Michigan law allows a legal parent to choose unrelated prospective adoptive parents for her child and to transfer physical custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parents for purposes of adoption. This is known as a Direct Placement Adoption.
When there is an adoption of a child between unrelated persons, each side is entitled to representation by different attorneys. This separate representation assures there is no conflict of interest and that each attorney may fulfill their professional responsibility to maintain the client’s confidences and represent their interests.
An adoption agency may represent both parties in a direct placement adoption. Alternately, an attorney may represent one party, while an adoption agency represents the other party in a direct placement adoption.
There are certain steps that parties should expect to go through with all direct placement adoptions. Most are required; some are optional and I include them to make the process a bit easier for the parties. Each step is noted to be required or optional.
The birth mother is the one who selects the adoptive parents for her child. Ideally, this will occur during pregnancy so that the parties have some time to share information. However, this may happen after delivery. If the birth mother is a minor, her parent or guardian may assist and will have to co-sign the required paperwork and legal consents.
Prospective adoptive parents must have a home study, also referred to as a pre-placement assessment, completed or updated by a licensed adoption agency within one year of the adoption. This will be provided to the court and to the birth mother.
The birth mother will complete history forms outlining her personal and family medical and social history. This history will be provided to the court and to the prospective adoptive parents.
I generally send a plan to the hospital for either the birth mother or the prospective adoptive parents, whomever I am representing. This outlines their preferences about what they would like to have happen during the hospital stay, though it is in no way binding.The plan may include the birth mother’s wishes regarding who may be present in the delivery room, if one of the adoptive parents receives a wrist band so they may go to the nursery to care for the baby, use of an ‘extra’ room on the mother-baby unit by the prospective adoptive parents, preferences regarding circumcision, pictures, who may see the child, etc. I usually send the hospital plan to the social worker on the Mother-Baby Unit, who keeps it available for the nursing staff when the birth mother is admitted.Once the birth mother is admitted to the hospital in labor, the birth mother is “in charge”. Her wishes regarding her care and the care of the infant prevail because she is the patient and the legal parent of the child. The birth mother may change whatever plans have been made in advance.
This is not generally an issue unless the birth mother is involved with Child Protective Services (CPS) or has had other children removed from her custody permanently in the past. A birth mother who has been involved with CPS in the past may still do a direct placement adoption if the prospective adoptive parents take the child home from the hospital. I work with CPS to assure them of the safety of the infant with the adoptive parents. This may include sharing their home study with the CPS worker.The choice to make an adoption plan for her child gives the birth mother a sense of control in that she chooses the adoptive parents for her child (rather than having the protective services system take her child). She is also able to decide what she thinks is best for her child.
Shortly after delivery, when the birth mother is feeling well enough, she and the prospective adoptive parents will sign papers temporarily transferring physical custody of the child to the adoptive parents for purposes of adoption. The birth mother signs paperwork that acknowledges she has read the pre-placement assessment on the adoptive parents. She then transfers the physical custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parents and gives them authority to care for the infant. It notes very clearly that she remains the legal parent and may request the child be returned to her within 24 hours.The prospective adoptive parents sign temporary placement papers acknowledging that if the birth mother asks for the return of the child, they will return the child within 24 hours.
There are now two ways the legal parent may give consent to the adoption in Michigan: out of court consent or an in-court consent:
Out-of-court consent is relatively new in Michigan but is popular. The legal parent may meet with an attorney and a social worker from an adoption agency to give consent. Both mothers and fathers may consent in this manner. They are given a detailed explanation of their rights to determine if they truly wish to consent. If they do so, the paperwork is sent to the court. They have five business days to ask for reconsideration, which is not guaranteed. After that time, the judge will terminate parental rights.
In-court consent is still necessary in some situations, such as when the putative (alleged) father cannot be located. Again, the birth mother will be given a detailed explanation of her rights and asked if she wants to consent. If she agrees, the judge will terminate parental rights.
Under Michigan law, the parental rights of the birth father will have to be terminated. The father must be given notice and may consent or state he does not wish to parent the child. Please see the resource page on Fathers and Adoption for further information on the birth father.
After the birth mother gives her consent, the Court will terminate parental rights and officially, or formally, place the child with the prospective adoptive parents for purposes of adoption. The prospective adoptive parents are given authority to consent to all care for the child. The judge will order a period of supervision by a licensed adoption agency. This requires a visit by the social worker from the adoption agency at specified intervals. These may range from once a month to once in three months. Supervision may last from three to six months.
After completion of the supervision for the required period of time, the adoption may be finalized. The adoptive parents may appear in court for the finalization, or it may be done administratively by the court which means the judge may sign the orders and the court will mail them to the adoptive parents. When the adoptive parents live at a distance, this may be preferable.After finalization, the state will issue a new birth certificate with the adoptive parents named as legal parents. The name will be also be changed on the social security card.
When the Adoption Code was passed, the Michigan Legislature did not want there to be any payments for placement of children for adoption. As a result, there are accountings that must be done and submitted to the Court as part of the process. This is a requirement in a number of states. I often recommend that adoptive parents pay for all adoption related expenses with one credit card so the accounting information is all in one place. Attorneys, the adoption agency and both the birth mother and the adoptive parents all must submit accountings.
If you are a birth mother or prospective adoptive parent who needs assistance with direct placement adoption in Michigan, I welcome you to contact me for a consultation by calling 517-267-1500, sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or completing my online information form. As a Michigan adoption attorney for more than ten years, I believe in informing my clients about their options for adoption, as well as in fully understanding their wishes for their families and the future.