Young children annoy adults by constantly asking, “Why?” But asking why as an adult is a smart step when undertaking the journey to adopt. It allows prospective adoptive parents to obtain context, become informed, and eliminate confusion. Expanding one’s family is a huge step with permanent consequences, so asking why and being in the know makes it easier to make informed decisions. 

Why Must I Participate in a Home Study?

The bottom line is that a favorable preliminary home study is mandated by the law in every state. The goal of this required investigation is to determine whether a child’s welfare and safety might be at risk if they are placed in a given prospective adoptive home. 

The only exception is if the child is a close blood relative of the prospective adoptive parent. In that case, a home study is typically not required. 

Why Is There Risk Involved Once a Match Has Been Made?

Just because a birth mother has picked a prospective adoptive parent for placement of her child does not mean she is legally obligated to carry through with that decision. Because adoption is a legal process, legal paperwork must be signed in order to effect the placement in the eyes of the law. This paperwork is known as consent to adoption, sometimes called a surrender. Until this  consent is signed by the birth mother and any revocation period authorized by applicable state law has elapsed, she is legally free to change her mind and parent her child.

Although babies are not bought and sold, a commercial example illustrates the concept of risk after the match but prior to an irrevocable consent having been obtained. If an individual goes to the car dealer and picks out the car he wants to buy, a match has been made. Nevertheless, until he has signed on the dotted line of a sales contract, he is not legally bound to buy that vehicle. He can later determine he cannot afford to buy the car or that he likes a car at a different dealer better; if he does, the “match” will fall through.

Why Can’t I See the Baby Immediately After Birth?

A bundle of joy has arrived, and the adoptive parents are eager to meet their new family member. They cannot lay eyes on him/her soon enough. But often a delay for this joyous event arises, normally attributed to two causes—hospital policy and the wishes of the birth mother.

Until she signs a consent for adoption, the birth mother determines what happens to her child. She may wish to spend time with her newborn to say her goodbyes; she could also want her family members to see their biological relative. At this point, adoptive parents should exercise compassion and understanding. They will have the rest of their lives to spend with their child, so acceding to a birth mother’s desire to have one-on-one time with her baby is appropriate.

Hospital policy can also delay an adoptive parent’s contact with a newborn. Due to health considerations, the number of people with access to a baby is limited. To facilitate contact, hospital bands are usually issued; the bearer of a band is authorized to see or spend time with the baby. Typically, the hospital issues two bands with the birth mother receiving the first one, and she directs who receives the second band. If she wants the birth father, her mother, or a significant other to receive that band, then no band is available to the adoptive parent. Once the birth mother has signed her adoption paperwork and been discharged, a band may then be transferred to the adoptive parent.

Why Can’t I Go Back To My State of Residence with My New Baby Right Away?

All fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are parties to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, familiarly referred to as “ICPC.” This agreement sets forth uniform legal and administrative procedures for transferring adopted children across state lines. Compliance with ICPC procedures is required in all cases where the prospective adoptive parents reside in one state but the child to be adopted is located in a different state. 

The child’s birth state is called the “sending state,” while the adoptive parents’ state is called the “receiving state.” Both the sending state and the receiving state must review the adoption paperwork and provide clearance before the child may be taken across state lines. It is illegal for the prospective adoptive parents to transport the child out of the sending state prior to that clearance being received. 

Once a child is placed with out-of-state adoptive parents, an interstate packet must be prepared and submitted for review. The sending state’s ICPC office reviews the documentation first. This office may request additional documentation or information before giving clearance. When clearance is given, the sending state sends the packet on to the receiving state’s ICPC office for review and clearance. 

This consecutive rather than concurrent review means that the process will take some time. As a result, prospective adoptive parents should plan to remain in the sending state until such clearance can be obtained. No prohibition is placed on the adoptive parents leaving the state; they simply cannot take the baby with them until clearance is obtained. If a couple is adopting, they may decide to have one spouse remain in the sending state while the other spouse returns home to take care of family responsibilities or employment obligations.

Why Was the Adoption Process Different for Someone Else?

No two adoptions are ever alike because each case involves unique individuals in their own unique circumstances.  The process itself will vary depending on the type of adoption pursued, the type of adoption resource utilized, and the state law governing the adoption.

Various types of adoption exist. International adoptions are totally different and more complex creatures than domestic adoptions.  International adoptions will also vary among themselves based on the country from which the child is being adopted.  Relative adoption is a much simpler procedure than adopting a non-relative. Adoptions from foster care involve adopting from a state government. An interstate adoption, where the child and the adoptive parents are residents of different states, necessitates processing and documentation which an intrastate adoption does not.

