After you adopt a child, can the birth parents take them back?


When we adopted our daughter, the first month was hard for me. I was doing my best to bond with a baby. Parenting is hard no matter what, but often in adoption, you’re finding out you’re going to be a parent and becoming one in the same day. In my state, a birth father had a month from our daughter’s birth to step forward and claim rights to her. Every time the phone rang with the area code of our adoption agency, I was sick to my stomach.  However, what I later learned is that once the adoption process has started, it isn’t so easy to have a child removed from adoptive parents. A lot of thought and care goes into creating an adoption plan and adoption professionals work hard to ensure that there is no coercion and should a birth parent surrender their child, it is of their own free will. Yet, there are some instances when an adoption can be reversed. 


The Putative Father Registry

Every state in the US has a putative father registry. How it is handled and the rules surrounding it can differ from state to state, but it allows men to reach out to a notary public and note if they’ve engaged in intercourse with a woman. This way, should that woman give birth without their knowledge, they would still have the right to parent that child. Some adoption agencies will work hard to examine that list and work with a birth mother to try to contact a birth father before the adoption. This isn’t done to protect the adoptive parents, but a child who may have to bounce around to different homes should a birth father come forward in the time allowed to contest an adoption in that state. For more information on putative father registries, click here


Proof of Child Abuse or Neglect

If proof of child abuse or neglect can be found, adoptive parents, like any parent, can lose their parental rights. Again, as with any situation of this nature, an investigation would be conducted and a child would likely go to a foster family to ensure their safety. Still, the child would not necessarily go back to their biological parents because their reasons for choosing adoption would likely still stand, but if abuse or neglect were found, that child would be placed with a new family.


Emancipation from Parents

When a child is older, he or she may choose to be emancipated from their parents. There are a lot of stipulations and rules surrounding emancipation and a child would have to fill out paperwork to start legal proceedings. According to Legal Services for Children, the child in question would have to be at least 14 years of age, if, by choice, they have chosen not to live with their guardians and their guardians aren’t trying to get them back, if the child manages their own finances and have a legal source of income, OR should it be proven that emancipation would be in the best interest of the child in question. Emancipation is not that common and in fact of the approximately 20,000 children in the United States who are emancipated, most of them have aged out of the foster care system and made their case to be on their own. 


Adoptive Parents Choosing to Reverse the Adoption

Again, due to the rigors of the home study process, this is unlikely to happen. But, according to The Atlantic, there is one to five percent of families choose to dissolve an adoption. When an adoption plan is created, it is with the utmost care and that a child’s best interests are always taken into consideration, mostly to avoid a child being adopted a second time and not having a stable home environment. While there are ways that a child can be removed from an adoptive family, it is less likely in the United States than you may think.