People who don’t understand adoption assume that once you bring the baby home, the adoption is complete. But domestic adoption doesn’t work that way. Depending on where the adoptive parents or birth parents live, and those particular state’s laws, adoptive parents only have what is called “legal-risk placement” of the baby for the first six months. Essentially, the baby is not officially or legally part of your family yet, but rather, is “placed” with you pending legalities and more paperwork. Just when you think you’re done with filling out forms, there are more!
Because Miles was born in Texas, his birthmother was able to voluntarily and irrevocably relinquish her rights 48 hours after he was born. So, thankfully, we haven’t had to worry about her changing her mind about the adoption. (I don’t think I could have handled that particular stress for six months.) But the agency we worked with then became the legal guardian of Miles–not us–and said agency then “placed” him with us for six months until the required amount of time and post-placement visits with social workers have been completed and we can finalize the adoption.
I guess it’s like a trial period, designed to ensure that we aren’t totally inept at this parenthood thing. The time when birth parents can officially relinquish rights varies from state to state, but to my knowledge most states have the 6-month waiting period before finalization.