New ArticleJane Edwards
ELEMENTS OF SOUND ADOPTION LAWS
State Child Welfare Department to establish by rule information which must be provided to a mother and a father if his consent is required before they may consent to adoption to include:
- Information on support and resources needed to parent a child, availability of or referral to appropriate support services;
- Possibility of continuing contact with the child and the variables and options for such contact, the desire of the child for contact, and the availability of remedies to resolve issues involving contact;
- Importance of identifying the child’s father and the consequences of knowingly failing to provide information about the father;
- Grief and loss inherent in adoption;
- Right to counseling by a professional counselor not affiliated with the agency or, in the case of an independent adoption, the attorney arranging the adoption;
- Right to consultation with an attorney selected by the mother and paid by the agency or prospective adoptive parents;
- Time frames for when the consent becomes effective and when it can be withdrawn;
- Potential disclosure of the identify of birth parents to the child when he/she turns 18; and
- Voluntary adoption registry.
Consent: Contents, When signed, When effective, Withdrawal, Revocation
A consent must include an acknowledgment that the parent has been advised of the information and disclosures above.
A consent may be signed any time after the birth but is not effective for 72 hours after birth. Once the consent is signed, the child may be placed with the agency or prospective adoptive parents.
The petition for adoption and related documents may not be filed in court until after the 72-hour period.
A consent may be withdrawn before the petition is filled or within 10 days after the 72-hour period. If the consent is withdrawn, the child must be returned to the parent who withdraws the consent.
After the 10-day period, the consent may be revoked only if it did not comply with the above provisions or for fraud or duress.
Notice of adoption; Action to set aside an adoption
Consenting parents must be notified of the county in which the adoption petition was filed and the date the judgment of adoption was signed by the judge.
An action to set aside an adoption must be brought within one year after the judgment of adoption is signed.
A father married to the mother has the same rights as the mother.
An unmarried father must receive notice of the pending adoption and be given the opportunity to participate in or contest the adoption and have custody of the child if:
- He has provided or offered to provide any assistance to the mother during the pregnancy or the child after birth;
- Lived with the mother or child; or
- Registered with the putative fathers’ registry to be established and maintained by the State Child Welfare Department.
An open adoption agreement must be filed with the petition for adoption and becomes a part of the judgment of adoption.
The agreement may not contain provisions allowing the adoptive parents to nullify the agreement if a natural parent contests the adoption.
If a party fails to abide by the agreement, the parties must try to resolve their differences through mediation if available. If mediation is not available or is unsuccessful, a party may file a court action to enforce the agreement. If the natural parent prevails, the parent shall be awarded attorney fees to be paid by the adoptive parents.
Post Placement Support
Natural parents are entitled to at least three counseling sessions with a licensed counselor of their choosing at the adoptive parents’ expense within a year of consenting to an adoption.
Birth Certificates and Court Records
Original birth certificates and court records must be available to adult adoptees without a court order. Court records must be available to natural parents who consented to the adoption without a court order.
 Elizabeth Samuels, “Time to Decide? The Laws Governing Mothers’ Consents to the Adoption of Their Newborn Infants,” 72 Tennessee Law Review 509 (2005) https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=843584