By Birthmother – The Family Court judge who presides over adoption proceedings in the city in New York in which I live is a wise, wise woman. She has concocted a speech, a speech which I strongly suspect she gives to EVERY biological parent who enters her courtroom to relinquish their parental rights. I suspect this because I’ve given two children up for adoption in her courtroom and I got the exact same speech both times. Both times, the speech was important.
The Judge asked me, “Have you seen those shows on TV, where a mom is reunited with a child she gave up for adoption, and she takes the child back and they live happily ever after?”
Most people would have to answer, “Yes,” and I was in the same boat. I’m sure we’ve all seen episodes of Oprah or Montel with endings like that. I recently started watching the show, “Once Upon a Time.” There are a lot of plot lines criss-crossing through that show, but the whole story starts when a young boy goes in search of his biomom. He finds her. She steps into his life. She saves him from his evil adoptive mother. He forgives her for abandoning him and, of course, they reunite to become a happy family. I think of this judge’s speech every time I watch the show.
The judge knew I would relate to the story she described, so she continued making her speech without delay. She got to the point: In real life, a biomom cannot swoop in and “rescue” her child from the adoptive parents. In real life a biomom cannot change her mind years later and expect everything to change.
I don’t know that adoption law is the same worldwide, but here’s what I learned from my adoption experiences in the State of New York. As soon as a biological parent signs away their parental rights they have no more legal right to their child than a stranger off the street. If they DID want to fight for custody later, after relinquishing their rights, they would have to go through the same court battle as any other person trying to adopt a child.
So the State of New York does everything possible to make sure that a biological parent is of sound mind and body when it comes time to face this moment in court. For one thing, a biomom cannot relinquish her parental rights immediately after having the baby. There’s a waiting period, and several steps in the process before the final paperwork is signed. Why? Because every biomom must be given time to consider her options. True, she may have had 8 or 9 months to consider these options BEFORE the baby was born, but it is a well-known fact that a mother’s thoughts and feelings can change dramatically once she’s held her baby in her arms for the first time. In every way a biomom is to be respected and protected during the adoption process. The courts and the adoption agencies make sure that she knows her rights. They offer her everything she needs, whether she decides to raise the child herself or go forward with the adoption as planned. In New York they make especially sure that the biomom is not being bullied, bribed or coerced into giving her child up. It was truly a beautiful thing, the way I was looked after during my pregnancy, and it often occurs to me that the world would be a better place if ALL mothers were shown that kind of support. In any case, the idea is that an adoption will be safer and healthier for everyone involved if the biomom can give her child up in the safest, sanest, most consensual possible scenario.
Because once the biological parents have made their final decision the attention of the courts shifts to an equally important part of the process: protecting the adoptive parents and the newborn child. How could a family be expected to thrive if they were living in fear that some unknown blood relative would sweep in out of nowhere and tear their lives apart? How would any adoptive parents be willing to take on the responsibility and burden of raising a child if those were the conditions? I am so thankful, SO THANKFUL, that the system protects these families. I like knowing that even if I lost my mind tomorrow and, in some fit of hormones, tried to reclaim my children, that I would NOT be permitted to disturb their lives. I like knowing that I would NOT be permitted to take my children away from their REAL family, from the parents who have REALLY taken care of my children for all these years.