Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The legal system

I think the worst, in the adoption industry is the legal system. I personally think that both birth mother's and birth father's are not properly represented when it comes to the final act of giving up your parental rights to your child.
Birth father's rights are not protected. If a women goes to court to sign away her rights to her child and says that she doesn't know who the father is then his rights are gone too. It's too simple. I, for one, did that and it wasn't right. They should have a say about their children. I know that in cases where the birthfather runs when he finds out he is going to be a father might think he deserves it, but I believe more needs to be done to make sure he has a say.
I think more needs to be in place to protect the younger women coming in to sign their legal rights away. I mean give free representation to people convicted of a crime, but none to someone making a life changing decision. I, too, was a victim of this. A 15 year old, in court in front of a scary judge and no one telling me of my rights. I don't mean the judge probably didn't but I mean someone like a counselor or a lawyer to remind me of my rights. I think a less scary room other than the court room would let the woman or man understand what more is going on and the finalization of their decision.
I think another big injustice is the time framed when someone can legally sign away their parental rights to their child. After, only 72 hours of giving birth, my daughter was no longer legally mine. I believe the time should be more like 7 to 14 days. It's way too soon.
My daughter was taken from me when she was 24 hours old and legally I didn't even know that she was still mine then. It just goes to show how I wasn't given the right legal help and suffered for it. I know not all cases are the same, but I don't believe I am the only one who suffered at the hands of the legal system.


Leah said...

The laws vary by state in terms of how long a birth parent has to change their mind. I believe in MN, a birthmom has 10 days. My adoption agency actually doesn't do adoptions in our state because of that long period of time that a birth parent has to change their minds.

Looking at it from a different perspective. . . Imagine an adoptive couple brining home a baby to love as their own. They buy things for the baby, love and bond with the baby, and completely fall in love. Then 14 days later, a birthmom decides to parent. Imagine the devastation of the adoptive parents?

I know this isn't a black or white issue. I agree that more legal representation, and also more counseling needs to be done upfront. The more that is done upfront, the more regrets that could happen.

StefanieJinelle said...

I don't know about giving the birth father more rights. I would say if he's a psycho it's okay to say you don't know who the father is. And if he comes back and fights for paternity just so he can get his name on the birth certificate then go for it. If he wasn't going to claim he got you pregnant when he ran, then I don't think he should claim that he has a child. If he comes back last minute, he had 9 months to help you out and realize there was a baby coming. It's not fair that he should run off while you deal with the uncomfortable 9 months of pregnancy and come back and play with a baby when it's born. In Utah, his rights are that his way of knowing that he could get you pregnant is if he had sex with you. That's his sign of, she could get pregnant. And his responsibility to check back up on it.

I know many girls who kept their babies for about a week at their home before placing. They made sure it was okay with their caseworker and things. I didn't have to stand before a judge or anything. I know in some cases you have to. My caseworker went over my rights with me a month or so before I had my baby. It was nice and not so much of a shock when the actual papers did come in the room.

birthmothertalks said...

I understand that this isn't a black and white issue. Nothing is easy about adoption. However, I have to ask what do you mean by "the more that is done upfront, the more regrets that could happen" Regret for her? The potential adoptive parents or the potential birth mom? Maybe you are right and 14 days is a little long for the adoptive couples to live in lingo, but nothing says that they have to take the baby home.I still say three days is way too short. They can know their risks going in. I am sorry but I do think that the Mom and the baby's needs should come first and that is why counseling and more legal help should be there.It would hopefully prevent a lot of these failed adoptions. I know there aren't any real answers on this. Either way someone might get burned.
Stefanie, I think keeping the baby at home for a week would be really good if it's something the Mom can and feels like she can handle. Until TPR's are signed she is the Mom. As far as the birth father rights that's a hard subject, because so many women could decieve the father, because they believe they have good reasons and maybe they do, but they are not mature enough to know that just because he did me a wrong doesn't mean that he doesn't have a legal right. And as far as him checking on the women he slept with to see if she is pregnant (if broken up) he might have to come see her for quite a few months, because not all women show right away. I am not innocent. I hid my pregnancy and treated Izzy's birthfather wrong.(No one knew I was pregnant until I went into labor) Two wrongs don't make a right. These are just my thoughts on the subject. You and I are both birthmom's so we have a lot in common but we are at so much different stages that I am sure that we don't quite understand each other and that is ok. I think you are a strong woman and have a beautiful daughter.

Tammy said...

I believe my son's first mom had an attorney represent her. I'm not sure how that all transpired though. I only know that because I got a copy of the curt transcript and saw this person in it. In the transcript, she alluded to the fact that they had talked about this beforehand but I don't really know. This is one area I am curious to talk to my son's first mother about. I am curious now that she has had some time to gain some perspective how she felt she was treated - if she was treated fairly, if she felt supported and if felt everyone was upfront with her. Her situation is a little different than yours though because she was older than you were and she had terminated her rights on a previous child, so she knew going into it what she was doing.

