Last week, the agency received a call that a birth mother had decided to revoke an adoption and parent her child. Our CEO and Founder Michele Fried writes about these very few but challenging cases when a surrender is revoked.
It is with great sadness that I sit here thinking of an adoptive family grieving over the loss of a baby that they loved for almost two weeks. Just the other day, the birth mother and father decided to revoke their surrender, upsetting the adoption plan they so lovingly put into place.
This is only the fourth time in almost 13 years that Adoption STAR has experienced this. The first one occurred after the baby was in the adoptive home for three days, the second occurred in less than 24 hours and the family hadn’t even arrived home with the baby, the third and fourth both occurred in the first two weeks of placement. We have a revocation rate of far less than 1% of our direct placements.
Though there have been some scares, and a couple of occasions where some legal challenges were necessary, because in those cases returning a child to a birth parent with an unstable or unhealthy lifestyle would not be recommended, and for that reason those battles were successful and the children have remained with their adoptive families. But when a healthy birth parent revokes their adoption surrender early in the process, the decision to return a child is the most difficult of all. We could fight, but if we are to think of the best interests of everyone involved, if we are to respect everyone in the adoption process, then often the hardest decisions are the post painful.
I am brought back to the very first time we experienced this. Adoption STAR was just turning 5 years old and found we were dealing with a birth mother, who was wavering about her decision to follow through with her adoption plan. It was only three days after the adoptive family took home the baby when she revoked her adoption surrender.
This intense loss for the adoptive family affected the then small staff of Adoption STAR. We tried to be there for every step of this challenging and emotional time. At the same time, we also needed to be there for the birth mother who herself was racked with grief and also guilt over promising this couple a baby and now changing her mind.
It is common for a birth mother and father to intensely grieve and waver after placement. That is why counseling is so very important. But in this case the birth mother would not agree to mediation or additional counseling. The birth mother was adamant about changing her mind.
The agency respected this decision and as difficult as it was, the couple returned the baby to Adoption STAR so we could return the baby to the birth mother. In this case, the birth mother had chosen not to name the baby at birth. Though the adoptive parents only had the baby in their custody for three days, he very much had a name and the birth mother surprised us all, by selecting to keep the name the adoptive family gave to him.
In New York State adoptive families can attempt to challenge the birth parent’s revocation, but it would take an unbelievable toll on a family both financially and emotionally. I recall the adoptive mom sharing that she related to the birth mother’s pain by truly knowing what it felt like to say goodbye.
In this particular case, the adoptive couple decided to not halt their adoption journey. They wanted to adopt again. They did not want to be placed on hold. We spoke about other adoption options such as international adoption, but the adoptive couple articulated their desire to adopt a newborn. Waiting was even more difficult this time as the couple was nervous to say yes to potential cases and the agency second-guessed every case to call them on.
Before they knew it however, another expectant birth mom selected their profile. She asked to speak with them via telephone. A conference call was set up in our office and the couple prepared for the challenges of getting to know someone over the telephone. Through their conversation it appeared that a rapport was developed. It was called a match and then the wait began for the birth of the baby — who decided to take his time.
He finally arrived on July 1st and the adoptive couple was touched to meet his brave birth mother. Together with the birth parents, they named their son. They felt at ease agreeing to keep in touch. It was easy to fall in love with this beautiful baby but of course they will never forget the baby they thought would be theirs and lovingly speak of him. But it is clear that this little boy born on July 1, just a few months after the first little boy, was the child that was meant to be their son.
During a visit to the agency they spoke about everything they have been through and the adoptive mom insists she would go through it all again to end up where they are today. I will never forget her words. She just smiled and said, “July 1st. It was written in the stars.”
Read More by Michele Fried: Thoughts on this National Adoption Month, Hana Gaddafi, Celebrating Adoption, National Down Syndrome Awareness, When and How to Discuss Adoption with Children Already in the Home, Choosing to go to Holland , Donations