Today we had a new mother come to our group looking for help. She lives in Kansas, signed away her rights to her newborn baby that she delivered yesterday (yes yesterday) and immediately regretted it. Let’s talk about revocation.
Revocation of Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) varies widely from state to state. Each state has its own rules and laws about adoption and time periods, who may consent to TPR, who may not, etc. These are all governed under the very broad federal law. In almost every legally binding contract you cannot be under the influence of narcotics or drugs or the contract is null and void. This is not the case for adoption.
If you’ve ever given birth (and I’m not going to assume everyone here has) you know about the horrible after pains – the contractions your uterine muscle still does while it is shrinking back down to the size of a fist as opposed to the big balloon it was during your pregnancy. These are not as painful as actual labor, but painful enough to warrant narcotics for a few days. If you’ve had a C-section then you will likely be on strong narcotics for much longer (I never have so I cannot attest to the time period. I believe it is a week or so).
This new mother we had come to us who desperately wanted help lives in Kansas, as I stated above. Upon looking into the Kansas laws on revocation periods I found that the only time a revocation can be done on a TPR is if duress/coercion can be proven in a court of law. This means that this new mom would have to hire an attorney and fight to prove she was under duress when she signed her TPR. And what does that mean? It means that this baby will remain with it’s hopeful adoptive parents while this plays out. It means the hopeful adoptive parents have a huge lead on this new mom. Why? Because the courts will decide “best interests of the child” even if duress can be proven. We all know court battles are lengthy. By the time any final decision would be made this child will likely be a year old, maybe older. And the “only parents he’s ever known” will be the hopeful adoptive ones.
So, why should she be able to revoke? The Kansas law says she can be TPR’ed 12 hours after giving birth. That’s it. 12 hours. That’s not even enough time to recover from a hardcore night out on the town. But it’s enough recovery time, according to the state of Kansas, to decide the fate of your child’s life forever. Are you getting where I’m going with this?
Why is it not mandatory that there be a 30 day wait period for TPR? The baby certainly isn’t going to go anywhere. It’s not like if TPR isn’t signed within hours after birth the baby will turn into a pumpkin. If the mother is really totally sure that she wants to choose adoption for her child, that it is the best option, she will still think that in 30 days, correct? Having women sign TPR within hours or days after birth is to ensure the goods are got. Women are very vulnerable, most times on painkillers, after delivering a baby. Everything you thought through while you were pregnant goes out the window and you start again after the baby is born. And that is how it should be. No one knows exactly how they will feel after they actually meet their child. The reason that 30 day wait periods are so unpopular is because there would be TONS less babies actually available for adoption.
But, where will the baby go in those 30 days? The baby can go home with the hopeful adoptive parents. Simple as that. If mom changes her mind they return the baby.
But wouldn’t that be devastating for the hopeful adoptive parents? Sure. But wouldn’t it be more devastating for the mother who has lost her child when that isn’t what she really wanted to do? And no, you can’t compare the two. The hopeful adoptive couple DOES NOT love that baby the same way that the mother does. No one can convince me otherwise. They did not bond with that baby for 9 months. They just want a baby. Any baby will do. Sure, they got their hopes up and that is really hard. I totally sympathize and understand. But if you knew, going into it, that this baby would not for sure be yours until 30 days after birth then you can really prepare yourself for that. Not that it would take away the let down, but it would definitely soften the blow.
Any baby will do? Yes, any baby. Since they cannot have a child that is genetically theirs any healthy (and sometimes unhealthy – there are some people who truly don’t care) baby will do. On the flip side, any baby will not do for a mother delivering their biological child. If this was not the case then women would just give birth and be randomly given a baby at the hospital. No bands would be necessary to identify mom and baby. Any baby will do if you are unable to have a biological child. Any baby will NOT do if you are the one giving birth to your child. So, yes, it would be a huge let down for hopeful adoptive parents and probably very painful. But not nearly as painful for that mother living with regret for the rest of her life because she made a decision when she was not emotionally, psychologically or physically equipped to make one of that magnitude.
Well, why not just let moms TPR like they do, hours or days after birth, and make sure there is a 30 day revocation period in place?
Because that doesn’t work. Revocation is something you have to fight to do. Many mothers aren’t even aware they have the right to revoke in states where these laws exist. And I have personal friends who have told the social worker they changed their mind, well within the revocation time period, only to be told they could not revoke or their other children would get taken away or it was too late or some other lie. Yes, this STILL happens regardless of what you have been told or made to believe.
Revocation periods, obviously, still need to exist because the laws are not perfect and need serious reform. The laws right now protect adoptive parents. Plain and simple. They do not protect the adoptee and they certainly do not protect mothers considering placement of their child.
I wonder how many of the people making and enforcing laws that have to do with adoption are adoptive parents themselves? Wouldn’t that be considered a serious conflict of interest? Nevertheless, no one even asks or thinks to change that because the lawmakers themselves are most likely adoptive parents. Case in point, Justice John Roberts of the Federal Supreme Court – Adoptive Father. Recently ruled against the father in the Veronica Brown case. He sided with the hopeful adoptive family. How is this not a conflict of interest?
My best advice – If you are considering adoption for your child, no matter HOW sure you are during pregnancy or how sure you think you still are after delivery, do not sign ANYTHING until 30 days have passed. Your baby will not turn into a pumpkin, you don’t have to take the baby home with you, no one will die…but you WILL be protected. You are in control. You simply tell your caseworker you will not take no for an answer but you will not be signing TPR until 30 days after delivery. Then inform them that they should get together whatever paperwork you need to sign to let the baby go home with the hopeful adoptive parents while you take your time to make your final decision. This protects you from being like this poor girl that came to us today. There is pretty much nothing we can do to help her. It’s heartbreaking.