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Belmont Law Review

Abstract

Though overhaul of adoption laws across the United States has been nearly universal, there is still no uniformity among the states in approach to voluntary relinquishment of parental rights: the very issue at the heart of the controversial cases that sparked reform. This Note attempts to track the development of domestic adoption laws as they affect birthparent consent in infant adoptions, the competing policies driving these developments, and the way states have attempted to reconcile that friction. Part I of this Note provides an underpinning of adoption terminology by outlining the actors involved, the basic elements required for infant adoption in the United States, and how birthparent consent fits in the mix. Part II gives a brief historical background of adoption statutes in the United States, including more recent attempts at uniformity in adoption laws across the fifty states. In Part III, this Note addresses competing policy interests and the friction that arises among the dueling rights of the various actors in the adoption process. Part III also attempts to grasp a firm definition of the ever-elusive “best interests of the child” standard, taking the position that the child’s interest in stability and permanency must be the ultimate goal of the law in the adoption context. Part IV categorizes current statutes across the fifty states into three distinct groups, drawing heavily on data compiled in APPENDIX A concerning certain identified criteria in each state’s adoption laws. Finally, Part V proposes a model statute that falls squarely into the most conservative of these categories, balancing the interests and rights of the various actors with the best interests of the child being held paramount. The proposal argues, first, for only a very brief delay of birthparent consent after the child’s birth and, second, for no subsequent revocation period. Though the primary purpose of this limitation is stability for the child, this Note will show that this design best serves each of the other actors as well.

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