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A putative father is the alleged father of a child, or claims to be the father of a child when there is no proof at the time that he is the actual father. Putative fathers have parental rights, though they do not have as many rights as unwed mothers or married couples. The state has almost complete control of the rights a putative father is given in court adoption hearings and the termination of parental rights. Some states have created voluntary putative father registries where men on the list must be notified before a child can be placed for adoption.
It is extremely important that potential adopting parents become acquainted with adoption laws when pursuing adoption. Adoption laws, like all legislation, are constantly under review and undergoing changes. Knowing current adoption laws will help parents gain an understanding of financial obligations, interstate adoption laws, the Indian Child Welfare Act, termination of parental rights, and the laws protecting birth parents (and potential situations when they could change their minds).
Almost all adoptions require either voluntary or involuntary termination of parental rights before the adoption can be finalized or legally completed. Many parents voluntarily terminate their parental rights when their children are infants or toddlers. They do so by signing legal consent forms. The time period the parent has to revoke the signature varies depending upon the state.
When a child has been in foster care for a year or more, the caseworker may ask the parents if they would like to voluntarily terminate their parental rights so the child can be freed for adoption. In some cases, the court may terminate parental rights. This court action happens when a child has been in foster for a long time, or the circumstances necessitate it, and the caseworker has determined that the biological parents cannot re-assume parenting responsibilities.
Whether or not a birthmother has planned adoption for a child, she is the legal parent of the child until she signs the termination of parental rights. Therefore, she has the right to make all the decisions regarding her child including choosing the name that is printed on the child's original birth certificate.
As open adoption becomes more common, so does adoptive parent interaction in the hospital. It is important for the birth mother to remember that her time in the hospital is her time with her child, and she should feel free to request some alone time. Birthmothers also have the right to take home hospital bracelets, first photographs, and other hospital items that they choose.
It is advised that a birthmother be direct with her adoption agency as well as write in her birth plan the hospital items that she would like to keep. Creating a birth plan will help outline the birth mother's wishes for how things are done in the hospital. The birth plan is only for the medical staff working with the birth mother, and they are required by law not to disclose any of the information.
Once a birth plan is created, it is not set in stone. The birthmother may feel differently once she is in the hospital and she has a right to change parts of her birth plan. She should also expect to be emotional and have second thoughts. She is still the legal parent until she signs the termination of parental rights, and she can decide when and where she wants to complete those forms.
The laws and policies that determine who can, and who cannot, adopt vary by state and by agency. There are some general requirements, though, that almost all agencies will examine when deciding if a couple is right for adoption. The legal and procedural factors of the state and county in which the adoption occurs are usually unalterable. In addition to legal requirements, adoption agencies will have some additional restrictions for adoptive parents. These criteria are based on the type of agency, the types of adoptions the agency offers, and the mission of the agency. Since not all of an agency's criteria are determined by law, the agency may be willing to make exceptions for certain situations. In some cases, birth parents may impose restrictions on adoptive couples. The birth parents ultimately decide who they feel are fit to be the parents of their child. It is important to remember that potential adoptive parents have limitations in the adoption process as well. They have financial, age, health and social factors that they need to feel comfortable about before proceeding with an adoption.
Adoptions that take place in two different states (i.e. the birth mother lives in one state while the adopting parents live in another) require some additional procedures. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) affects all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. ICPC ensures that the laws of both states are observed in an adoption, assures that the movement of children across state lines is legal, and maintains that the child is protected. Proof of Compliance with the ICPC is required at the finalization of the adoption. If the acting agency has failed to comply with the ICPC requirements, they may suffer major consequences, including the loss of their license.