Adoption Information for Birth Parents
You are considering or want to place your child for adoption.
When you are facing an unplanned pregnancy or have a child you cannot care for, you have a limited number of choices. Adoption is one choice. It isn’t easy but may be the right choice for you. To decide, you may need some legal questions answered or just want to hear the process described so you will know what adoption really looks like. You may be worried about whether the birth father must or will consent, whether your family can stop you, whether the adoption can be “open,” how to find adoptive families to consider, what expenses can be paid for you, or the implication of prior drug use or a health problem.
Once you decide on adoption in Tennessee, if you are placing your child directly with adoptive parents and want your own lawyer and/or a counselor, the adoptive family must pay for professionals, including a lawyer, to help you if you want that help. It is not required. Adoption agencies aren’t legally required to obtain a lawyer to represent you even if you ask for one, though the better agencies will.
But while you are considering your choices, there probably isn’t an adoptive family or agency to ask to pay a lawyer to privately answer your questions. If you are exploring options and want to know what adoption could be like for you and your child, Dawn will discuss that with you for free, no pressure, no judgement, just good information and respect for the tough choice you face.
Dawn has also prepared some information you can read here:
- A “Bill of Rights” for women considering adoption in Tennessee
- Post adoption contact agreements/Open adoption
- Summary of “Tennessee Adoption Law” that may answer some of your questions.
Remember that you can have a lawyer who represents you, who you can speak with in confidence and who can give you legal advice. What you tell agencies, lawyers for agencies, and adoptive parents is not confidential. While the adoptive parents or agency may suggest the names of lawyers to represent you, the final choice is yours. If you want Dawn to represent you, call and ask her and she can talk with the agency or lawyer for the adoptive parents about payment on your behalf.
Your child is out of your home and you want information about your choices or to stop a planned adoption.
Parents of a child that has been removed from them by the state or a court, but whose parental rights have not been terminated, can sometimes regain custody, and even when they can’t, often they can influence the child’s circumstances or placement. When the state or adoptive parents seek to involuntarily terminate your parental rights so an adoption can take place, that case is a “contested termination” or “contested adoption.” Contested cases are very different, so without knowing the facts of your particular case, a lawyer can’t give you specific advice about your options. Most of these cases are pretty involved and emotional. Regardless of who Dawn represents, birth or adoptive parents, she handles contested adoptions on an hourly basis only, not pro bono, and not for a flat rate.
In some cases, even when a parent can’t or doesn’t want to stop an adoption, they can still maintain some contact with the child after the adoption takes place. A court cannot order post adoption contact with birth parents, but adoptive parents and birth parents together can agree to contact that is enforceable by a court. These contracts are called Post Adoption Contact Agreements or PACAs. Sometimes, if you can’t parent your child, a PACA is a good solution.
If your child is not with you for any reason and the circumstances are not OK with you, you should talk with an attorney who represents you.
If there is a case in court about your child, and you can’t afford a lawyer, you can ask for a court appointed lawyer. Court appointed lawyers are often available to parents when their children have been removed even before a termination of parental rights action is filed. If there is no action in court, you can hire private counsel or contact your local legal aid office to see if you qualify for their assistance.
After your adoption has taken place, DCS is to provide post adoption services to families who adopted directly from DCS and to the adopted children’s birth parents. See T.C.A. 36-1-143.
You placed a child for adoption some time ago and you want to find the child, or information about the child, or the adoption.
Most people in this position don’t require the services of a Tennessee attorney. If the child was born in Tennessee or the adoption took place in Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will help you find that information. If your child was born or adopted in another state or country, you should begin with the child welfare agency there, and if that isn’t helpful, an adoption attorney there. You can find adoption attorneys in most U.S. states and a few other countries at https://adoptionart.org/.