A person or couple looking to adopt a newborn baby need to know a few things. First, finding a birthmother to place a child with an adoptive person or couple is a very difficult, and complex process. The procedure to adopt a child from someone not related to the adoptive couple by blood or marriage is called a direct placement adoption. Typically, a direct placement adoption is for a new baby.
Who May Adopt
Any potential adoptive parent may adopt and cannot be discriminated against solely on age, race, religious affiliation or income level. A single adoptive parent cannot be discriminated against due to marital status alone. There must be some other factor for an unsatisfactory assessment than marital status.
Who May Place Child for Adoption
Any person who is the legal parent may sign their parental rights away, IF there is someone to take their place. For example, a parent may not want to pay child support any more, and desire to sign off their parental rights. However, only if someone else picks up the tab, so to speak, they cannot sign off their parental rights.
If a birthparent is a minor (under 18 years old at the time of birth), a parent of the birthparent must sign for her and/or him in the adoption proceedings. If there are no parents involved, the probate court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate.
Relatives of Birthparents
The relatives of the birthparents have no rights UNLESS they are the parents of an unemancipated minor birthparent. The baby’s grandmother or grandfather could block the adoption of the minor birthparent.
The first step for the adopting person, or couple to have homestudy done. This evaluation will report the family background of the adopters, length of marriage (if married) income level, criminal background check, social history, age, and occupation, and types of child rearing the adopter(s) have in mind. The State of Michigan police will do a background check. The adopters may have as many homestudy reports done as they desire, so long as the birthparents have the opportunity to review all of them. The homestudy is good for one year. If an adoption is not filed within one year, an update must be made.
Finding a Birthparent
Adoptive parents search for leads for birthparents through word of mouth, their religious organizations, by advertising in newspapers, online, and with certified adoptive attorneys. Often, a certified adoption attorney representing a birthparent, will contact another certified adoption attorney who has adoptive couples he/she is representing. When a birth parent is looking at a certified adoption attorney’s files, all of the homestudies of all the clients must be shown to the birthparent.
The birthparents review the adoptive couple (person) home study or preplacement assessment to see if she is interested in them or has narrowed it down to 3 to 5 couples. It is common for the birthparent to interview prospective adoptive couples in an open adoption.
The closed adoption is the most familiar to people where the identities of all parties is confidential and none of the parties know the other’s names or other identifying information. All information required by the court is kept confidential in the adoption file. For example, genetic/health history of the birthparents is required for the baby’s health in the future without the names of the birthparents.
The open adoption is where the adoptive parents and the birthparents know each other’s identity and all the parties meet at the hospital at the time of the birth. The open adoptions can involve the adoptive parent taking the birthmother to her prenatal medical appointments, telephone calls between them, and even having the adoptive mother in the delivery room at the time of the birth. Additionally, after the birth, letters and photographs of the baby may be exchanged.
A temporary placement is done before approval by the court. Placement must be with a Michigan resident.
- Prospective Adoptive parents are Michigan residents;
- Assisted by a facilitator (adoption agency or certified adoption attorney)
- Documents evidencing transfer:
- By parent, guardian, certified adoption attorney
- Prospective Adoptive Parent
The Temporary Transfer of physical custody means that the birthmother is placing the baby with the adoptive couple (person) on the express condition that if she changes her mind before the court hearing, that the adoptive couple (person) must return the baby within 24 hours of being notified. Therefore, the adoptive couple must understand and agree, that the temporary transfer is temporary, temporary.
The Certified Adoption Attorney for the adoptive couple (person) files a petition for adoption and evidence of the physical transfer with the probate court in the county in which the adoptive couple (person) lives.
Indian Child Welfare Act
In the event the birthparents are members of a Native American tribe or eligible to become members of a tribe, that tribe must be contacted to see if they have any interest in a tribal member adopting the child.
Certified adoption attorneys by professional ethics and by State law cannot represent both the birthparents and the adoptive couple.
- The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, [DHHS] is mandated to prepare a pamphlet on rights and responsibilities for everyone and all parties must have a copy.
- All Attorney fees and expenses must be itemized and reported to the court.
What may be paid and What must be paid by Adopting person(s)
Expenses of the Birthmother
- Adoptive couple MAY pay the following expenses:
- Adoptive couple SHALL pay the following expenses:
- All attorney fees for the adoptive couple AND birthparents
- Adoption counseling for the birthparents
- All of the expenses may be paid during the pregnancy and up to six weeks after the birth of the child. If all of the expenses are paid and the birthparent(s) change their mind on the adoption there is NO REFUND. This was expressly discussed and enacted by the Michigan Legislature. The reason all of the risk is borne by the adoptive couple (person) was the fear that if a birthmother changed her mind and decided to keep the baby, there would be tremendous financial pressure on her to consent to the adoption to avoid having to repay all of the expenses. The only exception would be if the birthmother was attempting a fraud by going to two families for adoption at the same time.
Birthparents upon request must be provided with counseling. The counseling that the birthparents receive is NOT confidential. The information revealed to the psychologist/counselor may be revealed to the adoptive couple. For example, if the birthparent is having second thought on the adoption may be revealed by the therapist to the adoptive couple or their attorney.
The birth parents’ Certified Adoption Attorney along with the birthparents go to the Probate Court to sign the legal consent to the termination of their parental rights.
Birthparents’ Parental Rights are Terminated
The birthparents either have to appear personally in court and sign off their parental rights or a petition to involuntarily terminate their parental rights must be filed. The birthparents have 21 days from the time that they signed off or had their parental rights terminated to file an appeal for cause. It does NOT mean that the birthparent can simply change their mind. It does mean that if the birthparent was under the influence of drugs, or alcohol, duress, fraud or mistake, etc., that the case could be re-opened. Once the 21 day period has lapsed the baby is legally placed with the court. To avoid any problems of the birthparents revoking their consent, a Certified Adoption Attorney is always provided to the birthparents so that they are fully advised by counsel of their actions and that there are no reasons for cause.
The judge takes the consent of the birthparents and makes an Order of Formal Placement to the adoptive couple (person).
There is a 6 month to 18 month waiting period for an adoptive couple (person) to be evaluated and then the court hearing with the certified adoption attorney to finalize the adoption by the probate court judge and a new birth certificate is issued.
Every 90 days, there has to be an update on the Home study and submitted to the court.
Adoption is Finalized
Once the birthparents’ rights are terminated, the adoptive couple requests to become the legal parents of the baby. The probate judge needs an evaluation of this couple ( person) to see if they qualify under the statute to raise the child. The judge may rely upon the Home study or Preplacement assessment in making this decision so long as the previous report is not more than one (1) year old.
About the Author:
Donald J. Baranski, received his Bachelor of Arts in Humanities Pre Law, from Michigan State University. This was a triple major of American History, Philosophy, and Psychology. He then received a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy from Michigan State University. He then obtained his Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law. Mr. Baranski has been a licensed Attorney and Counselor at Law in the State of Michigan since 1988, practicing adoption law in Eaton Rapids. Mr. Baranski is a Certified Adoption Attorney. Mr. Baranski has been teaching since 1989. He has taught at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, where he developed the course, “Adoption Law and Procedure” and wrote the text. He has also taught at Michigan State University College of Law, Jackson College, and the Eaton Rapids High School.