Your Rights as a Birth Parent
If you are working with an adoption organization and feel pressured or uncomfortable about how things are going, we urge you to reach out to a licensed adoption agency so that you can get some counseling as you decide how to proceed.
If you are considering adoption in Maryland, DC, or Virginia, you have the right…
…to work with a licensed, non-profit adoption agency.
Unlicensed organizations that profit from adoption are biased because they earn money each time a birth parent chooses adoption, so ask any organization you are considering whether they are licensed to make adoption placements in the state where you live. You can even ask to see their license.
…to receive in-person counseling and make your decision free from pressure.
You have the right to receive free, unbiased, one-on-one counseling about all of your options and to meet with a licensed counselor in person before making any decision. No one – not your counselor, not the hospital staff, not anyone else – has the right to make this choice for you. If you choose adoption, you also have the right to receive continued emotional support services after the adoption takes place.
…to birth mother financial assistance.
Your health and well-being are important. Agencies in Maryland, DC, and Virginia should provide you with the appropriate resources if you are struggling to access shelter, food, maternity clothes, or health care.
…to choose a local adoptive family for your baby.
There are many different kinds of families looking to adopt a baby, and you have the right to pick which one will raise yours. If you are looking for someone to adopt your child, your agency should provide you with information about families who live in the same area as you so that you can stay in touch if you want to. If you are a member of a minority racial or ethnic group, you should also be given the opportunity to place your child with a family of your own background if that is what you wish.
…to choose where to give birth and to control your labor & delivery experience.
You are under no obligation to travel somewhere else so that the adoptive family can be present at your appointments or when you give birth. Only you get to decide who you want to have with you. You can also choose a name for your baby, receive a copy of the birth certificate, spend as much time with them as you want, and make any necessary medical decisions until the “revocation period” ends.
…to wait until you are comfortable to sign the paperwork.
No adoption professional should ask you to sign paperwork before your baby is born. Ethical agencies will wait at least 24 hours after you give birth, in order to give you time to rest and recuperate.
…to request that your child be placed in temporary family care if you need more time to be sure, and to visit your child there.
If you aren’t certain that you will want to place your child with an adoptive family right away, find an adoption agency that offers temporary family care and will allow you to visit your baby before he or she goes home with an adoptive family.
…to be provided with your own attorney to represent your rights.
If you are considering placing your baby through private adoption, we advise you not to waive your right to an attorney. The attorney working with the adoptive family has a legal obligation to that family – not to you. The adoptive parents should pay the fees for you to have your own attorney. This is especially crucial in cases of adoption for teenage pregnancy.
…to a legally binding agreement about what kind of contact you will have with your child.
You and your child’s adoptive parents should sign a contract that includes information about what kind of adoption you want to have and how you want to keep in touch. You may not get everything you want – for example, it’s very rare for an adoptive family to agree to visit the birth parents every single month – but neither should the adoptive family’s wishes be the sole consideration. Giving up custody of your baby should not mean agreeing never to see them again unless that is what you want.
…to revoke your consent to the adoption within a certain number of days if you change your mind, even if you have received financial assistance.
Birth parents in Maryland have thirty days to change their minds, and birth parents in DC and Virginia have 7-10 days. If an adoption facilitator asks you to waive your state rights, make sure you know what the other state’s “revocation period” will be; if you are not comfortable with its length, you have every right to refuse.
…to make an adoption plan regardless of your or your baby’s health, age, or ethnicity.
Adoptions Together and other ethical agencies are committed to finding homes for babies no matter the circumstances of the pregnant woman placing the baby for adoption. We will find a home for your baby no matter your or your baby’s age, ethnicity, or medical history. If your baby is born with any type of medical condition, your adoption agency should find a loving family who is able to handle the special needs your child may have.
…to be respected for your pregnancy decisions.
Every pregnancy is different, and no organization should try to make you feel guilty for the choices you are making now — or have made in the past. Remember, too, that adoption is complicated, and you deserve to work with people who understand that and who do not oversimplify your decision. Choosing adoption does not necessarily mean your pregnancy was unwanted, just like choosing to parent does not necessarily mean your pregnancy was planned. Make sure you’re working with an organization that understands these sorts of nuances and uses language that reflects that understanding.