Adoption Loss: How Can I Reduce the Risk of a Reclaim?

Once the adoption is legally finalized, then it is irrevocable. However, for a period of time after the baby’s birth, as set by state law, the biological mother may decline to sign papers relinquishing parental rights to her child, an act known as “reclaim.” Some states give the biological mother 48 hours, some 30 days, and some up to six months. A reclaim is unlikely to happen if the birth mother has emotional support from her family, the adoptive parents, and an adoption professional or counselor.

One of the most important services your professional should provide is to watch for “red flags.” These indicate that a birth mother may be at risk of reclaiming or having a change of heart resulting in an adoption disruption.

This job starts with the initial screening of potential birth mothers. Most adoption professionals with years of experience will know the important questions to ask. They will find out precisely what she’s looking for in her life and if adoption is a good choice for her and her child. Also, they should ask what she desires in adoptive parents.

They should be able to spot from the outset the warning signs that a particular mother fits the profile of a woman not ready or willing to see the adoption through. It is hard for adoptive parents to do this on their own.

The national reclaim rate varies greatly between professionals and can be as low as 5%, but some organizations have much higher rates of adoption disruption. At Lifetime, our reclaim rate is around 4-5%. I have seen one attorney claiming 25% reclaim as normal. This is not an acceptable reclaim rate and in most adoptions, the birth parents need to have followed up support offered to them.

This number often depends on when the birth mother changes their mind: before the birth, at the hospital, or when the child has been in the adoptive parents care. As hard as any change of heart is, it’s much easier to have the birthparents make this decision before you’ve received the child in your arms.

A qualified adoption professional who properly screens, monitors and provides options for counseling or peer counseling for birth mothers should have a reclaim rate of around 4% to 6%. At Lifetime Adoption, our reclaim rate is very low, because there is a great deal of services and attention given to each client.

Extensive information on preventing scams and frauds can be found in chapter four of Adoption: Your Step-by-Step Guide. Visit to purchase your copy.

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