What Rights Do Adoptive Parents Have?


In the adoption community, we talk a lot about the rights of birth parents and a birth mother’s parental rights in open, semi open, and closed adoptions. What we often don’t talk about clearly that seems to be a discussion on online forums is if an adoptive parent would like to relinquish rights. The reality is that this is something that very seldom occurs and if it does, it’s unlikely to be both parents that would relinquish their rights. When I talk to others about adoption, there is typically one person ready to share a sensational story of an older child being adopted that went back to their biological family or a parent that decided they no longer wanted to be one. It’s true that these situations do occur, but not as often as people might lead us to believe. 

In order for an adoptive parent to relinquish their rights, it would happen like any other legal action: with a lawyer and court proceedings. 


What Rights do Adoptive Parents Have?

The moment an adoption decree is filed, adoptive parents have the same rights as biological parents. They can make choices for their children, are their legal guardian, etc. Step parent adoptions are just like this as well. Essentially, in the eyes of the court, an adoptive parent and a biological parent are the same. Whoever has been granted the right to parent the child is in fact, the parent. A step parent that adopts a child has the same legal rights as a biological parent. With parental rights, comes responsibility. Obviously, abandonment, Though it’s less likely that a child would be removed from an adoptive family’s care from negligence, etc. due to the extensive paperwork filed prior to adoption including background checks, it could still happen. 


What Happens if a Child who is Adopted Wishes to Return to their Biological Family?

Children don’t have a choice in this matter once paperwork is signed and biological/birth families have relinquished their rights. Legally, the adoptive parents are the child’s legal guardians and parents at that time. In a court of law, an adoptive parent is viewed as no different than a biological parent, so a child can’t simply go to another place to live of their own accord. Though there are some cases of biological families attempting to gain custody of their child, it’s not something that is commonly done. However, with consent, it is possible that an adoptive parent could relinquish their rights for a child to be adopted by their biological family. Again, this isn’t common.


Can an Adoption be Reversed?

This is a complicated question with a complicated answer. It’s a yes and no type of thing. Ultimately, once an adoption is final, it is legally binding and very few court cases present precedence to uphold an adoption reversal. With adoption and foster care, it is important to remember that the best interest of the child is the number one factor in legal decisions. This means that just because a biological family member may want to get custody of a child or that a child may want to return to their biological family, it can’t simply happen. In fact, court hearings have to occur that show without a reasonable doubt that the child’s best interest is in returning to their biological family. This doesn’t happen that frequently. Though there are stories where it has occurred, these are few and far between and legally, the court is going to more likely than not side with adoptive parents unless it’s clear there is abuse, neglect, or something that is detrimental to the child in question. 

A question that has also been asked about adoption reversal centers around adoption when parents didn’t realize their child wouldn’t be reunified or if they were separated from their families in varying circumstances. The Indian Child Welfare Act was established to ensure the safety of Native American children. Prior to this, adoption reversal was still difficult, but may be disputed if a child was removed from their birth parents’ home without voluntary relinquishment of the child. Though this is no longer thought to be commonplace in the United States, with the war in the Ukraine, children have been separated from the parents and in this case, international adoption from this war torn region is already unders scrutiny. Children who can be reunified may not be necessarily and as this unfolds, it will be playing out in real time for us. It is my hope that as difficult as it may be for an adoptive parent, that a biological parent who was separated from their children due to the horrific things that happen during wars would be able to parent their children once again even if a “legal” adoption occurred. This is when abandonment issues become tricky and legal definitions and court precedencies can provide clarification. 

Read more about adoption reversal here. 


Birth Parents and Reunification

If there is a goal that has been legally established to reunify children with their birth parents and biological families, typically, instead of an adoption, that child will be placed in foster care. Though many couples do seek to adopt through foster care, the true goal of it is to reunify children with their families. If it’s determined that that won’t or can’t happen in the best interest of the child, then an adoption plan is typically made. When individuals adopt, it’s usually because they have the best intention of raising a child, so it’s unlikely that they will seek to place that child elsewhere. 


Under what circumstances might an Adoptive Parent Relinquish his or her rights? 

The reality is, this is not a common practice, and hopefully, in instances where children have been in foster care and found themselves in various homes, once they’re adopted, they stay with that family. However, there are certain circumstances that may warrant the removal or relinquishment of rights like any other situation. It remains true that the child’s best interests and safety should be at the forefront of these discussions at all times. For more information about the various aspects of legal guardianship, relinquishing parental rights, foster care, and adoption, reach out to Adoption Choice Inc.