Even if two sets of adoptive parents go through the same type of adoption process, the adoption journey will not be the same. Each adoption resource creates its own policies and procedures. Agency A may require different parent training than Agency B. Completing a home study can take longer for one agency than another, and the fee structure varies.

Since adoption is a process established by state law, each state has its own set of adoption laws. As a result, fifty different systems for adoption are in place. These laws differ in terms of the time required to finalize, the grounds for terminating parental rights, the option for a birth mother to revoke consent, etc. Thus, someone adopting in State A will have a different legal experience than an individual adopting in any of the other 49 states. 

Why Did My Match Fall Through?

 Many prospective adoptive parents dread being matched and then having their heartbroken if  the pairing falls through. Unfortunately, this is the distressing outcome from time to time. If not a miscarriage or fetal death, the main reason for a failed match is that the birth mother has, for whatever reason, decided not to pursue that particular adoption plan. But why would she change her mind once she had moved forward to the point of selecting a prospective adoptive home?

Motivating factors for this kind of decision fall into two general categories—internal and external.  The selection of an adoption placement is a choice fraught with emotional consequences. The birth mother may feel guilty, sad, angry, etc. Her decision is not a simple cost-benefit analysis with no emotional component. If she determines she could not emotionally handle making a placement, then a placement may not go forward.

A birth mother may think she can handle a placement option when she is considering it in the abstract. However, when the time comes for concrete action, such as signing a consent, emotions can bubble to the surface and cause second thoughts. The exhaustion, pain, and hormone hurricane that follows delivery can also be a factor in the birth mother’s consideration. A change in plans may also be driven by external factors. One common external factor is family pressure. The birth mother may succumb to the influence of those nearest and dearest to her who are opposed to her placement decision. 

Additionally, if the reason behind the need to make a placement is eliminated, then a different choice may be made. Economic factors and relationship issues play a role here. If the birth mother cannot afford to parent, adoption may be her best choice. But if, prior to placement, she obtains a job (or a better job)  that would financially enable her to do so, she may decide to parent her child. Some birth mothers make an adoption plan because the birth father is not in the picture. However, she may change her mind if she reconciles with the birth father or a new man in her life is willing to fill the role of a father to her child. 

Why Must Post-Placement Supervision Be Conducted if I Was Approved For Placement?

A favorable preliminary home study establishes that no concerns for a child’s welfare and safety have been identified based on a thorough investigation prior to placement. It approves an actual placement based on the facts as determined by the investigation.  Even after that approval is given, an additional inquiry is mandated following an adoptive placement. This is because the adoptive family’s circumstances have changed.

Once a child is in the home, the family situation has been altered because a new member has joined the household. While this expansion may bring joy, it may also bring stress and challenges. Has this new dynamic given rise to any concerns about the child’s welfare? Are the child’s needs being adequately met as far as bonding, medical care, etc.? A court wants to be assured the child is in good hands and is not at risk of harm or failing to thrive prior to making the adoption final and permanent. The post-placement supervision undertaken allows the court to be apprised of the answers to these crucial questions for the child’s future before the parent-child relationship is official.

Why Must an Amended Birth Certificate Be Obtained?

Following the live birth of a child, the applicable governmental entity issues a birth certificate. States can create their own forms for birth certificates, so the content of the certificate is not uniform from state to state; however, a child’s name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, and parents’ names are generally listed.

Typically, an application for a birth certificate is completed at the hospital shortly after a baby’s birth. Thus, the child’s given name and the birth mother’s name will appear on the original birth certificate. Once a child is adopted, the prospective adoptive parents need a birth certificate establishing the child’s adopted name and identifying them as the child’s parents.

After the finalization of an adoption, most states seal the original birth certificate; this step means access to the document is no longer available. An amended birth certificate is issued upon submission of the required documentation, which normally includes a certified copy of the final judgment of adoption and payment of any fee due for processing. 

Having an amended birth certificate is essential for the adopted child. Such documentation serves three purposes. First, it is a means of identification. The child must have documentation of his birth under his/her current legal name, a name that was likely changed through the adoption. Second, a birth certificate is proof of citizenship because individuals born in the United States are U.S. citizens. Finally, the amended birth certificate is evidence of the child’s relation to his/her parents. Such relationships might need to be established, for example, to receive benefits through the adoptive parent.

Prospective adoptive parents asking  “why” allows them to learn new information, clear up any confusion, and gain context into the journey they are about to undertake. The adoption journey will make more sense and be less daunting with a better understanding. Why not ask “why” then?