Frequently Asked Questions

About Adoption

WHAT IS OPEN ADOPTION?

“Open adoption” refers simply to “open channels of communication between the birth parents and the adoptive parents” (Silber and Speedlin, Dear Birthmother, 1982, page 1).  This, as opposed to “closed” adoption, which emphasizes secrecy and maintains “there should never be contact between any of the parties involved after the legal relinquishment” (Silber and Speedlin, pages 1-2).

We believe openness is beneficial to all parties, but is especially important for the child.

“Open adoption”, as further defined within the philosophy and policies of our agency, is a process in which the birth parent(s) is involved in selecting the adoptive family from a group of families studied and approved by the agency.  The birth parents are asked to write a letter to their child explaining the reasons an adoption plan was made, and encouraged to share photos of themselves and family members.   We also ask birth parents to meet with the adoptive family at the placement. Adoptive families commit to an ongoing exchange of letters and photos with the birth family for the following 18 years, as well as to have 2-3 visits a year with the child and the birth family.

Assistance

ASSISTANCE

  1. Do you have a place for birth mothers to stay?

Yes, we sometimes have Christian families (shepherding homes) with whom she can live for the duration of her pregnancy. We also have information about maternity homes in the Houston and surrounding areas.

  1. What are the expectations of a birth mother who stays in a shepherding home?

New Life policy states that she may stay with the family for the duration of her pregnancy. After making an adoption plan for her child, she may return to the shepherding home for two (2) weeks. If she chooses to parent she must make other living arrangements before being discharged from the hospital. Our goal is to help a birth mother plan for the future of herself and her child.

  1. Will the birth mother’s medical costs be covered by either the agency or the adoptive parents or both?

If the child is placed for adoption through New Life, medical costs not covered by insurance will be paid by the agency.

  1. If the adoption agency and/or the adoptive parents help with the birth mother’s expenses, what would that include?

Any assistance would be provided by the agency and would be limited to pregnancy related costs. Texas Licensing Standards are very specific about the kinds of expenses we are allowed to provide.

  1. If the birth parent keeps the baby, does she/he repay New Life?

“An agency providing adoption services must not require repayment from a birth parent for any services if the birth parent chooses not to relinquish a child for adoption.” As a child-placing agency we cannot require that s/he repay us.

About Adoptive Parents

ABOUT ADOPTIVE PARENTS

6. What will the adoptive family know about the birth parent(s)?

An adoptive family will receive, at minimum, a complete social, genetic, educational and medical history of the birth parents and his/her family. They would also want to know whatever the birth parent chooses to share, such as pictures of the birth parents, his/her family, history, etc.

The agency will not share the following identifying information (address, phone number, etc.) about the birth parent(s) with the adoptive family.

7. How much can the birth mother be involved in choosing the family for her child? And how much can the birth parents know about the adoptive family (occupation, living area, ages, etc.)?

During the latter part of the pregnancy, birth parents will be shown profiles of prospective adoptive families, including pictures, first names, ages, occupation, educational background, religious preference, interests and hobbies, letters they have written to the birthmother, autobiographies and a Christian questionnaire.  Additionally, the birth parent(s) will have the opportunity to meet the adoptive family on a first name basis at New Life while she is still pregnant. This would take place after a family has been chosen.

8.  What “qualifications” must an adopting couple meet before they are accepted as clients in your agency (financial, emotional stability, unable to have children, age, etc.)?

We place children within the State of Texas in two-parent Christian homes where both husband and wife are active members of their church, between the ages of 21 and 45 and having been married for at least three years. One parent must commit to being a “stay-at­home” parent for at least 6 months. They must be emotionally stable, financially secure, and meet all licensing standards for the State of Texas.

9.  Does New Life deal with couples who are out of Texas?

Virtually all of our adoptive placements are within the State of Texas.

About the Birth Father

ABOUT THE BIRTH FATHER

10. What information, if any, is needed from the birth father?

Any information we receive from the birth father is valued. Of course, medical history is very important. We ask birth fathers to complete a questionnaire about their medical, educational and social background. Adoptive families are very appreciative of the information received from these questionnaires.

11. When, if at all, does the birth father have to be present in the legal process?

It is not mandatory that the birth father be present, however, we would like the opportunity to work with him to secure his involvement in the adoptive process. It is mandatory that every effort be made to notify and inform him of the adoption plan. The law requires that he be notified of any suit filed to terminate any parental rights that he might have.

If he is alleging to be the biological father of the child, he can register with the State Paternity Registry in the Bureau of Vital Statistics. This allows him to assert his parentage, independent of the mother, and preserve his rights as a parent. New Life is required to check this registry.

