This guest post is by Robin A. Fleischner, an adoptive parent and adoption attorney.
Appearing in court with my clients, Dee and Bob, and their 8-month-old prospective adoptive daughter, Marie, a few weeks ago, I was struck by the deep vulnerability adoptive parents and birth parents share.
We were there for a hearing to terminate the parental rights of the child’s birth father. Dee and Bob already felt like Marie’s parents.
They had met her birth mother, been present at their daughter’s birth, and were completely in love with her since bringing Marie home from the hospital. Yet they were terribly anxious that their daughter could be taken from them.
Shortly before the child’s birth, I spoke with Marie’s birth father, who was supportive of the adoption, but serving him with legal notice of the adoption had been difficult, and it had taken 8 months to accomplish service so that his rights could be ended.
Unlike Marie’s birth father, her birth mother had signed a consent to the adoption ending parental rights shortly after the birth. An agreement to be in contact through photo updates and yearly visits, common in open adoption, mitigated the grief of parting from her daughter.
As the judge signed the order terminating the birth father’s rights, the smiling baby leaning on her father’s shoulder and holding her mother’s hand, the three were a deeply committed family, despite their unofficial status.
The last hurdle to the adoption overcome, their relief will be complete when the adoption is finalized next month.
Robin A. Fleischner, Esq. is an adoptive parent, a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys, and a member of the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania Bar, and the LGBT Bar Association’s Family Law Institute. She was instrumental in helping amend New Jersey’s adoption laws in 1994 to reflect modern practices while protecting the rights of all parties.