When Should You Be Able to Sign Paperwork?

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Did you sign adoption papers in your hospital bed?

A number of folks pushing for adoption reform believe that birth mothers should not be able to sign adoption paperwork until 72 hours (3 days) after they’ve given birth.

We totally agree that no birth mom should be asked to sign paperwork when she is still groggy from being medicated or exhausted from labor. Unfortunately, most hospitals in our area only allow women to stay in the hospital for one or two days after they’ve given birth, which means that if a birth mom hasn’t been able to sign paperwork yet, then she has to take the baby home.

When we first talk to women considering adoption, many of them are extremely worried about being told they must take their baby home before placement. Making the adoption decision itself is hard enough; they do not want to start the process of bonding knowing that they will be placing their baby very soon. Nor do they want to buy all of the necessary baby supplies only to be left with an empty crib and lots of tiny clothes when they return from an emotional placement.

That’s why our practice at Adoptions Together is to wait at least 24 hours to have birth mothers sign paperwork, but not necessarily 72 hours. Of course, if a birth mother wants to take the baby home first, we completely support her decision; but if she doesn’t want to, we feel she should be able to sign paperwork in the hospital before she leaves.

Luckily for us, the majority of our adoptions take place in Maryland, where birth parents have 30 days to change their minds after signing paperwork. This means that if they feel they were mistaken when they originally signed, they can regain custody of their baby anytime within the next month. Maryland has a longer revocation period than many other states, which makes us feel confident that even a birth mom who signed paperwork relatively soon after she gave birth still has time to feel certain of her decision.

The rest of our adoptions happen in DC and Virginia. In DC, birth moms have 14 days to change their minds after they sign an adoption consent, and in Virginia, they have 10 days from the date of the baby’s birth. We prefer the 30-day waiting period but are glad birth mothers still have 10-14 days to change their minds.

How long did you wait to sign paperwork? Do you think there should be a mandatory 72-hour period between delivery and signing? Tell us in the comments section below.

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