Birth Parent Information


  • I am thinking of adoption. What can an attorney do for me?
  • Private or Agency Adoption?
  • Tennessee Birth Mother’s Bill of Rights

I am thinking of adoption. What can an attorney do for me?

When you are considering adoption you do not need a sales pitch. You need good information and help.

While birth parents are rarely required by law to have their own attorney, adoption works most smoothly when they do. No matter what type of adoption you choose, your attorney can confidentially answer your questions and help you navigate the adoption process.

You have lots of decisions to make and you need them laid out with the pros and cons of each objectively explained. You need an environment where the beauty of the gift you are giving and the creation of a new family does not get lost in the paperwork.

Dawn Coppock practices only adoption law because she enjoys working with birth mothers and new families to make the experience as positive and respectful as possible for everyone involved. She provides good information in a kind and supportive way.

Common areas of concern for women with unplanned pregnancies are:

  • Should I choose an agency adoption or a private adoption?
  • How will the birth father figure into the process?
  • What expenses can be paid on my behalf?
  • How do I find the right family for my baby?
  • What sort of investigation is done on the adoptive family and can I see it?
  • What type of consent form do I sign? When can I sign it and what if I change my mind?
  • Where can I get good counseling?
  • After the child is placed, can I still get information about or see the child?
  • What are my choices at the hospital? Can I and the adoptive parents see the child and who receives the child at discharge?

The right attorney does not try to make your decisions for you. She just gives straight answers to your questions and respect for your choices.

Other than speaking with an attorney, what else should I do?

  • Speak with other birth mothers if that’s possible.
  • Speak with a counselor.
  • These are some books you might want to read:
    • ROLES, Patricia, Saying Goodbye to Baby, Volume 1 A book about Loss and Grief in Adoption, 1991 (Ms. Coppock sometimes gives this one to birth mother’s.)
    • FOSTER, Sally, The One Girl in 10: Self Portrait of the Teenage Mother, 1988
    • JONES, Merry, Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories, 1993
    • LINDSEY, Jeanne Warren, Parents, Pregnant Teens and the Adoption Option
    • LINDSEY, Jeanne Warren, Pregnant? Adoption Is An Option: Making an Adoption Plan for A Child, 1996
    • LINDSEY, JoAnne, Pregnant Too Soon
    • MASON, Mary Martin, Out of the Shadows: Birthfathers’ Stories, 1995
    • ROMANCHIK, Brenda, A Birthmother’s Book of Memories, 1994
    • SEVERSON, Randolph, Dear Birthfather
    • SHERMAN, Aliza, Placing Your Baby for Adoption, 1997
    • SILBER & SPEEDLIN, Dear Birthmother, 1983
    • UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER, Our Baby’s First Seven Years: A Memory Book for Our Adopted Child, 1989


When you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and have chosen adoption for your baby certainly the toughest choice is behind you. But there are still many choices to make before the adoption plan is complete.

Two related choices that need to be made early on are who the adoptive parents will be and whether you want to make an adoption plan with an agency or directly with the adoptive parents using an attorney. Private adoption is also called “independent adoption”.

Here are some things you need to be aware of:

How a family is selected.

In a private adoption, you choose the family from a virtually unlimited pool of families. You can, with the help of an attorney, obtain profiles or letters from families from across the country or in your own backyard. You can specify religion, size of family, age or most any other requirement that is important to you. You can speak with the family by phone or in person, if you choose to, but you don’t have to.

In agency adoption, the agency may choose the family for you or may allow you to choose from a limited pool of families. Many agencies only work with families of particular religions, age ranges, geographic areas and family sizes. Often agency policies govern whether and how you may have contact with the adoptive family.

Home study

In agency and independent adoption, the adoptive family must have a home study by a licensed agency. A home study is an investigation and adoption preparation program for the adoptive family. If the family can not “pass” the home study, they can not adopt either through an agency or privately.

Counseling and Legal Counsel

In a private adoption, counseling and legal counsel for you will be provided at your request, by the professionals of your choice, at the adoptive parents expense.

In agency adoption, you are rarely offered your own attorney. Counseling is provided, generally by agency staff.

Legal process

The process for providing your consent to the adoption process is almost the same in Tennessee for agency and private adoption. For more information go to the link below for a Summary of Tennessee law.


In both private and agency adoptions, your medical expenses not covered by insurance, related to your prenatal care, delivery and follow up care should be paid by the adoptive parents.

If you need assistance with living expenses or maternity clothes these expenses (as allowed by Tennessee law) are routinely paid in private adoptions. Payment of living expenses is also allowed in agency adoption but is less common.

For a period of 90 days before the birth of the baby and for 45 days after surrender, a birth mother may receive payment for the following: reasonable and actual housing, utilities, transportation, maternity clothes and food.

If the birth mother wants counseling, the adoptive parents are required to pay for that counseling for up to one year. The adoptive parents are also required to pay for the birth mother an attorney, if she chooses to have one.

It is advisable that all payments be made through an attorney’s trust account. Never pay or receive money related to an adoption without clearing it with an attorney first.

Contact with the prospective adoptive parents

In a private adoption, you and the adoptive parents decide how much and what kind of contact you each feel comfortable with. It could be a lot. It could be none at all.

In an agency adoption, you will have an opportunity to express your desires but the agency social worker and agency policy also influence this decision.

Hospital discharge

In both agency and private adoptions, the child can be discharged from the hospital directly to the adoptive parents. However direct discharge to the adoptive parents without the use of foster care is a little more common in private adoption.

If you want to discuss private adoption or if you would like to review letters about families seeking to adopt privately, please contact Dawn Coppock at 865-933-8173.



You have a right to place your child for adoption through an adoption agency or through a private adoption.

You have a right to choose the parents who will adopt your child, know their names, religion and other similar information and meet them, if desired.

You have a right to review the adoptive parents’ home study.

You have a right to make a written open adoption agreement to permit you pictures, letters or personal contact with the child after placement. The agreement is a moral agreement and will not be legally enforced by the Tennessee Courts.

You have a right to name your child on his or her first birth certificate. The adoptive parents have a right to name the child on the second birth certificate which will be issued after the adoption is final.

You have the right to your own attorney at the expense of the adoptive parents. In most cases, you also have the right to decline counsel.

You have the right to receive counseling from the counselor of your choice for a total of 12 months, at the expense of the adoptive parents. You also have the right to decline counseling.

You have the right to have the adoptive parents pay for your birth related medical expenses.

If you are placing a newborn child for adoption, you have the right to financial assistance with your reasonable and actual housing, utilities, maternity clothes, food and transportation during the last 90 days of your pregnancy and for 45 days after the surrender of a newborn. You may also decline financial assistance.

You have the right to see or not see your child before you place him or her for adoption.

You have the right to change your mind about the adoption at any time before you sign a surrender form in front of a judge and for 3 days after you sign the surrender form. The three day period includes weekends and holidays, but if the third day is a weekend or holiday the last day to revoke is the next business day following the third day. There is no right to revoke beyond the 3 day period. You cannot sign a surrender before the child is four days old unless the judge says there is good reason to make an exception to this rule.

You have a right to receive a copy of the surrender form and any other forms you sign.

Your child is allowed to have his or her adoption records, including papers that disclose your identity, when he or she is 21 years old. You have the right to consent to, or prevent, contact from your adult child.

This fact sheet is intended for general information purposes only and not as a substitute for counsel.

For answers to your particular legal questions, contact an attorney.

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