In adoption terminology, consent means the relinquishing the child for adoption by the parent or the agency (or person) acting in place of the parent and the release of all rights and obligations connected to the child. In most of the states, the consent must be a written consent and must be notarized or witnessed or executed before a designated official or judge. The law has many provisions to protect all those involved in the process including:
• Birth parents
• Adoptive parents
Who Must Consent?
The birth mother and the birth father (if paternity is proved) have the right to consent to the adoption. This right of one or both parents can be terminated for many reasons including neglect and abuse. If neither parent can give consent for any reason, the consent must be given by other persons/entities having responsibility of the child. These persons/entities include:
• Any individual with custody of the child
• Any agency with custody of the child
• Court of competent jurisdiction
• A close relative
• A guardian
• A responsible adult known as the next friend of the child and appointed by the court
Consent of Minors
In almost all jurisdictions across the United States and its territories, older children must consent to their adoption. The minimum age for consent varies across the nation. While in some states it is 14, in some states it is 12 while in a few states it is 10. In some states, the consent can be waived if the child lacks the capacity to consent or the court determines that waiving the consent is in the child’s best interest. In Colorado, the child must be counseled before he or she can give consent.
When Consent May Be Given?
In 46 states and Washington DC, the law specifies when the birth parent can consent to the adoption. In some states, the birth parents can consent immediately on the birth of the child while in some states, there is a waiting period before the birth parents can consent. In some states the alleged birth father can consent anytime after or prior to the birth. The waiting period can range from 12 hours to 15 days. In most states the waiting period is 72 hours, i.e. 3 days. Hawaii and Alabama allow the birth mother to consent prior to the birth. But the consent must be reaffirmed post birth.
Revocation of Consent
The right to revoke consent to adopt is limited. In most states, the birth parent can revoke the consent prior to the adoption decree being entered under certain circumstances or within a specified period of time. Generally consent can be revoked in the following circumstances:
• Consent was obtained by coercion, duress or fraud
• The court finds that revocation is in the child’s best interest
• Adoptive placement is not finalized within a specific time period or with a specific family
• The birth parent can withdraw the consent within a certain period of time after which it cannot be revoked.
Once the court passes an adoption decree, the consent cannot be revoked.