Giving Up Parental Rights Through Adoption & Getting Your Kids Back

By Robin Elizabeth Margolis

As a birth parent of a child being offered for adoption, you can change your mind, cancel your relinquishment of parental rights and get your kids back. Every state has its own set of adoption laws governing "revocation of consent," which determines the circumstances under which birth parents can cancel an adoption.


Roman empire law recognized birth parents' right to revocation of consent in one type of adoption. Birth parents could legally abandon unwanted babies in designated public places. Some abandoned children were taken by adoptive parents. Birth parents could reclaim abandoned children, but they had to pay adoptive parents compensation for money spent on the children. When Christianity became the official Roman religion, birth parents who abandoned children were punished and could no longer reclaim them from adoptive parents. During the Middle Ages, formal adoption vanished from most of Europe, due to medieval preferences for biological children. Legal adoption reappeared in American law in 1851.

Consent to Adoption

American state laws generally require that the birth parents must consent to give up their child to the adoptive parents. The form of consent varies from one state to the next. Some states require a witnessed and notarized document signed by at least one birth parent, while other states require the birth parents to appear before a judge or file a formal petition of relinquishment.

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Revoking Consent

A Child Welfare Information Gateway report, "Consent to Adoption," describes the various states' conditions allowing you to withdraw your consent to an adoption. Birth parents can revoke consent to an adoption if their consent was obtained by coercion, duress or fraud. They can also request revocation if they believe it is in the best interests of their child. Birth parents can obtain revocation of consent if both they and the adoptive parents come to a mutual agreement that revocation is necessary. Birth parents can request revocation of consent if their child is not placed for adoption with a specific family or within a particular period of time. Birth parents can withdraw consent to an adoption if certain legal procedures, such as a waiting period after the child's birth and counseling before signing the consent document, were not followed.

Taking Action

Revocation of consent is usually permitted during the time prior to a court approving a final adoption decree. Once a final adoption decree is issued, courts rarely cancel adoptions and return children to birth parents. If you want to revoke your consent to the adoption of your kids and regain custody of them, be aware that state adoption laws are complex. You may wish to hire an attorney who specializes in adoptions. Both the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association can help you find attorneys in your geographic area who are familiar with your state's adoption laws.

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