From a different perspective on the going in front of a judge thing...it often seems to be me that people pay more attention to what is going on if it's in front of a judge. If you sign the relinquishment papers in some room with an attorney or social worker who you are familiar with, do you realize the enormity of what you are doing? Do you take it more seriously if you are in front of a judge?

I totally get being intimidated by a judge and I can see first parents feeling too intimidated to change their minds after they get to court. But I'm wondering if it would be too easy to not realize how serious or permanent their decision is if it is too low key.

I don't know about this one, I am just throwing it out there as part of the discussion.

birthmothertalks said...

I think it's great that she had a lawyer to represent her. And you still adopted your child. There is nothing wrong with having some legal counsel if everything has been on the up and up from the agency or the attorney if it is a private adoption.
I think a judge is scary at any age and I for one have a hard time speaking and I am 33 now. I am not saying that the actual signing shouldn't be in a court room, but it would be great if they have the legal counsel before hand in a setting that would be more comfortable.
Also, it's not always about understanding it. It's about having someone force you into it and that is something the lawyer could make sure isn't happening. I wonder how many adoptive parents still want to adopt the child if they knew they were being forced.

April said...

Michigan has a rather extended time for a birthmother to "change her mind." She can change her mind about the adoption any time before she goes to court for TPR. With both of our infant adoptions we parented the baby for two months before the TPR court date. So to me waiting 14 days is nothing! How about 60 days? I really think that states should give birthparents more time to think things through.

Leah said...

Great discussion.

What I meant about more work done up front is what you alluded to in a different comment. It would be nice if more counseling and guidance was given to birth mom's upfront. Sometimes it feels like they don't understand exactly what's happening and they go into the process not realizing that there are other options.

I truly believe that the best option in most cases is for the birth mom (or birth parents) to parent. No one should ever feel forced into adoption. If people choose an adoption plan for their child, it should be because that's what they really want, and not because they felt coerced. . . if that makes any sense.

Lori A said...

I lied about my daughter's father's name on her birth certificate. IT WAS WRONG. I was young, he was old enough to go to jail for it, so I lied. Now my daughter, if she ever does get her OBC will have to live with that lie. I do not believe in anyone lying about a fathers name on a birth certificate. (and to me, adoptive parents names are a lie, you did not give birth to that child)

I also do not think children pending TPR should go to their adoptive homes. My daughter went into foster care unbenounced to me, for weeks till the paperwork was final and they were sure she didn't have any malfunctions. Sorry but fathers should be listed in any and all possible cases. Unknown should not be a way out of anything. My daughter now has a relationship with her father, it bothers him that he can not help fight for her right to her OBC, he's not the guy listed.

I also believe in truth in documents for medical reasons. If the possibility happens that a person goes looking for relatives for medical reasons, they will be wasting valuable time looking in the wrong gene pool. It shouldn't be allowed to happen period.

birthmothertalks said...

I lied to about the birth father and I honestly forgot his last name. It's horrible. Not only is her OBC wrong but I can't even tell her who he is. I haven't seen him in years. I too was too young to know the impact of my lie and I think the system shouldn't make it so easy to lie. He was also old enough to go to jail. But I don't think it was right of what I did.

Tammy said...

I guess it was assumed that someone - a social worker, attorney, whoever - would be meeting with birth parents ahead of time and going over things several times with them. The court hearing itself should seem like a formality, at least in terms of everyone knowing what is going on. That seems like a given to me (maybe it isn't??) and I would expect nothing less. These are permanent decisions that are being made here.

In the transcript of my son's first mom's hearing, her attorney mentioned that they had talked ahead of time.

I would not be comfortable adopting a child when the adoption was forced, you are right. Because there will come a day my child would be old enough to know what is going on and what would I tell him? How could I look him in the eye.

The hard part about babies not going home right away with the adoptive parents is that the baby has to make another transition. It is hard for a child to go to a foster home and then have to move again. My feeling is that the child should either go home with the birth family or go with the adoptive family. Making the child make an extra move seems unnecessary and difficult (unless the birth family is unsure of their decision - that may be a time when it is better.)

birthmothertalks said...

I never received the counseling from a social worker or counsel before the court hearing. I was really ignorant when it came to adoption.

Tammy said...

I know you didn't receive any counseling and I know that, in some cases, that still happens. In many ways (and I know this sounds twisted), it will have to be us adoptive parents that put our foot down and say we want ethical adoption. Since money talks and all...

I am also hoping that we (the adoption community as a whole) have learned from our many mistakes we made in the past and that ethical agencies are doing things different now.