Proceed With Caution: 7 Red Flags to Look for When Interviewing Birth Mothers (and 3 You Can Safely Ignore)

There are some warning signs that the birth mother in your adoption could change her mind.

One worry that nearly all adoptive parents share is the fear that the birth mother might change her mind and decide to parent her baby. Although there is no way to completely protect yourself from this possibility, there are some “red flags” to watch out for when interviewing birth mothers. Below are seven risk factors that make it more likely that the birth mother might change her mind, plus three so-called “red flags” that you can safely ignore.

Red Flags

1. The birth mother’s family is not supportive of the adoption plan. Having the support of her family is understandably important to birth mothers. If the birth mother’s family does not support the adoption plan, especially if they are willing to parent the baby themselves, proceed with caution.

2. The birth mother hopes to reconcile with the birth father. If the birth mother has an on again, off again relationship with the baby’s father, she may be hoping that she will reconcile with him and they will raise the baby together.

3. The birth mother refuses counseling. Adoption counseling helps birth mothers to examine their feelings about adoption and make good decisions. If the birth mother has doubts about whether she really wishes to place her baby for adoption, counseling will reveal these doubts early in the process and reduce the chances of later heartbreak on all sides.

4. The birth mother refuses to reveal the birth father’s identity. The birth father’s consent is essential to a successful adoption. If the birth mother refuses to tell who the birth father is, this increases the odds that the birth father will find out late in the process and object to the adoption.

5. The birth mother has not made plans for after the adoption. A birth mother who has not given any thought to what she will do with her life after the adoption might not be serious about her adoption plan. Most birth mothers who have thought carefully about their adoption plans also have a plan for what their lives will look like post-adoption. Plans to move, return to school, or start a new job are all good signs that the birth mother is committed to her adoption plan.

6. The birth mother is evasive or her story changes. If the birth mother tells you a different story every time she talks to you, or tells her attorney a different story than she tells you, beware. This may indicate that she is untruthful or mentally unstable, neither of which bodes well for the success of the adoption.

7. The baby is due at the holidays. Sounds irrelevant, right? But most adoption attorneys and agencies can tell you from their experience that adoptions of babies who are due between Thanksgiving and New Year are much more likely to fall through.

Three “Red Flags” That Aren’t

There are also a few factors that I have heard are “red flags” that I’m not sure I agree with. It’s probably safe to take the following factors with a grain of salt.

Education Level. Some adoption professionals say that more educated birth mothers are more likely to go through with their adoption plans, because they tend to be more focused on career and more confident in their decision making. However, it is just as true to say that birth mothers with less education are less financially prepared to care for a child and more likely to wish to return to school. Level of education is probably not a good way to predict whether a birth mother will follow through with her adoption plan.

Religion. I have heard some adoption professionals say that a birth mother who is not religious may be more likely to decide to parent her baby. The argument goes that mothers who are not religious are less likely to feel that single parenthood is wrong or socially unacceptable. However, I think it is equally likely that a birth mother who is religious might feel pressure to raise her baby herself. I think it’s safe to disregard religion as a risk factor.

Age. Age is another factor that can cut either way in adoption planning. A very young birth mother may be less sure of her decisions and may be more easily influenced by what her parents want. On the other hand, it may be clear to a very young mother that she is unprepared to parent her baby. Similarly, older mothers may be more confident in their decisions, or they may view the pregnancy as their “last chance” to have a baby due to their age. Accordingly, age by itself is probably not a red flag.

As difficult as it may be, it’s always wise to try to psychologically prepare yourself in case the birth mother changes her mind. Remember that adoption is not about taking children away from parents who actually want to keep them, but about finding a “win-win” situation. As devastating as it is when the birth mother decides she wants to parent her baby, it is a sign that that was not the right baby for you. I will blog more about how to deal with the roller coaster of emotions you will feel during the waiting period. In the meantime, I welcome your tips and comments. Write them in the comments section or e-mail me (evaughan at vaughanfirm dot com).

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.


  1. September 10th, 2010 | 1:57 pm

    Interesting and thoughtful coverage of these potential warning signs! I would not have guessed that the holidays could be such a factor. :) I also liked that you touched on items that might not be warning signs. Ultimately, deciding to give up a baby must be such a difficult decision, and one that anyone might find hard to be decisive about.

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