Our daughter is adopted. Eighteen years later, I remember the experience as if it were yesterday. All those years ago, adoption agencies controlled the process, matching birthmothers with adoptive families, presenting the adoption options and then handling the legal work on both ends of the equation. It was very much a face-to-face business.
In purely economic terms, these adoption agencies controlled supply (by recruiting and supporting birthmothers during their pregnancies) and demand (by recruiting couples desiring to adopt children). Because the demand for healthy newborn babies far outpaces supply, adoption agencies routinely charged over $25,000 for their services as intermediaries in the process.
You know what happened next. Birthmothers and adopting parents went online, making their own connections, cutting both costs and corners in the adoption process. While we will never go back to the days when adoption was strictly a “brick and mortar” industry, the same rules of law apply in our culture of online searches, message boards, and social media.
If you seek to adopt a child in Texas, consider these facts and adoption options as you begin your journey.
Only a licensed child-placing agency is authorized to facilitate the adoption of children by adoptive families. Avoid solicitations from facilitators, including lawyers, who represent they have an “inventory” of birthmothers or babies to be adoption. Such activity is illegal under Texas law.
You can do your own match with a birthmother, but you cannot buy a baby. Texas law does allow for the payment of some prenatal and postnatal expenses and the birthmother’s living expenses, but Texas law prohibits payment of money in exchange for a child.
You will need an adoption homestudy, prepared by a licensed social worker. If you have an adoption match, you should get started with your adoption homestudy. Such studies are very thorough and take time to prepare. You are also required to produce to the court a criminal history report for each prospective adoptive parent. To obtain the report, you must have your fingerprints taken and forwarded to Texas DPS.
If you are adopting a child in another state, you must comply with ICPC. This is where things get dangerous… Interstate Compact on Placement of Children.
Every child has a father – – you just may not know him. Texas adoption law requires that the parental rights of the child’s presumed or alleged biological father be terminated. To avoid frustration and even heartbreak ahead, you need to identify and engage the father of the child in your adoption plan.
An affidavit of relinquishment cannot be signed by a birthmother for the first 48 hours after birth. The intent of this Texas law is clear: to make sure the birthmother is not under the influence of any medications at the time she signs her relinquishment. This time can be gut wrenching for adopting parents. The flood of emotion surrounding the birth of a child as well as pressure from other family members can unravel an adoption quickly. A trusted adoption attorney or adoption social worker can help you develop rapport with the birthmother during the months prior to delivery. Such a rapport can help you to develop a feeling of family that will make relinquishment less traumatic.
Complete a Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report. This report is also required under Texas adoption law. The report, completed by the child’s biological family gives adopting parents a bit of an “owner’s manual” that can be very useful in the coming years. For instance, you should know if anyone in the biological family had any health issues that may be passed on to your baby.
Post-Adoption contact is an agreement, not a contract. Remember, adoption terminates the rights of the biological parents to the child and you cannot enter into a legally binding contract for post-adoption contact. The “openness” of your adoption is something for you and the birth-family to discuss.
Now that you know a little of the vocabulary and your adoption options, you hopefully you can distinguish the qualified adoption attorneys from those who are hoping to learn as they go. I haven’t just been an adoption lawyer for 30 years, I’ve lived the life of an adoptive parent which is a gift unlike any other.