Dear Mardie, We are talking to a potential birth mother but she said that the father of the baby wants his mother to raise the baby. The birth mother does not agree with this. Is this a situation we should move forward with?
First and foremost, always remember that the birth father has parental rights. In most states they are equal to the birth mother’s rights, however always speak with an attorney.
In your situation, it is difficult because the birth parents are not in agreement about adoption and a parenting plan. Because it sounds as though the birth father is involved, it isn’t as simple as the birth mother making a decision for adoption and moving forward without him. They both have rights, they both need to find some sort of common ground.
Many times, a birth father may think that because a woman wants adoption for her child, he can say “No, I don’t agree,” and then he gets custody of the baby. That isn’t how it works. The situation usually reverts to one as if adoption had never been considered. The baby can go home with the mother, and the father can sue for custody if he desires. He is, of course, obligated to pay child support.
In your specific situation, or any that are similar, I would suggest the following:
Encourage the Birth Mother to Talk Directly with Birth Father
Many times, birth mothers may not want to talk to the father, especially if he is not supporting her or if their relationship has ended poorly. A conversation now will save much heartache. A simple statement like, “I will not allow your mother to raise my child,” expresses her desires. Similarly, encouraging that his responsibility is to pay support, for eighteen years, and if he wants visitation or custody, he will have to hire an attorney and fight for it.
Acknowledging that the Father Has Rights
Many men feel disregarded or like their opinion doesn’t matter when it comes to an adoption plan. When a woman includes him in the choice of adoptive parents, allowing him to get to know them, and encouraging him to build a relationship with them, it can make all the difference. He just needs to know that he matters, he has a say, and his opinion can be considered.
Establish Open Communication
Let the birth mother know that you would like to talk to him and get to know him. Reassure him that you would like to keep in touch with him after the adoption. Let him hear from you the life you want to provide to his child. This will reinforce his importance and the sacrifice that he will also be making in allowing the adoption to proceed.
Prioritize Honesty Always
If the birth mother says “I just won’t list him on the birth certificate,” understand that this doesn’t solve the problem of a father that will not consent to the adoption. Similarly, if she denies she knows who he is, it is not a shortcut to adoption success. This is the time to get an attorney involved for counsel in the specific situation, under the laws of the states involved. This is not an issue you want to ignore.
Proceed cautiously, keeping the communication open and honest. Even if the birth mother says he is not a great guy, it does not diminish his parental rights. Keep gathering information and encouraging conversations. The more prepared you are, the more information you will have to share with an attorney to learn the options available to you and to the birth mother.
When parents begin the adoption process, they often think about the day they will hold their baby in their arms. In their minds’ eye, they see family portraits with parents and children, imagine family vacations, and creating a life with a child to love them. Until they have a bit more understanding of adoption, they never give much thought to where a birth mother may fit into this story.
It is vital to remember that the adoption triad, the three parties to adoption, are all vital to establishing a healthy, safe life for the child. This doesn’t mean a birth mother should have unfettered access to you and your child, but understanding what each party should (and should not) contribute to the triad is an important first step.
Adoptive Parents have the obvious role: providing daily care, love and support for the child. They are the parents. They are completely responsible for the child from a medical, financial, and emotional standpoint. And this is the role that I know you long to fulfill. However adoptive parents are also responsible for helping the child develop a healthy self-esteem as it relates to adoption. This means being open and honest from the beginning that the child was adopted. It means sharing, age appropriately of course, that the child’s birth parents created this adoption plan to provide the best life possible for him or her. Perhaps most importantly, adoptive parents should fully understand that curiosity or questions about birth parents are in no way a statement that they are unhappy with their lives. It is natural to be curious about who we are and where we come from. Addressing these issues openly and honestly are always best.
Adoptive parents have a great responsibility to honor the commitment they made to the birth parents in regards to ongoing contact. If you agreed to send pictures and letters, send them. If you agreed to schedule visits, then schedule them. This is a relationship built on trust and the more proactive you are in maintaining it, the less opportunity it will have to get awkward.
Remember, it is likely that someday, if contact doesn’t happen, your child may search out his or her birth parents. You don’t want your child to hear from a birth parent that you promised to keep in touch and then didn’t.
