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Adoption Requirements – Who Can Adopt?

It is common for an expecting mother to think she isn’t legally able to adopt her baby, for a variety of reasons.

For example, she may think she is too young or too old to adopt her child to an adoptive family. Or perhaps she used alcohol during her pregnancy and doesn’t think an adoptive family will want her baby.

If this describes you, please understand that there are very few legal requirements to place a child for adoption. Secondly, no matter your situation, there is always a perfect adoptive family interested in sharing an adoption plan with you.

The Average Expecting Mother

Pregnant mothers come from all walks of life. Some are under 18; some are over 30. Some are married; some are not. Some already have children; some do not. Some have graduated high school and college; some have not.

A major adoption agency provided us with the following statistics about the women for which they helped complete adoptions from October 2012 to October 2014:

  • 57% were between 20 and 30 years old
  • 15% were between 30 and 40 years old
  • 21% were under 20

Of the women who answered…

  • 22% have not graduated high school
  • 38% graduated high school and have no other secondary education
  • 69% graduated high school and have some college credit
  • 44% graduated high school and have completed college
Other Children
  • 40% did not have any other children
  • 21% had one other child
  • 20% had two other children
  • 11 % had three other children
  • 8% had four or more children
  • 7% were married
  • 93% were not married

Now that you know the demographics of women who choose adoption, you may be wondering about other things in your background as well and whether it can deny your adoption plan. Some of these situations often include:

Alcohol or Drug Use – There are many women who do not pursue adoption because they believe an adoption agency will not work with women who used alcohol or other substances during pregnancy. Adoption agencies and attorneys want to help you and your child regardless of your situation. While some adoption agencies drug test, others do not. It is always best to be upfront with an adoption agency about your situation – they will not judge you and will keep your information completely confidential.

Medical Conditions – Some women believe their medical condition or a family member’s medical background could dissuade a family from wanting to adopt their baby. Whether there is cancer, diabetes, mental health or other medical issues, there is always a family excited to adopt a baby, no matter what. There are even families who sign up specifically to adopt children with special needs.

Age Requirements, Parents’ Approval – There are only a few states in which the parent of a minor’s signature is required to legally consent to the adoption. If you are under the age of 18, ask your adoption agency or attorney if this applies to you. In most cases, parents do not have to be involved or notified for an adoption to be legally completed.

Birth Father Involvement – If the birth father is supportive and even involved in your adoption plan, that is the best-case scenario. However, these situations aren’t as common as those in which the birth father is either unsupportive or uninvolved. Regardless of your relationship with the birth father, you may still go on with an adoption plan. In most cases, the adoption can still proceed unless the birth father has shown a commitment to raising the child. Read the following to learn more about the rights of unmarried fathers, or speak with an adoption professional about your situation.

Relinquishing Parental Rights

To make the adoption legal, pregnant mothers must “consent” to the adoption by signing the document to terminate parental rights and may have to appear in court.

Each state has different statutes on when a woman is legally able to consent:

  • 16 states allow birth parents to consent any time after the birth of the child
  • 30 states require a waiting period to consent, ranging from 12 hours (Kansas) to 15 days (Rhode Island), and the most common being 72 hours.
  • 2 states allow birth parents to consent before the birth of the child, but she must also consent after the birth of the child.

These waiting periods are intended to give women time to think about their decisions after the emotions of labor and the effects of the medications have subsided.

Most states also have revocation laws in which the consent can be revoked, but only under special circumstances, such as when consent was obtained by fraud, duress or coercion. Some states do allow a revocation period in which a birth parent can change her mind about her adoption.

Read the following for state-specific information about consent and revocation periods.