In a recent post in the Hoping to Adopt blog, Faith discusses the fact that in a few states (Alabama, Hawaii, and Washington State) expectant mothers can sign relinquishment papers terminating her parental rights before birth. Although it is legal in those states, it is not required and that is something that you as an expectant mother considering adoption should be aware of.
In Alabama, an expectant mother can sign relinquishment papers while she is pregnant but they must be signed and confirmed before a probate judge. Then has five days to withdraw the consent after the baby is born.
In Hawaii, an expectant mother can sign relinquishment papers after the sixth month of pregnancy, but she has to sign a reaffirmation after her baby is born.
In Washington State, an expectant mother can sign relinquishment papers anytime before birth, but they can not be filed with the courts until at least forty eight hours after the birth of her baby.
As you probably could have guessed, I’m not a big fan of this idea. I honestly can’t think of one single reason that signing pre-birth would be a good idea.
For starters, I’m a big believer in the “making the decision twice” theory meaning that an expectant mother typically makes the decision to place during birth and then again after birth. Although she could still revoke her consent, signing before birth takes away the second decision in some sense because she already feels like or is called a birthmother. I also think that if an expectant mother signs before birth she is less likely to feel that she can revoke her consent and more likely to already feel like a birthmother or feel disconnected from her child.
I also think that signing pre-birth is misleading to hopeful adoptive parents. Although I know it is heartbreaking for hopeful adoptive parents if a mother they are matched with changes her mind at any point, I think signing pre-birth could give the adoptive parents more security but then be even more devastating if the mother changes her mind.
I do know one birthmother from Washington State who signed relinquishment papers before the birth of her child. She wasn’t aware that she didn’t have to sign then. Although I’m sure it might be easier for adoption attorneys or adoption agencies if relinquishments were signed pre-birth, you do not have to!