Birth Parents have a responsibility to let you be the parents. Yes, they will always have a biological connection to the child, but they chose this option for the child. They need to honor their choice and maintain the level of contact they agreed to. It can be hard to manage expectations at times, if they thought, for instance, that the child would still call them “Mom and Dad”. Gentle conversations and understanding can help them understand that the child is not confused, but having two sets of parents might result in confusion.
You may find that birth parents have made negative choices after placement, such as heavy drug use or hanging around with questionable people. If you are ever concerned for your child’s safety, both physical or emotional, it is acceptable to reset the boundaries. However just because some of the choices are not things you may approve of, such as facial tattoos or having more children, don’t change the agreement. And always express your concern and hope for them that they get back to a positive place.
Children deserve the truth, provided to them in a manner they can understand. As the child gets older, you may share more or answer questions they have. When you are able to present the truth from the beginning, a child is not confused about who they are or where they came from. It is only when parents wait to tell them that there is a great shock and potential for relationships to crumble. Part of loving your child is loving where they came from, and that includes their birth mother. It may be hard to do, but embracing your child means embracing the challenges you may feel when your child expresses curiosity. This will demonstrate to your child that you are not afraid of the subject and they will continue to entrust you with their thoughts and questions.
The adoption triad may at time feel like a delicate balance. By understanding everyone’s point of view and what healthy boundaries look like, fitting everyone into their roles in the adoption triad will result in more positive outcomes.
We spoke with a birth mother tonight who was, well, let’s just say not our cup of tea. She seemed rude and disrespectful to us. The conversation seemed to go south after she said she needed help financially to get a place to live – she is living in her car now. We wanted to know specifically why it was so much and she got upset. We need to be careful with our budget and told her that, but she said we were judging her. Help!
It can be a fine line between doing your due diligence and crossing the line into making someone else feel like you are suspicious of them. You definitely need to protect your pocketbook and your heart, but doing that can be a difficult walk.
Here are some tips on how to do this:
Sometime birth parents want to match real quick because they need to receive funds quickly. Remember you want to get a proof of pregnancy and a detailed list of what the anticipated expenses are. Blame it on your attorney if you need to. These are typical parts of adoption so if someone says they don’t want to do it, then maybe it isn’t a potential match for you.
When we are in a desperate state of mind, we often do things we may not normally do and ignore warning signs. Don’t be so eager to adopt that you are working from a desperation mindset. You want to pursue the best match for you, not simply the one that is right now.
If you had a failed situation or encountered a scam, try to start fresh, not bringing the hurt and disappointment to this new person. Remember, they aren’t the ones who hurt you. You need to stay open and honest in your hopes and your communication.
If every birth mother was living a life that was easy, she wouldn’t be considering adoption. Birth mothers usually have little support, are living hand to mouth, and have been through a lot. Part of what we can do for them is show them simple human kindness and compassion. Often, just listening is a great gift. Don’t be afraid to listen to her whole story; she probably needs a friend right now more than you know.
If you have difficult questions you need to know the answers to, put it off until you have built rapport or delegate it to your attorney to ask. That is part of his role in your adoption – getting to those sometimes sticky issues like finances, birth father, and more.
Try to keep your heart soft toward any birth mother, even if you know she isn’t a good match for you. And keep them in prayer. It is such a difficult thing to contemplate adoption to the point that you reach out. Remember that although her choices may have been different than yours, she is a child of God.
Many women believe erroneously that the father of their baby has no say in what she does. After all, she could go abort the baby without his consent and against his wishes. She can chose to parent the baby without his consent and against his wishes. Shouldn’t adoption be the same way?
Whether it should or shouldn’t, it isn’t the same. In most every state, birth fathers have rights equal to the birth mother. It does get confusing however, because in some states a woman can choose who, if anyone, is listed on the birth certificate as the father. This doesn’t really have anything to do with parental rights, it is simply a choice she can make.
We always recommend that you employ the services of an adoption attorney for advice and legal counsel on the rights of birth fathers. Here are some key things to keep in mind when discussing the role of the father with potential birth mothers:
It is key to remember that birth fathers have rights. They need to step up and assert them if they want to parent, but they do inherently have parental rights to the child. Don’t be afraid to ask about the child’s father, and don’t be afraid to speak to him if possible. Getting his consent and buy-in will yield a more solid adoption and reduce your stress significantly!
Learn more about birth fathers in our lesson about birth parents.