1. Can I choose the family that I want to adopt my baby? Can I meet them?
Yes, you may choose the family you would like to adopt your baby. You can see mini-profiles of some of our waiting adoptive families here. Family Life Services has each prospective adoptive family put together a photo profile that includes lots of pictures and detailed information about the family such as physical and personality descriptions, hobbies, interests, occupations, how the couple met, feelings about adoption, and the couple’s desires regarding communication with a child’s birthparents. Once this information is reviewed, the birthparents may have the caseworker schedule a telephone call or face-to-face meeting with one or more prospective adoptive couples to give the birthparent an opportunity to meet the family and ask specific questions to determine if they have the qualities desired in an adoptive family.
2. What type of communication may I have with the adoptive family that I choose?
There are three main types of communication in adoption: open, closed, or mediated communication. Once the birthparent(s) has selected an adoptive family, future communication between the two parties is usually discussed in a face-to-face meeting or on a telephone call. Family Life Services encourages ongoing communication between the adoptive family and the birthparent(s) throughout the child’s life, if that is the birthparent’s desire. This could include letters, photos, exchanging emails, having telephone calls and/or face-to-face visits. An agreement for communication is signed by both birth and adoptive parents, documenting the amount and frequency of communication to occur following an adoption placement. These agreements are completed separately for birthmothers and birthfathers as they are individually responsible for any communication they have with the adoptive family and each birthparent may not desire the same type of communication with the adoptive family.
3. What is open adoption?
Open adoption includes direct contact between the adoptive family and the birth family, and can include any of the following: photos, letters, videos, telephone calls, text messages, emails or face-to-face visits where the agency does not act an intermediary. In an open adoption, identifying information, such as last names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers, can be exchanged.
4. What is mediated adoption?
In mediated adoption, Family Life Services mediates every contact (phone calls, letters, videos, emails, face-to-face visits) between the birthparents and adoptive parents/child so that confidentiality is maintained and we can be a resource to all parties as they build a relationship throughout the child’s life. Both parties know non-identifying information about the other such as first names, state of residence, etc. but do not exchange contact information such as last names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. as all communication is sent to and from the adoption agency to the other party. Mediated adoption relationships can develop into open adoption relationships with the consent of both parties.
5. What is closed adoption?
In closed adoptions, birthparents provide social and medical information about themselves to the agency that is passed on to the adoptive family with no identifying information, such as last names, addresses, and phone numbers, shared. The birthparents have the opportunity to meet the adoptive family prior to or at the time of placement if it is their desire. Following placement, there is no ongoing communication or contact between the adoptive family and the birth family. Closed adoptions can develop into mediated or open adoption relationships with the consent of both parties.
6. Can I name my baby and will the adoptive parents keep the name I choose?
Family Life Services encourages the birthparent(s) to choose a name for their child that will be used immediately upon the child’s birth and on the original birth certificate. The adoptive parents may keep this name or they may change the child’s name, if they desire. Many times, the birthparents and adoptive parents decide on a name together which may incorporate a name that the birthparents have chosen with a name that the adoptive parents choose. Occasionally, a birthparent chooses a name that has great significance and requests that the adoptive family keep the name they have chosen or the birthparent may ask that the adoptive family choose the child’s name in its entirety.
7. Will my medical costs be covered by the agency or the adoptive parents?
Family Life Services charges an adoption fee to the adoptive parents to cover legal, medical, and counseling expenses. Part of that fee is used to cover the birth mother’s medical expenses associated with her pregnancy if she chooses to make an adoption plan. The medical expenses are paid after the child has been legally placed with the adoptive parents and an itemized bill of medical expenses must be submitted to the agency prior to payment.
8. If the adoption agency and/or the adoptive parents help with my expenses, what would that include?
Family Life Services adoption fees cover medical expenses, as well as legal expenses, including but not limited to an attorney who represents the agency for legal proceedings. Additional expenses paid by the agency may include reasonable living expenses such as rent, utilities, and food during the time in which the birthmother is unable to work. The birthmother’s inability to work due to the pregnancy must be documented by a letter from her physician prior to any financial assistance. The payment of these expenses must be approved by the agency’s director and must be allowable by Virginia law.
9. Can I see the baby in the hospital?
Yes. Each birthmother can determine for themselves how much time they would like to spend with the child while in the hospital. Your caseworker can help you to make an individualized hospital plan and evaluate various issues including bonding, the needs of your child, and your own physical needs during your hospital stay.
10. Are parents, friends, father of the baby, etc. allowed to see the baby in the hospital?
With the birthmother’s permission, any of the above persons are allowed to see the baby in the hospital.
11. Do my parents need to sign papers in order for me to place my child for adoption?
No. Even if the birthparent is a minor, they are solely responsible for making the decisions for their child’s future and can make an adoption plan without their parents’ consent.
