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February 2007Vol. 8, No. 1The Rights and Well-Being of Birth Parents

A recent study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute suggests that the rights and needs of biological parents who place their children for adoption are often misunderstood or neglected. The study reports on the rights and status of birth parents by exploring the context of infant adoption in today's society, examining how laws and practices affect birth parents' rights, and reviewing research on the impact of relinquishment.

Domestic infant adoption in the last decade shows a number of changes from previous generations. For instance:

  • The majority of parents placing their infants for adoption are not teenagers but women in their 20s.
  • Most adoption agencies and independent practitioners offer open adoptions.
  • Most birth mothers help to choose the adoptive parents for their child.

While many of these newer practices accord more rights and responsibilities to birth parents than in the past, different State laws and legal practices are not always so accommodating. For instance:

  • Despite efforts in some States to involve birth fathers, only a minority of adoptions do so.
  • In some States, attorneys paid by and representing adoptive parents also represent birth parents, a practice that may cause ethical concerns.

The report also cites research on the impact of relinquishment on birth parents' adjustment, suggesting the need for more institutionalized and consistent postadoption counseling and support for parents.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations to bolster the rights and well-being of birth parents. These include some recommended changes to State laws, such as those governing the timing of relinquishment and revocation, as well as suggested changes in practice, such as more aggressive protection of fathers' rights. The report suggests that it is in the interest of society at large to create a supportive community of practice and an adequate framework to meet the needs and guarantee the rights of all involved.

Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process, by Susan Smith, is available on the Adoption Institute website: