Talking to a child’s birth parents about adoption is usually one of the hardest parts of the adoption process of for adoptive parents-to-be. This conversation is emotionally fraught even for adoptive families who know the birth parents well. It can be particularly stressful for those adoptive families who have little or no prior contact to the birth family, because they have no inkling of how a particular birth parent might react. If you find yourself faced with this difficult conversation, read these tips to help it go smoothly:
1. Be prepared before you start the conversation.
Before you ever approach a birth parent about adopting a child, you should have made up your mind that adoption is definitely right for you, and you should have already learned as much as you can about what the process looks like. Most of the time, you should hire an adoption attorney BEFORE approaching the birth parents. Birth parents can sometimes react to this conversation in surprising ways, and you will want to have legal support quickly if it is needed. For example, a birth parent who has not laid eyes on a child in two years may suddenly decide they want visitation. Alternatively, they may decide they are ready to surrender their rights—itself a complicated process that is best pursued with the guidance of a qualified adoption lawyer. Make sure you are prepared to respond appropriately, no matter what the birth parent may do.
2. Don’t Add Insult to Injury.
If you decide to speak to a birth parent about adoption yourself, be sensitive to the birth parent’s needs and emotions, and avoid insulting language. If your child came into your care because their birth parents’ actions put them in harm’s way, it is natural to feel angry, disappointed, or even vengeful on behalf of your child who has been neglected or hurt. When speaking to such a birth parent, try to put the focus on the future best interests of the child, not on what the birth parent may have done wrong to “deserve” to have their rights terminated. This attitude may increase the chances that a birth parent will not contest the adoption, because they are less likely to view you as a threat to them. It is also never in your adoptive child’s best interests to vilify their birth parents, even if the birth parents do deserve it.
3. Don’t make any promises.
Contested adoptions can be expensive and stressful. You may wish to “tempt” a birth parent to sign a surrender by making promises about waiving child support obligations and/or allowing the birth parent to see the child post-adoption. These kinds of promises are a minefield best avoided. Tennessee law makes it a crime to offer a birth parent anything of value in exchange for a surrender—and yes, that includes forgiveness of child support arrearages. Don’t ever offer anything in exchange for a surrender of parental rights without the direct involvement of a qualified adoption lawyer.
4. Why Talk to Birth Parents at All?
You are never required to personally speak to your adoptive child’s birth parents about an impending adoption. If you think that a birth parent will be agreeable to an adoption, such a conversation can save a lot of costs and headache as long as you follow the above tips. However, if you are worried about an adverse reaction, saying the wrong thing, or would just prefer to limit contact with a birth parent, have your adoption lawyer reach out on your behalf. In some cases, it is best for the birth parent to receive an adoption petition without any forewarning. Just be aware that all birth parents are absolutely entitled to be notified when their biological child is about to be adopted. If you try to hide their identity or fail to let them know an adoption is pending, you put yourself and your adoptive child at serious risk.
If you are considering an adoption, we are thrilled to help you get started. To schedule a consultation call (865) 637-6550 or visit www.heldlawfirm.com for more information.