12. What information, if any, is needed from the birthfather?
Family Life Services makes every effort to extend the same adoption services to the birthfather and the birthmother. It is ideal to have medical, social, and educational information about the birthfather in order to provide the adoptive parents with a complete history for the child. However, it is not always possible if the birthfather’s whereabouts is unknown, his identity is unknown, or if he is unwilling to provide information to the agency. If we are unable to receive this information from him, we will request that the birthmother give the agency as much information as possible about the birthfather.
13. When, if at all, does the birthfather have to be present?
It is not required that the birthfather be present at all, but it is preferable for him to have contact with the adoption caseworker and participate in adoption counseling. The agency will also provide follow-up counseling to him at no expense, if he requests such services.
A putative father who believes that he may have fathered a child can protect his rights by registering with the Virginia Birth Father Registry at www.vabirthfatherregistry.com or calling 1-877-433-2339.
14. What qualifications must an adoptive couple meet before they are accepted as clients in your agency?
Preliminary requirements are: 1) Must be between age 22 and 47 at the time of application, 2) Both husband and wife must be Christians and active members in a local church, 3) Must be married at least three years, and 4) Must be drug and tobacco free.
Family Life Services requires three reference letters, a criminal background check, a child protective services clearance, a DMV record, medical recommendations, employment/income verification, a home safety inspection, and must receive an approved home study from a licensed agency or social worker in the state of residence of the couple. During the home study process, the social worker evaluates the couple’s suitability as adoptive parents and readiness to parent a child. Each FLS adoptive couple attends a two-day adoption-training seminar at Family Life Services prior to placement. The seminar covers many aspects of adoption including legal and medical issues, attachment, identity and adoption, communicating with birth parents, talking to a child about adoption, and learning more about birthparents’ needs.
15. What does the adoptive family want to know about birthparents and what are they allowed to know about me?
An adoptive family wants to know as much about you as you are willing to share. The birthparents are encouraged to provide adoptive parents with detailed background information through a social/medical history form and through information gathered by the caseworker during counseling sessions. This covers health, personality, education, and family background information. In addition, you may wish to provide other items such as a letter to the child written during your pregnancy, photographs from your childhood or of your family, etc.
16. Does the agency ever work with couples who live in other states or does every adoptive family with Family Life Services live in Virginia?
Family Life Services works with adoptive families from all over the United States, except New York State. However, the majority of the adoptive families in our program live on the East Coast.
17. What happens if the baby is born with birth defects? Will the adoptive parents want to adopt my baby?
If this were to occur, all of the medical information would be gathered and presented to the adoptive couple. Family Life Services would encourage the adoptive couple to review this information with their physician and make a decision based on the best interests of the child. Most of the time, this is a question of whether or not the family is capable of providing for the special needs of the child. If for some reason the adoptive couple is unable to proceed with the adoption, Family Life Services would contact the birthparents immediately and provide them with choices of other adoptive couples who wish to adopt a child with special needs.
18. When does the birthmother sign the adoption papers?
The adoption agreement, or the Permanent Entrustment Agreement, cannot be signed by the birthmother until after the birth of the baby. This agreement is usually signed in the hospital by the birthmother with her caseworker. If a birthfather is in agreement with the adoption plan, he may sign a Permanent Entrustment Agreement either prior to or following the baby’s birth.
19. Once I sign the Permanent Entrustment Agreement, can I change my plan?
Yes. Signing the adoption papers only terminates your rights if you do not revoke the agreement before the child is 10 days old, before 7 days have passed from the signing of the Permanent Entrustment Agreement, or before the child is placed in the home of the adoptive parents.
20. Will my baby leave the hospital with the adoptive parents or me?
If you choose to make an adoption plan, your baby will leave the hospital either with the chosen adoptive family or with a Family Life Services approved foster family. Your caseworker will work with you to determine the best plan for you and your baby.
21. What may I send to my child?
Although you do not have to provide anything for the child, you may choose to send letters, pictures, gifts, etc. The kind of communication will depend on the arrangements agreed upon with the adoptive family you have chosen.
22. After the adoption is finalized, will I need to have further contact with the agency? If so, under what circumstances?
It is not required that a birthparent have any contact with the agency after the adoption is finalized. However, any mediated correspondence with the adoptive parents will go through Family Life Services and we request that the birthparents provide us with current contact information in case we need to reach you for any purpose.
23. Do you offer support after an adoption placement is made?
Family Life Services is available after the adoption to provide counseling with the birthparent at any time the birthparent needs support. We are here to offer supportive counseling as long as needed. If a birthparent does not live near our office, the FLS caseworker can continue to provide counseling through telephone and email contact for months and years following the placement. We host an annual Birthmother Gathering in Lynchburg, Virginia for ladies to gather for a therapeutic retreat with other women who share similar experiences. In addition, Family Life Services offers an online, confidential forum for birthmothers and birthfathers that provides an opportunity to share, receive support, and ask questions of other birthparents. If a birth parent desires to connect with a professional counselor in their area, the FLS caseworker can help them identify someone who could provide this assistance.