FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS OPEN ADOPTION?
Open adoption refers simply to open channels of communication between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. This is the opposite of closed adoption, which emphasizes secrecy and maintains there should never be contact between any of the parties involved after the legal relinquishment.
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 expectant parent(s) is involved in selecting the adoptive family from a group of families licensed by the agency. The expectant parent(s) 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 before and/or 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.
Do you have a place for expectant mothers to stay?
Yes, we have information about maternity homes in Texas and other housing referrals. Also, we occasionally have Christian families (shepherding homes) with whom she can live for the duration of her pregnancy.
Will the expectant 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/hospital costs not covered by insurance will be paid by the agency.
If the adoption agency helps with the expectant mother’s expenses, what would that include?
Any assistance would be provided by the agency. Texas Licensing Standards are specific about the kinds of expenses we are allowed to provide. Each client’s needs will be assessed on a case by case basis. This may include a gas or grocery card, cell phone payment, assistance with rent, referrals for material assistance, counseling, etc.
If the expectant mother decides to parent the baby, does she/he repay New Life?
No. Texas Licensing Standards state that an agency providing adoption services must not require repayment from a birth parent for any services if the birth parent chooses to parent.
ABOUT THE BIRTH PARENTS
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 identifying information (address, phone number, etc.) about the birth parent(s) with the adoptive family.
Can the expectant mother be involved in choosing the family for her child? Also, what information will be provided about the adoptive family?
During the latter part of the pregnancy, expectant parents will be shown profiles of prospective adoptive families, including pictures, first names, ages, occupation, educational background, interests and hobbies, letters they have written to the expectant mother, and autobiographies. Additionally, the expectant parent(s) will have the opportunity to meet the adoptive family they have chosen.
What qualifications must an adopting couple meet before they are accepted as clients in your agency?
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 have been married for at least three years. One parent must commit to being a stay-at home parent for at least 6 months after the placement of a child in their home. They must be emotionally stable, financially secure, and meet all licensing standards for the state of Texas.
Does New Life work with prospective adoptive couples who reside outside of Texas?
At this time we only work with couples residing in Texas.
ABOUT THE BIRTH FATHER
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. If the birth father is known and chooses to be involved, we ask him to complete a questionnaire about his medical, educational and social background. Adoptive families are very appreciative of the information received from these questionnaires.
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.
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.
Does the birth father have to agree to the adoption? If yes, who gets him to sign the adoption papers?
If the alleged birth father chooses to be involved in the adoption, we may ask him 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.).
If the expectant mother is married, how does this impact the adoption process?
If an expectant mother is legally married, she must disclose this to New Life, as her husband is considered the legal father of the baby. This includes cases where the two are separated yet still legally married, as well as in situations where the husband is not the baby’s biological father.
In the case of a legal father, New Life must attempt to involve him in the adoption process. If he agrees with the adoption, he will sign a relinquishment, just as the birth mother does. If he does not agree with the adoption, he can hire an attorney and contest the adoption. If he does not wish to be involved, New Life must show evidence that we’ve performed due diligence in an attempt to involve him in the adoption process.
What if the birth father will not cooperate in my adoption plan?
The birth father may choose to not sign the papers and in doing so his parental rights are terminated by default if he does nothing more in the matter.
The birth father that opposes the adoption has the right to hire an attorney and contest the adoption.
It is our desire to work with birth fathers who want to be a part of the adoption 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.
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.
Who has access to the files at the adoption agency?
Only New Life staff members.
What are sealed records?
Legally, sealed records are those that require a court order to be opened.
Can the birth mother request that the files be sealed until the child is eighteen or is this automatically the case?
Texas state law seals the legal records of the adoption automatically. We ask the birth mother to sign a Disclosure of Information statement indicating her desire and/or willingness to allow her child to see the adoption file, including her name and contact information.
If a child is placed for adoption, can the child find the birth parents at age eighteen?
Yes. We keep our own registry for children placed through New Life.
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.
THE ADOPTION PROCESS
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. Any woman under 18 is considered an emancipated minor when it comes to the decisions of her pregnancy and the baby. However, there is an affidavit that a parent can sign, indicating knowledge of her adoption plan.
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.
What documents must be signed?
- The Relinquishment of Parental Rights (If she is married, and her husband agrees to the adoption plan, he must also sign this document.).
- The birth mother signs an affidavit stating whether or not she is married, whether or not the father has established paternity, and if the alleged father of the baby has been supportive during the pregnancy.
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.
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.
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). We want to be available to help birth parent(s) work through their grief and build a relationship with the adoptive family.
What happens if the baby is born with birth defects? Will the adoptive parents still want to adopt the baby?
Our goal is to place every child in 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. The child may also be placed in a transitional home until an appropriate family is selected. New Life will help facilitate an appropriate placement if the defects are severe.
How soon after the baby is born can she/he be placed in her/his 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.
Why might a baby go into transitional care before he/she goes to his/her adoptive family?
A baby might go into transitional care if a birth mother needs more time to consider her choice (up to 5 days).
Will the birth mother be able to see and spend time with her baby in the hospital?
Yes. This baby is hers, she has the same rights as 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.
Are the birth mother’s parents, friends, father of the baby, etc. allowed to see the baby?
The birth mom can allow anyone to visit. It’s her choice.
Can the birth mother have a picture of her baby?
Definitely. We encourage her to take as many pictures as she wants.
Can the birth mother name her baby, and will the adoptive parents keep the name she chooses?
Absolutely, she may name the baby. We encourage her to do so. New Life adoptive families agree to use that name as one of the child’s names for life. New Life recognizes the importance of a name. We believe that a name given to a child by his/her birth parent is a gift that should not be taken from that child.
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 at least twice a year after that for 18 years. New Life does not share the adoptive family’s last name or address nor the birth families. After the six-month visit, New Life encourages our adoptive families to continue meeting with the birth parent(s). The adoptive parents understand the importance of regular visits for everyone in the adoption triad.
Any communication, contact, or visitation with the child is dependent on the adoptive parents’ consent, and such consent is not legally guaranteed. Adoptive families through New Life commit to have an open relationship.
What may the birth parents send to their child and will they have the assurance that her child will get these items?
Birth parents may send a letter explaining the reasons for choosing adoption. This will be a treasure that the child will cherish through the years. Some birth families send gifts at Christmas and birthdays. We encourage birth family letters and pictures to help the child and the family to know of their birth family’s love, care and concern. Assurance that the child is receiving what the birth family sends comes from conversations and relationships with the adoptive family.
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?
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.
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 years.
If the child searches for his/her birth parents through New Life, would the agency contact the birth parent(s) before the child does?
Yes. New Life would facilitate any reunion and contact all parties involved.
Can the birth parent(s) find their child if they decided 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 parent(s), 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.
Will the child resent the birth parent(s) for making an adoption plan?
In an open adoption, the child has the opportunity to be in a life-long relationship with the birth parents. This provides a way to explain to their child why they chose adoption. Each adoptive family creates a lifebook for their child explaining how their adoption was made by sacrificial love.