A Parent Trap

An acquaintance of mine asked me what I think of a position paper on revocation periods in adoption, and since I ended up writing my thoughts about this issue in adoption, it seemed only natural to put my response on the blog. The paper calls for two months after birth during which “no adoption business or person seeking to adoption should be allowed to approach a mother.” Additionally, the paper calls for a one-month revocation period after TPR is signed.

I disagree pretty strongly with the first provision. There are some practical concerns, for one thing; since most women relinquish because of poverty, who buys two months’ worth of diapers and baby clothes? Many women wishing to relinquish might prefer not to breastfeed—who pays for the formula and bottles? If she’s homeless, who finds her an apartment and pays her rent? If she has an addiction problem or an abusive home environment, who makes sure that she and the baby are safe? Beyond the practical considerations, I honestly think that it’s cruel to require that long a period: relinquishing after a day was impossibly hard; relinquishing after two months would be simply impossible. Perhaps that is the author’s hope, but I am not anti-adoption and find it hard not to see this as another way to punish women who plan to place their children. Similarly, if the mother has other children whom she is raising, they also suffer—they bond with the new baby for two months and then baby goes away. And it’s worth pointing out that this sort of waiting period is already legally possibly. While you’d be hard-pressed to find it out from your friendly adoption agency social worker, there’s nothing in the law to stop a woman from creating such a period herself and just not calling an agency until her child is two months old; I’m sure that many agencies would be more than willing to place such a young baby.

If the birthmother wants an open adoption, I think prebirth matching has some distinct advantages—the expectant mother needs to find a couple with whom she can have a relationship, and it’s easier (although still not easy!) to figure that out in advance than to try to make things work with someone whom you’ve just met but who is now parenting your child. And whatever you think of birthmother expenses, some women need help during the pregnancy to get their physical needs—and the needs of the fetus—met. Who helps these women outside of adoption? There are of course some charitable organizations, but I don’t know that they can help every woman who needs help…and not every woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy knows how to find them.

I believe that the main result of this proposed change would be to increase the number of Safe Haven surrenders.

On the other hand, I strongly agree with the idea of a one-month, unwaivable revocation period. Perhaps that makes things harder for adoptive parents, and I regret that possibility…. But I do think there should be a short period during which women who have lost their children can realize that it was a mistake and get them back. I personally would not have reclaimed my son a month out—but I know of one woman at least who tried to get her son back a week after TPR and found out that she had waived her right to revoke.