12. Does the birth father have to agree to the adoption? If yes, who gets him to sign the adoption papers?

In the State of Texas the law says that birth fathers have a right to exercise their parental rights to a child. The State has developed the Paternity Registry for men who wish to acknowledge paternity of a child. It is the agency’s responsibility to contact a birth father and discuss the birth mother’s plan for adoption.  At that time we ask the birth father to sign the Affidavit of Waiver of Interest in Child – the legal document relinquishing any parental rights he may have to the child. This document states that the birth mother has named that person as the father of her child. It is not a statement of Paternity. It is not a document that can be used in any other way (i.e. child support, etc.).

13. What if the birth father will not cooperate in my adoption plan?

If the birth father refuses to sign the legal document cooperating with the adoption plan, we must inform him that the court requires that he be served with legal papers in regard to this matter.

The birth father may choose to not sign the papers and simply have his parental rights terminated by “default” if he does nothing more in the matter.

The birth father that opposes adoption has the right to hire an attorney and contest the adoption.

It is our desire to work with birth fathers and help them to be a part of the decision-making process. If a birth father chooses to sign the legal document, he can receive letters and pictures from the adoptive family just as the birth mother will.

Files / Records / Etc.

FILES, RECORDS, ETC.

14. What exactly do the agency’s files on the birth mother contain?

Intake information; social / genetic / educational/ medical history summary; medical records – pregnancy / delivery; legal papers; correspondence; caseworker notes.

15. Who has access to the files at the adoption agency?

Only New Life staff members.

16. Can the birth mother request that the files be sealed until the child is eighteen or is this automatically the case?

State law seals the legal records of the adoption automatically. We would ask the birth mother to sign a Disclosure of Information statement indicating her desire and/or willingness to be contacted by the agency if/when the child desires to meet her – either at or after age eighteen or when the adoptive family is in agreement if under age eighteen.

17. What are sealed records?

Legally, sealed records are those that require a court order to be opened.

18.     Can a birth parent gain information from New Life on Minimum Standards, compliance status report, and the agency’s policies?

Yes.  These are available upon request.

19.   Who can I contact if New Life seriously fails to meet the Minimum Standards and adoption policies?

We try diligently to follow the policies and meet the needs of everyone that is involved in the adoption process. However, if New Life does fail to uphold the Minimum Standards and adoption policies, and does not make the necessary changes when brought to their attention, a complaint may be filed at the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services Licensing Division.

20.  Do you have liability insurance?

Yes, we do have liability insurance.

The Adoption Process

THE ADOPTION PROCESS

21. Do the birth mother’s parents need to sign papers in order for her to place her child for adoption?

No, it is not legally necessary; however, if she is 17 or under, there is an Affidavit that a parent can sign, indicating knowledge of her adoption plan.

22. When does the birth mother have to sign the adoption papers?

The relinquishment papers cannot be signed until at least 48 hours after the birth of the baby. The birth mother will only sign the relinquishment papers if she chooses to do so and when she is ready to do so.  It is never an easy choice.

23.    What documents must be signed’?

  • The Relinquishment of Parental Rights must be signed by the birth mother. (If she is married, her husband must also sign this document).
  • The Affidavit of Status, naming the birth father, must be signed by the birth mother. This is a sworn document to the court. DO NOT LIE. If you know the birth father’s entire name, first name, or last known address, you MUST SAY
  • The Waiver of Interest must be either 1) signed by the birth father, or 2) he will be served with notice of the impending court hearing to terminate parental rights. He does NOT have to go to court.

24.     Will the birth mother have to go to court?

No. The Affidavit of Relinquishment states that she waives her right to go to court; therefore she does not go to court.  A New Life staff member will go to court to represent her.

25. Once the birth mother signs the adoption papers, can she change her mind?

No.  The Relinquishment is very clear and specific in stating that it is final and irrevocable and that she should not sign it if she thinks she would ever wish to change her mind.

26.    After the adoption is finalized, what further contact will the birth parent(s) have with the agency?

It is the desire of New Life to maintain contact with all birth parent(s) over the coming months and years. We want to be available to help birth parent(s) work through their grief and build a relationship with the adoptive family.

27.    What happens if the baby is born with birth defects? Will the adoptive parents still want to adopt her baby?

Our goal is to place every child in an appropriate family, a family where that child will be accepted, loved and nurtured. The adoptive family will be contacted and presented a complete medical history. If they feel they are willing to accept the challenge of dealing with these special needs, the placement will proceed as planned.

