Locating a potential birth mother is one of the more daunting aspects of independent adoption. The emotional risks are amplified by well-intentioned friends and family members who are wary of adoption scams. The ability to connect online allows you to reach mothers across the country. The downside is possible misunderstandings, resulting from anonymity and physical distance. The advantages of Internet matching probably outweigh the negatives, but it’s important to keep your search smart and safe.
Early on, it is best not to share personal identifying information. In advertising, omit your last name, home phone number, and other personal details. Use a separate Google Talk number for adoption calls and a dedicated e-mail address.
First conversations with an expectant mother can be nerve-wracking. Focus on letting her get to know you and your hopes for a child. Either you or your attorney/agency needs to gather some basic information, such as both biological parents’ full names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, the names of any doctors the expectant mother has seen, and an explanation of why she wants to make an adoption plan for her child. It may take several conversations before she feels comfortable enough to provide details. If you did not meet her through a personal connection, you or your attorney will want to verify her identity. This will provide the trust needed to move the relationship forward.
Meeting the birth mother in person is the next step. Electronic communication is no substitute for personal interaction. You’ll want to follow your attorney’s advice in scheduling the first meeting, which often takes place at a neutral location, like a restaurant. If the birth mother lives with her parents or the baby’s father, invite them to join you as well. The wider your circle of contact with the biological family, the more support the birth mother will feel.
Some adoptive parents bring a small gift for the birth mother, which is fine — just make sure it is only a token. Otherwise, your generosity could be misconstrued by the birth family, or a court, as bribery. If you live too far away to meet in person, arrange for her to meet with a social worker or an attorney close to her home. If she resists a meeting, you should be concerned.
The vast majority of women contemplating an adoption plan do so for the right reasons and want nothing more than to find loving parents for their baby. However, if you meet a woman who asks for money in the first or second conversation (for utilities that are about to be shut off, for example, or food or gas money), does not want you to contact the birth father, wants to keep the pregnancy and adoption a secret from her family, or seems willing to accept you as the “perfect parents” without learning much about you, proceed cautiously.
A woman who is considering placing her child for adoption for the right reasons will want to get to know you before making a final decision. Handle any requests for aid (financial or otherwise) by explaining that your lawyer (or agency) must approve any expenses. Talk to your professional about any requests, and do not feel guilty about being wary.
Sorting Out the Details
If everyone remains committed to the adoption plan as the due date approaches, it’s time to begin discussing the legal and logistical issues of the adoption. Would the birth mother like a counselor or her own attorney? Who will be at the hospital, or in the delivery room, when the baby is born? How and when will you take physical custody of the child? Does the biological family want to spend any time with the child before relinquishing? What is the plan for future contact? Will you be contributing to any living expenses or medical costs? Have the parental rights of every potential biological father been terminated? Do you have enough medical and social history from the birth parents?
Virtually all of these issues have legal implications, and the earlier you and your attorney/agency sort them out, the better.
Don’t underestimate the number of legal documents involved in an adoption. A potential birth mother, who must also work through stacks of medical forms at the hospital, can become overwhelmed by paperwork if everything is left until the last minute. Things start to happen very quickly and emotions run high in the last days before the baby comes, so even if you cannot complete all the legal documents in advance of the birth, be sure that the birth mother knows what she will be asked to sign at relinquishment, so she does not feel blindsided.
It is a leap of faith to form a relationship with a potential birth mother. Adoptive parents should ask commonsense questions and pay attention to the answers. But remember, the birth mother is making a leap of faith in you, as well.