Adoptive Couple Fears – What if the Birth Mother Changes Her Mind?

by Kim Laube | Posted on February 24th, 2016

This of all the fears is likely the most debilitating.  It is, of course, the unimaginable.  The worst case scenario – you’ve gone home with a newborn, loved and cared for her for the past few days and then the case worker calls and tells you the birth mother has changed her mind.  She is coming to return the child to its mother.  Could your heart take it?  Will you ever be able to pick up and move on?

Adoption agencies have a hard decision to make when it comes to dealing with the revocation periods each state has.  In Iowa, the revocation period indicates the mother cannot sign any legally binding documents regarding her decision about the relinquishment of her child until the child is at least 72 hours old.  Then after signing, she has another 96 hours to change her mind.  For those of you doing the math, that is 7 days before anything about permanency is known for this child.  These 7 days are often referred to as the revocation period.

What can happen in seven days?

  • The baby, who is already coming to us in a place of loss (yes, even a newborn experiences the loss of their biological parent) goes home with the adoptive family we believe to be their forever family. They bond and fall in love with one another. More about the permanency of that relationship will be known when the revocation period ends.  The hope, or course, is this planned permanent relationship will be just that, permanent with no more loss for the child.

or

  • The baby, who has already experienced a profound loss due to the absence of their birth mother, will go to a foster care home where she is loved, doted on, and begins to bond with her foster family. Seven days later, or perhaps 6-7 weeks later, when the court hearings are over, the baby will be removed from their care and placed with her forever family.  For her, this second loss is also profound and now she must try to develop a relationship and trust with yet another caregiver.

So, the agency has an important decision to make.  Do we protect the adoptive couples or the child? If you were the pre-adoptive couple which do you prefer; shall we protect you or your child from the pain of separation?

What’s our philosophy?Adoption baby-1

When I counsel families about this fear we often talk about the philosophy of the agency.  In our case, we exist to find a loving Christian family for a child in need.  We do not exist to find a child for a family who desires to be parents.  Because our philosophy is child-based, we frequently make our decisions to place in pre-adoptive couples homes prior to permanency being known because we believe it to be in the best interest of the child.  We ask and encourage our families to put the child’s best interest in front of their own as well.  We ask them to understand that they are meeting the need of a child even if the arrangement isn’t forever.  In that moment, for those hours, or week or days you were exactly what that child needed.  You protected them and you loved them.

YOU were exactly what that baby needed

If you go through the unimaginable hardship of a birth parent changing her mind, one day you will look back and know that you were exactly what that baby needed in that moment in time while you were waiting for your forever child.  The hurt does diminish in time, but because you are bonding and loving that baby for those few hours or days, the hurt is significant.  Couples need time to grieve the loss of what could have been before pursuing another placement, but likely in time, you will find yourselves ready again.

Putting your child’s needs in front of your own is something you are going to do for a lifetime after you adopt a child.  It may help to ponder that as you consider if you can cope with the possibilities of grief and loss by receiving a child into your home before their permanency is known.