positive emotions associated with finding the right home for their child in an open adoption, most birth parents find this decision to be difficult. This decision can cause the birth parents, especially the birth mother, to face certain mental health issues including numbness, shock, and grief. Once the baby is born, the mother may experience attachment issues with the baby that she wasn't expecting.

The adoption process can pose serious mental and emotional tolls on the birth parents' well-being. Struggling birth parents should seek out support groups or other support services to help with the impact of adoption. These support groups can cater to the unique challenges posed by adoption services. They will also need support from their friends and family members during their time of need.

Challenges by the Birth Mother

Probably the greatest fear adoptive parents have is that the birth parents will change their minds and petition to get their children back. Although the laws are thorough, sometimes a birth parent will challenge an adoption for any one of a number of reasons. Most states allow birth mothers to revoke or withdraw their consent to give up their children for adoption to a new family. In some states, this can be done at any time before the adoption has been finalized.

By law, birth mothers actually can't give consent to an adoption until after their babies have been born. However, states like Alabama and North Carolina allow prebirth consent in certain circumstances. But there are often strict rules regarding consent. A birth parent who has been proven to have deserted the child, for example, may have no legal right to give or revoke consent, depending on the state. The birth parent may try and contest the adoption and termination at a hearing.

Challenges by the Putative Father

Many adoptees are the children of single women who may not even know the father's identity. However, sometimes birth fathers may wish to exercise their rights to claim their children, which could become an obstacle to the adoption process. Unwed, or "putative," fathers can establish certain rights thanks to changes in state laws since the 1970s. That said, a putative father needs to prove that he's actually entitled to these rights.

Putative fathers may have to prove their commitment to their children by having signed the birth certificate, provided support for the child, communicated with the child, and by having obtained a court order establishing paternity. If the state has a registry of putative fathers, they should also submit their names. States vary on what may happen should paternity be established after the adoption petition is filed.

Court cases involving putative fathers who tried to revoke adoptions after claiming they knew nothing of their children's births have resulted in many states clarifying their laws. Putative fathers may have the law on their side, but again, only if they can prove they're truly concerned for their children's welfare.

Multiethnic Issues

Within pockets of the adoption community, the question of whether to allow children of one race or color to be adopted by parents of another race or color is a source of heated controversy. Some people believe that mixed-race adoptions are good practice because they break down racial, ethnic, and cultural barriers. Others see mixed-race adoptions as a means of diluting the cultural and ethnic heritage of adopted children.

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). 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 law protects parents and children from this dilemma. The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994 states that no adoption agencies that receive federal funds can deny or delay a placement based on race or ethnicity. Occasionally there are still some court cases that raise the issue, but parents who work with a reputable agency and knowledgeable attorneys shouldn't have to worry.

MEPA doesn't cover children of Native American ancestry. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was passed to protect Native American (or "Indian") children from being taken away from their families for adoption without parental or tribal consent. This action was apparently not uncommon in years past, and protection is thus important.

Unfortunately, some have read the law to mean that no child with Indian ancestry can be legally adopted, even with the birth parent's consent, without tribal approval. Complicating the matter is the unclear definition of Indian ancestry; some tribes may consider a person with "one drop" of Indian blood to be Indian. Clearly, there are many layers to this issue, and it requires careful evaluation by the prospective parent with the help of knowledgeable intermediaries.

The Challenges of Open Adoption

Open adoption allows the birth family to have visitation rights with the child and the adoptive family. The idea is that maintaining contact with the birth family is beneficial for the child. This arrangement can also help the child with identity development and identity formation.

In some cases, however, open adoptions also create uncomfortable situations in which the child ends up being forced to make choices no child should ever have to make. These decisions might be regarding the boundaries or expectations of the birth parents. Open adoption can take place only if both the adoptive and birth parents sign an agreement and only if that agreement meets the approval of the court.

Different states have different rules about open adoption procedures and also different approaches for addressing whether open adoptions are legally enforceable. Again, this issue requires careful consideration by prospective parents. In some situations, agencies encourage open adoption, but if you wish to adopt a child and open adoption makes you uncomfortable, you should make your concerns known early on.

Searching for Birth Parents

State laws vary widely on whether adopted children can have access to the names of their biological parents. Older children might feel inclined to access this information. In open adoptions, this information is shared. Often parents in closed adoptions do not want contact with the child. Regardless of the type of adoption, the situation can be problematic for all parties. The issue is not really within the scope of this discussion, but adoption agencies and intermediaries should be able to answer questions about it.

An Attorney Can Help You Hurdle Obstacles to the Adoption Process

The many hurdles to the adoption process can sometimes seem insurmountable. But keep in mind this process is in place to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties involved. Ultimately, the end goal is to find a loving home for the child.

Prospective adoptive parents can usually benefit from legal counsel. Get started today by reaching out to an experienced adoption law attorney near you.

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