If the child’s difficulties are such that the chosen family feels they are not prepared or equipped to accept a child with these special needs, the birth mother can select another adoptive family or the child can be placed in interim care until an appropriate family is found. New Life will help facilitate an appropriate placement if the defects are severe.

28. How soon after the baby is born can she/he be placed in his/her new home?

The baby can be placed with the adoptive family as soon as the birth mother signs the Relinquishment of Parental Rights, which can be as soon as 48 hours after the baby’s birth.

29.    Why might a baby go into interim (foster) care before he/she goes to his/her adoptive family?

Babies might go into interim (foster) care if:

  • no appropriate family is studied, approved, and waiting to
  • the placement is considered a legal risk (because the birth father / legal father has not signed the necessary legal papers) and the selected family is unwilling to accept that risk (for example, if the adoption is being legally contested).

Religion

RELIGION

30. Can the birth mother select the religion she wishes the couple to be?

We only place babies in Christian homes where the husband and wife are both active members of their church, but a specific denomination (religion) may be requested.

31.  Can she be assured that her child will be brought up in that religion?

You can be assured that your child will be placed in a Christian family. We have no guarantees that a family will continue in the denomination they are in at placement (but we have no cause to assume they will do otherwise).

Baby

THE BABY

32.     Will the birth mother be able to see the baby in the hospital?

Yes, very definitely! This baby is hers, she has the rights of any other parent. We encourage her to see the baby and spend time with him/her while in the hospital. These can be special moments and special memories.

33.  Are the birth mother’s parents, friends, father of the baby, etc. allowed to see the baby?

Certainly! We would encourage it and would like pictures of all with the baby in these special times.

34. Can the birth mother have a picture of her baby?

Definitely!  We encourage her to have pictures taken of herself with her baby also.

35.    Will she be able to have a visit with her baby before she signs the adoption papers?

Yes, very definitely! We encourage her to spend quality time with her baby while in the hospital.

36. Can the birth mother name her baby, and will the adoptive parents keep the name she chooses?

Yes, she may name the baby. We encourage her to do so. New Life families agree to use that name as one of the child’s names. New Life recognizes the importance of a name. We are shown throughout the Bible the value that God places upon names.  We believe that a name given to a child by his/her birth parent is a gift that can never be taken from that child.

37. If the birth mother chooses to place her baby with a New Life family, what minimum communication with the family is the birth mother assured of?

All New Life families agree to meet with the birth parents during pregnancy, at the time of placement and again when the child is 6 or 7 months old. All New Life adoptive families agree to send pictures, letters, and a developmental report every month for the first six months and twice a year after that (usually Christmas and the child’s birthday) for 18 years. All written communication is sent to New Life. New Life does not share the adoptive family’s last name or address. After the six-month visit most of our adoptive families desire to continue meeting with the birth parent(s) because they understand the importance for everyone involved. Any communication, contact, or visitation with the child is dependent on the adoptive parents’ consent, and such consent is not legally guaranteed, but it is a promise they make to the birth families because they understand the benefit to everyone involved.

38. What may the birth mother send to her child (gifts, papers, books, etc.), and will she have the assurance that her child will get these items?

A letter from you explaining your reasons for choosing adoption will be a treasure that your child will cherish through the years. Most birth families send gifts at Christmas and birthdays. We encourage birth family letters and pictures on a regular basis to help the child and the family to know of your love and concern. The assurance you have that your child is receiving what you send comes from your conversations and relationship with the adoptive family.

39.    If for some reason there is an accident and the child’s adoptive parents are killed, will the birth parents then be responsible for the child and would they have that option if they so desire? No.

40. What if the health of one of the adoptive parents changes?

New Life will attempt to share information about developing genetic conditions, terminal illness, or death of any persons involved in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptee) with the other parties.

41. Will the child be able to get information about the birth parents if she/he desires?

Yes, it’s definitely our goal. It depends largely on the birth parent maintaining contact with the adoptive family and agency through the

42.  If a child is placed for adoption, can the child find the birth parents at age eighteen?

We keep our own registry for children placed through New Life.

43.  In the years to come, if the child searches for his/her birth mother, would the agency contact her before the child does?

Yes. It is important for you to keep New Life informed of your current address.

44. Can the birth mother find her child if she decided she wanted to search for him/her?

That depends on the child, the family, the circumstances and the age of the child. If the child is eighteen and is open to meeting with his birth mother, the agency would seek to facilitate that meeting.

It is our goal at New Life that birth parents and adoptive families maintain contact at least twice a year so that a search is not necessary as the child approaches adulthood.