Safe States

blog_vultureNote: This post is not about coronavirus; this post is about adoption.

Going down an Internet rabbit hole yesterday, I found the web site for The Adoption Consultancy, an adoption consultant who states that she will help couples “navigate what can be an overwhelming, complicated, time-consuming and frustrating process.”

In the adoption community, there’s some controversy and a lot of confusion over what adoption consultants are and whether they’re ethical. I clicked over to the FAQ page and found this gem:

How do I know that the prospective birth parents won’t want the baby back?

Despite the sensationalized stories in the media, virtually all U.S. adoptions are permanent and are never threatened. As an added safety measure, The Adoption Consultancy may refer you to placement sources in “safe” states where birth parents can’t revoke their consent. Our experience can help you identify high-risk situations, to reduce your risk of heartache and financial loss and to allow you to pursue a safer opportunity instead.

Let me reiterate that point I put in bold: “The Adoption Consultancy may refer you to placement sources in “safe” states where birth parents can’t revoke their consent.”

That is wrong in many ways, which I will enumerate in the order in which they appear.

Wrong #1: They’re not “prospective birth parents” – they’re “expectant parents” or just “parents.” That’s a minor error, but worth noting, as it speaks to the consultant’s mindset on biological parents as vessels for babies for adoptive parents.

Wrong #2: The answer given is completely unethical. So-called “safe states” put the adoptive parents’ rights over the biological parents’ rights. In Kansas, for example, a new mom can sign the termination of parental rights (TPR) a mere 12 hours after giving birth. Many states allow TPR within 48 hours after birth, but most of those also have a period after TPR is signed during which new parents can change their minds and revoke their consent. However, some states do not have a revocation period, or they allow the new parents to waive the revocation period. Again, these are minimums, but adoption attorneys are often there in the room right at 12-24-48-72 hours with pen in hand. Basically, they’re ambushing women who have just given birth. Women who are experiencing waves of complicated emotions.

Wrong #3: There shouldn’t be “safe states” at all. There should be federal, not state, laws that govern adoption, so that every state has the same reasonable amount of time between birth and when TPR can be signed, as well as the same reasonable amount of time for a revocation period that cannot be waived.

Wrong #4: There is an ethical answer to this question, but the consultant obviously doesn’t care about it. An ethical adoption professional would ensure that expectant parents had unbiased counseling, that all avenues to parenting were explored, and that the expectant parents truly feel that adoption is in the best interest of themselves and/or their child. But providing counseling and other resources might mean that the consultant would lose the all-important cashier’s check from the adoptive parents.

I obviously question this particular consultant’s ethics. A friend of mine directed me to a very well-done article about consultants’ ethics in general. My opinion? Adoption consultants who in any way network to obtain matches for hopeful adoptive parents are likely to be unethical. HAPs should avoid them and work with ethical agencies.

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