Interview with Terri Odom, Adoption Attorney

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From Terri: I have been practicing adoption law since 1989 and have extensive experience to share with you.  Please call my office at 318-387-8811 or email me at terriodom@gmail.com and we will be happy to put together an adoption plan for you!  We pledge to serve you with excellence, compassion and integrity as we help you through this blessed yet challenging process!
1.)I’m pregnant and I don’t know what I want to do. I’m considering adoption but I don’t know much about the process.

Adoption is an amazing alternative when a surprise pregnancy occurs.  You know, there are so many families ‘out there’ who can’t have children, and for them to even be able to seek out someone like me, an adoption lawyer, is a challenge for some;  to come to see an attorney and say, “we can’t make a baby on our own”….sharing personal hardship, crisis, and often hopelessness.  Interesting how a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy is in a similar place, expecting a baby, knowing the timing, finances, lifestyle is just all wrong….for now.  She faces a similar personal hardship, crisis and often hopelessness.  It’s pretty neat to imagine how the process of adoption can bring together hurting and troubled people and turn the whole thing into a blessing!

When you decide that adoption may be the route for you, you need to seek out an adoption attorney or perhaps an adoption agency.  As a private attorney, I meet with birth moms and I assist them in putting together what we call, an adoption plan.  Part of the adoption plan is selecting a family, determining what level of contact is appropriate, considering what type of medical and financial help might be needed by the birth mom.  At my office, we have available numerous resources to help a woman put together just the right plan.  I have many prospective adoptive couples who are ready to establish a relationship with a birth mom and help her through her pregnancy.  I help couples who want to adopt to prepare a ‘scrapbook’ or ‘profile’ which is a neat way for a birth mom to meet a couple, on paper…at first.  You get to get to know your couple through their pictures and information about them, to get a preliminary feel for whether they might be just the right fit.  My goal in working with couples in this process is for their heart to shine through their scrapbook so that my birth mom can begin to get a sense of comfort and safety as she considers entrusting her soon to be born baby to a family.  I work, offering legal information and counseling so that the relationship between birth mom and couple grows to a place of unity, with all having the same outcome.  I stay involved throughout the pregnancy, delivery and placement of the child, and then continue to finalize the adoption for most couples.


2.)I want to place my baby for adoption but my family wants me to parent. I’m not ready to be a parent but I feel pressure from my family. 

Making the decision to entrust your baby to a wonderful family through adoption is not an easy decision to make.  It is not uncommon for family to pressure a birth mom through guilt and other manipulative tactics in an attempt to force a woman to keep her baby.  However, in my practice, most times when the family becomes involved in the process, this pressure is relieved.  Most times it is the uncertainty the family has in not knowing about the couple, or being fearful because they don’t understand the process of adoption.  I’m always happy to meet with family to give support to encourage adoption. At the end of the day, birth mom, it’s YOUR decision to make.  There are legal ways you can  place your child for adoption without any family support or consent, even when the birth mom is a minor.

3.)I’m the father of the baby. What rights do I have?

Birth father’s rights are well protected in Louisiana.  A man who may have fathered a child should be contacted so that his consent can be given the adoption as well;  I always enjoy including a birth father in the adoption plan and to have him get to know the prospective adoptive family as well.  Many times the relationship between the birth mom and the birth father may have ended, and counseling is needed to bring them to a place to be able to work together to secure a wonderful family for the child.  Men in Louisiana who may have fathered a child can file with the Louisiana Putative Father’s Registry to ensure that they will be contacted if an adoption plan is formed.

4.) I’m scared and not sure I’m making the right decision about adoption. What if I change my mind?

A birth mom may change her mind many times during the adoption plan.  The emotional impact in making the decision to entrust your baby to another family is big!  That, coupled with increased hormones due to pregnancy can all affect a pregnant woman’s mood and mindset.  I always tell an expectant mom:  ”Your emotions change all the time, but the facts that made you consider and decide on adoption,typically do not change.”  If you want to be successful in completing your adoption plan, it is important to focus on the adoptive family and the wonderful and exciting life your child will have with them.  You must remind yourself that adoption is truly a ‘self-less’ act, thinking of the best interest of your child, more than your current emotional feelings.  A birth mom receives counseling from licensed professionals during the process to help her keep her mind-set on track.  A consent to the adoption is signed in Louisiana on the fifth day after the child is born, so legally, a birth mom can choose not to complete the adoption at anytime prior to her executing her consent.

5.) We are interested in adopting a child. Where do we begin?

To begin the process you need to contact a lawyer who specializes in adoption, or contact an adoption agency.  Each has it’s own policies and procedures of how they match a family with a birth mom.  There are facilitators and advertisers available in the phone book and through internet searches, but do be careful here.  Many may seem to be adoption agencies, based on the way their name sounds.  It is important to ask if they are a licensed adoption agency, and of course I recommend that Louisiana families select a Louisiana agency.  So many of these groups are based in California, and have no physical presence in our home state.  These groups often charge a couple thousands and thousands of dollars to simply run ads in papers and online to locate a birth mom.  Couples aren’t always advised that these large fees often do not cover birth mom expenses, attorney fees or court costs.  Also, because many advertising groups do so nationwide, the advertisers don’t always know the law in the state in which they are advertising, and are not proficient to provide the kind of legal guidance a couple needs.  Also, because these fees are so high, a birth mom’s needed expenses are often set very low, making the adoption plan difficult to complete.  Remember, for birth moms and couples alike it is best to meet in person with a lawyer or licensed adoption agency before making a serious adoption plan.

Terri Hoover Odom, LLC

The Adoption Attorney

500 North 7th street,  West Monroe, LA  71291

Tel. 318-387-8811 Fax 318-323-1122

terriodom@gmail.com   www.centerforadoption.com

Member, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys

 


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