Independent Adoption - a Win-Win Approach
SB 1148 & the Creation of the Adoption Service Provider
If you have questions about the history and role of the Adoption Service Provider in Independent Adoptions in California, the following reprint may help to clarify your questions. If you have other questions, please call us at 626-330-7990.
The following article is a reprint from Your Family's Health Magazine, May, 1995
"Thinking of Adopting but Too Scared to Try?
Independent Adoption is a Win-Win Approach"
by Dr. Elaine Kindle
Ted and Barbara married in their 30's and planned to begin a family right away. Three years and many infertility tests later, they realized it wasn't going to work that way for them. They considered adoption and asked around, but were frightened away. They heard too many heartbreaking stories about couples who adopted, only to have to give the child back to the birth parent. However, in January 1995, SB1148 changed the face of adoption in a positive way.
The new law was initiated after former Senator Marian Bergeson was involved in three Orange County cases in which adoptive parents had to relinquish their parental rights. Senator Bergeson wrote the original draft of SB1148. "This bill is a ‘win-win' proposition for all parties," explains attorney Karen R. Lane. Ms. Lane is an adoption attorney in Santa Monica, CA, who was instrumental in the drafting of several provisions of this bill.
SB 1148 established a way to formalize procedures ensuring that the birth parents understand the adoption process and their rights, and thus, will be less likely to reclaim a child. It also streamlines the process, allowing an adoption to proceed more quickly and smoothly. In order to achieve these goals, the law created the Adoption Service Provider (ASP). The ASP is a licensed clinical social worker or licensed marriage and family therapist* experienced in issues of adoption. An ASP must have a minimum of five years experience working in an adoption agency, and be approved by the State to do this work.
Attorney Karen Lane explains that SB 1148 allows "birth parents to be advised by experienced social workers of their rights and obligations in a sensitive way to elicit the best sense that this is a well-conceived and thought-out plan."
The ASP advises the birth parent/s of their rights at least ten days before the sign the Independent Adoption Placement Agreement, and makes sure that they clearly understand the meaning and nature of adoption.
The birth parents' rights are integrated to assist the decision-making process before the child is placed for adoption. For example, the birth mother has the right to a minimum of three counseling sessions, if she so chooses, to help her in the decision-making process, or to work through the emotional issues of grief and loss raised by giving up her child. Although the adoptive parents agree to pay for these services, they are investments well worth making. If the birth mother is indecisive, the counseling can help her determine what she wants to do about the adoption. Such counseling can save untold possible future suffering and legal expense by further helping the birthmother clarify her understanding and deal with her emotional posture toward the adoption.
In addition, the law provides for the adoptive parents as well. Attorney Lane points out that "adoptive parents are provided biographic and medical information early on." Thus, the adoptive parents receive important facts about the birth parents that help them with their decision to adopt.
Once the baby has been born and ten days have passed since the Advisement of Rights, the ASP witnesses the signing of the Independent Adoption Placement Agreement (aka the consent form) by both the birth and adoptive parents. The ten day waiting period may be waived if "exigent" circumstances exist. For example, if the birth mother is certain of her decision to place the baby for adoption, and plans to leave the geographic area once the baby is born, yet was not advised of her rights ten days prior to the birth, exigent circumstances prevail.
After the Independent Adoption Placement Agreement is signed, the birth parent/s have 30 days** to request a revocation. If no request is made, on the 31st day, the consent to the adoption becomes permanent and irrevocable. If the birth parent/s are firm in the decision to place the child for adoption, a waiver may be signed to eliminate the 30 day waiting period. Attorney Lane points out that allowing "a waiver...allows the release of the baby physically, emotionally, and legally." She emphasizes that the waiver "provides peace of mind to birth parents and adoptive parents alike and the child is allowed to bond all the more quickly."
Adoption Service Provider Susan B. Brumer, LCSW, agrees with Lane. "When a birth parent signs the waiver to revoke the Adoption Placement Agreement, it helps them to put closure on the adoption process. The adoptive parents feel that their psychological bond to the baby is stronger once the birth parents relinquish all their legal rights by signing the waiver." She adds, "I am very pleased with the law." Ms. Brumer is in an excellent position to know. She supervised all the independent adoptions in Los Angeles County from 1988 - 1994, and has overseen hundreds of adoptions. Currently, she has a private practice in Los Angeles specializing as an Adoption Service Provider.
The new process is designed to help both the birth parents and the adoptive parents to be assured that the adoption will proceed, and that it does so in a more timely manner.
Couples like Ted and Barbara can approach adoption with more confidence that independent adoption has become a more positive process, and that both birth and adoptive parents are in a winning position.
*The law was changed to include MFTs after they lobbied to be included in this function.
**Originally the time frame was 90 days. It was amended to 30 days.