60 days

Sixty days doesn’t seem like a long time to an adult but to a newborn baby it is a lifetime. In 60 days a newborn baby goes from a helpless infant to a 2-month-old baby. A newborn needs his parents’ loving touch and care to feel secure in this strange new world outside of the womb. A 2-month-old baby has woken up to the world around him, makes eye contact and smiles at his parents.

In adoption, 60 days is the time during which the birth mother or birth parents can change their mind about the adoption. The 60-day period is counted from the time the birth mother (or birth parents) signs consent for the adoption at court, not from the birth date of the child.

For adoptive parents who are lucky enough to get a baby very soon after birth, the 60 days are emotionally draining. You dread the phone ringing because it might be the social worker to say the birth mother has changed her mind. However, as an adoptive parent of a newborn baby you take the risk knowing that it is the best thing for your child. He is where he belongs, with a loving family.

Now with the new Children’s Act the lawmakers have deemed that a child may not be placed with an adoptive family until the 60 days are over.

To my mind, that makes no sense. The Children’s Act is based on the premise that “the best interests of a child are of paramount importance”. I do not believe that the best interests of a child are served by him or her into the already over-burdened child welfare system. There are not enough emergency care, foster care, places of safety or children’s homes to cope with the present number of children in need of care. And frankly even the best care situations are not as good as a doting family home.

Yes, there are some adoptive parents who do not want to bond with their child during the 60 days for fear that consent will be withdrawn and they will be devastated. But that should be their choice, not something mandated by law. While there are no proper statistics available, anecdotal evidence from adoption social workers is that when careful assessment and placement are done, the chances of consent being withdrawn are very low.

My opinion is based on both research and my experience as the mother of 2 adopted children. With our first son we were lucky enough to get him when he was 1 day old. He has only ever known a loving family environment and he only required his first antibiotic when he was over a year old.

With our second son we were not informed of his existence until he was 5 weeks old and it took another 4 weeks to get the state paediatrician to release him for adoption. We fought to have him released to us as soon as we knew about him but were refused. When he came to us he had a misshapen head because the nurses had not bothered to change his position while he had a scalp drip giving him antibiotics and food. By the time he came to us he had already had three antibiotics and his little immune system is so compromised that he has required many more and he is not even a year yet. He also had severe cradle cap and terrible thrush – all signs of neglect. Our darling little boy has to go to occupational therapy, paediatricians and other specialists to try and correct the damage caused by this lack of care in the state hospital.

I’m normally a law-abiding citizen, proud to live in a country with one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. However, the blatant disregard for reality in the Children’s Act make me believe that the quote from Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” is appropriate: ‘The law is an ass.’

Is it appropriate to wait 60 days before placing a baby with his or her adoptive parents?
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