There is a common misconception that infant adoption situations only involve a woman with an unplanned pregnancy and a birth father who has abandoned the scene. But the truth is that many adoptions are the result of a relationship between two supportive people who are simply not in the position to raise a child together, for whatever reason.
When a birth father is willing and able to provide support to the adoption plan, the entire process can be better and lead to more long-term positive outcomes for all involved, including the birth father, birth mother, and child. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as the birth father in supporting the adoption plan:
Provide Emotional and Practical Support to Her Throughout the Process
The most important thing you can do as the birth father is to provide the emotional and practical support that she needs. This can be support in listening to her as deals with the extremely difficult emotional decision of whether to place the child for adoption or not. That decision will remain an emotionally challenging one for years to come, and your ongoing support and encouragement of her will be more powerful than you can fully understand at this point.
In addition to emotional support, provide her the practical support of helping her seek out professional help, driving her to appointments, being on-call to help with her issues throughout her pregnancy, and simply asking her for what she needs and following through on commitments.
Encourage Her to Get the Help She Needs
Providing support to the birth mother also means knowing that there are things you yourself cannot provide, but you can help guide her towards those who can. Encourage her to seek counseling throughout the emotionally draining process of pregnancy and adoption, and do whatever you can to help make that happen.
You should also encourage her to seek out an adoption attorney who will represent her interests in the adoption. Don’t assume that an adoption agency will be well suited to handle the legal issues involved in adoption or that the adoptive family’s lawyer can adequately represent both parties. They’re probably excellent, caring professionals, but it’s better if birth parents have at least one consultation with their own attorney.
As with the first point, be there to support her as she gets this help. Go to adoption agency and attorney appointments with her, and provide any information that is requested from you by her representatives and supporters.
Understand Your Rights and Your Needs
You as the birth father have your own rights, and you should take steps to understand what those are, both to protect yourself and to make sure that the adoption process goes smoothly in order to reduce the mother’s stresses and her own legal issues.
If you are a presumed father (in most states this means you were married to the mother at the time of conception or birth, or your name is on the birth certificate), then you will need to give your consent to the adoption. If you are not a presumed father, but instead an alleged father (meaning you were not on the birth certificate or not married or have not held out the child as your own), then your legal rights are more limited, but providing consent to the adoption will still make the process smoother.
Providing consent is great, but you should still take care to understand what you are signing. In addition, you should keep copies of the consent in the rare case that you are approached for child support in the future (consenting to an adoption means you give up your parental rights, while at the same time being freed from your obligation to pay child support).
Decide Whether You Want to Have Contact With the Child Post-Adoption
Many birth mothers choose to pursue an open adoption, which generally means they will have an agreement with the adoptive family to have contact with the child after the adoption. Open adoption is now well-documented to be the best thing for the child in almost all circumstances. As the birth father, you may decide that you too would like to have contact with the child, which can range from receiving pictures of the child, sending and/or receiving letters from the child or about the child, to even having visits with the child. Many adoptive families are very open to having a relationship with both birth parents, as they know that it will ultimately be in the child’s best interests. It’s best to collaborate with the mother and the adoptive family now, before the adoption, about what contact you would like to pursue and what is best for the child. Setting clear expectations now can prevent much hurt and misunderstanding down the road.
Guide Your Family in Supporting Her as Well
Finally, it is not uncommon for the birth father’s family to want to have some say or participation in the adoption as well. Sometimes this can be a wonderful source of support for the mother, but it can also be an incredible source of strain and even legal complications when the father’s family is not acting with the mother’s best interests at heart.
As the birth father, you are probably in the best option to manage your own family in supporting the mother, and you should take the lead in doing just that. Just as you are acting to support the mother by placing her interests first and supporting her decision, you can help family members to do this as well.