How do you reverse a child adoption?

Adoption is not intended to be reversible. When a child is adopted, the adoptive parents legally become that child's parents, and the birth family relinquishes the rights to make decisions about the child. Even in open adoption, in which there is some level of direct contact between the birth and adoptive families, the adoptive family holds all the legal cards. Nonetheless, there are some, limited instances in which a birth parent (or very occasionally, other members of the birth family) can renounce their consent to adoption.

A few U.S. states and territories do not allow for any revocation of consent for adoption (Utah, Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands). Most states have a limited time during which the birth family may change their mind about their agreement to give up their child for adoption, ranging from just three days in some states to two years (in American Samoa, and in the case of native American children in California), although in most cases that limit is no more than a month. In many cases, revocation of agreement is only possible when it can be legally determined that the consent was given under duress or coercion, or that fraud was involved. In other cases, an adoption or agreement for adoption can be canceled if it is proven to be in the best interests of the child to do so. If a child is not placed with an adoptive family within a certain amount of time (between a month and two years, depending on the state) consent can be revoked. A few states allow for an agreement between the birth and adoptive parents to reverse an adoption within a few weeks of the adoption. A summary of state laws on the subject of consent for adoption can be found through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.