In less than a handful of cases in the past 14 years Adoption STAR has experienced informing a family that the birth parent(s) have revoked their surrender upsetting the adoption plan.
Though there have been some scares, and a couple of occasions where some legal challenges were necessary, it is rare that a birth parent changes their mind after making adoptive plan. It is also important to remember that not all states provide a time in which a change of mind is permitted. Adoption STAR has documented what the surrender and revocation laws are in place throughout the country and this can be found HERE.
When a birth parent revokes their adoption surrender early in the process, the decision to return a child is the most difficult of all. We could fight the birth parent, but if we are to think of the best interests of everyone involved, if we are to respect everyone in the adoption process, then often the hardest decisions are the post painful.
I am brought back to the very first time we experienced this. Adoption STAR was just turning 5 years old and found we were dealing with a birth mother who was wavering about her decision to follow through with her adoption plan. It was only three days after the adoptive family took home the baby when she revoked her adoption surrender.
This intense loss for the adoptive family affected the then small staff of Adoption STAR. We tried to be there for the adoptive family during every step of this challenging and emotional time. At the same time, we also needed to be there for the birth mother who herself was racked with grief and also guilt over promising this couple a baby and now changing her mind.
It is common for a birth mother and father to intensely grieve and waver after placement. That is why counseling is so very important. But in this case the birth mother would not agree to mediation or additional counseling. The birth mother was adamant about changing her mind.
The agency respected this decision and as difficult as it was, the couple returned the baby to Adoption STAR so we could return the baby to the birth mother. In this case, the birth mother had chosen not to name the baby at birth. Though the adoptive parents only had the baby in their custody for three days, he very much had a name and the birth mother surprised us all, by selecting to keep the name the adoptive family gave to him.
In New York State, adoptive families can attempt to challenge the birth parent’s revocation, but it would take an unbelievable toll on a family both financially and emotionally. I recall the adoptive mom sharing that she related to the birth mother’s pain by truly knowing what it felt like to say goodbye.