Potential adoptive parents must complete a thorough background check and other procedures before they are approved to adopt. Several obstacles may stand in the way of an adoption process, including getting adoption consent from required persons. This article provides an overview of frequently asked questions about who may or must consent to an adoption.
Q: Who needs to consent to allow the adoption of a baby?
A: Before a baby can be adopted, the biological parents must give their consent.
In most states, the mother always has to give her permission and the father must give his approval if he has established paternity (legal fatherhood) and a commitment to parenting the child. The only exception to having the biological parents give their express consent is if the parents have had their parental rights terminated by a court. Possible reasons for terminating parental rights include abandonment, failure to support the child, incompetence, or unfitness due to abuse or neglect.
Q: Can minors consent to give their baby away for adoption?
A: Minors are individuals who have not reached legal adulthood, which is sometimes also called the “age of majority.” Generally, the age of majority ranges from 18 to 21, depending on the state. In most states, minors can consent to give their baby away for adoption. The age for consent for minors in many states is 14, while some states allow consent to be given by persons as young as 12 or 10.
Q: How do biological parents give their consent to adoption of their baby?
A: To voluntarily give up parental rights and place a child for adoption, most states require biological parents to prepare a written document that is witnessed and notarized by a public notary. In some states, birthparents must file court papers and appear before a judge at a hearing. A few states also order mandatory counseling or consultation with a lawyer before consent can be given.
When consenting to an adoption, biological parents should consider whether they want an “open" adoption or a "closed" adoption. In an open adoption, the birthparents usually help select the adoptive parents, the two sets of parents meet, and the families stay in touch after the adoption is complete. In contrast, with a closed adoption, the parents don't have contact after the adoption is finalized and the adoption files are sealed.
Q: Can biological parents change their mind after giving consent to the adoption, even after time has passed?
A: The goal of adoption is to provide a stable household for a child, and accordingly, revocation of an adoption is very limited.
In general, most states permit biological parents to change their minds up until the actual birth of the child because the preservation of a stable household doesn't begin until then. Several states also allow a "cooling off" period that typically runs for a couple of days after the birth. Finally, a few states provide for extended periods of revocation -- weeks or months after childbirth -- but this is less common.
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with a particular state’s revocation procedures, as adoption laws change regularly and can be drastically different from state to state.
Get Professional Legal Help With Your Adoption Consent Concerns
If you're a biological parent thinking about placing your child for adoption or a person looking to become an adoptive parent, 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.