According to the American Bar Association, more than 12,000 adoptions take place every year and slightly half of those adoptions are unrelated adoptions, or between people adopting a child who is not related to them. Adoption ends the relationship between the biological parent and child, but the circumstances of the adoption and the biological parents' role in the adoption can determine when those rights are legally terminated.
Waiting Period -- Mother's Consent
Several states institute a waiting period to provide the biological parent with the opportunity to change her mind regarding the adoption. Standard waiting periods can be from 48 hours to eight days depending on the state where the adoption occurs. During that time, the biological mother would still have rights to the child if she chooses to exercise those rights. It is common for a mother to sign a consent form for adoption before the child is born, but it is not legally binding and does not waive the mother's right to take advantage of the waiting period.
Waiting Period -- Father's Consent
A biological father can have legal rights to a child prior to adoption if he is married to the biological mother at the time of the birth and considered the "presumed father" of the child, named as the father on the birth certificate or ordered to pay child support by a court order. A "presumed father" must be notified of an adoption and given the opportunity to intervene in the adoption. If the biological father is not notified, he can have up to six months to contest the adoption. If the biological father intervenes to stop the adoption, he must be willing to take custody of the child himself. In this instance, the rights of the father are still in effect until the matter is resolved.
A biological parent or grandparents' rights to communication and access to a child put up for adoption end as soon as the child is adopted. There are no legal rights to visit the child or have custody of the child when an adoption is finalized. Parents who are minors have the right to give up a child for adoption and do not need permission from an adult and the adoption cannot be reversed because the parents are minors.
Adoptions can be facilitated through an adoption agency. Adoption agencies screen prospective parents and supervise the care for the biological mother through the adoption process. Private adoptions are generally handled by adoption attorneys who seek out mothers who want to give up their child for adoption and are legal in most states. Prospective parents are allowed to provide for medical expenses during the pregnancy but are not allowed to pay for the baby outright, which is illegal in all states.
Fathers who abandon the mother and baby and make no efforts to provide child support or communicate with them for more than a year have no standing in the court system to stop an adoption. If both parents abandon the child with a third party for more than six months, both could lose the right to intervene in an adoption.