legally allowable birth mother expenses

Be prepared to discuss your needs with your attorney or licensed adoption agency, so you can receive appropriate advice as to which expenses may be legally paid by the agency or by the adoptive parents.

The California statute governing payment of expenses during pregnancy is Penal Code Section 273, which says:

273. (a) It is a misdemeanor for any person or agency to offer to pay money or anything of value, or to pay money or anything of value to a parent for the placement for adoption, for the consent to an adoption, or for cooperation in the completion of an adoption of his child. This section does not make it unlawful to pay the maternity-connected medical or hospital and necessary living expenses of the mother preceding and during confinement as an act of charity, as long as the payment is not contingent upon placement of the child for adoption, consent to the adoption, or cooperation in the completion of the adoption.

(b) It is a misdemeanor for any parent to obtain the financial benefits set forth in subdivision (a) with the intent to receive such financial benefits without completing the adoption or without consenting to the adoption.

What does all that mean? It means that the adoptive family is legally and ethically allowed to assist you with expenses that are:

  • directly related to your pregnancy
  • necessary for your welfare and the welfare of your baby; and
  • incurred during the pregnancy and post-delivery recovery period (usually 4-6 weeks, absent unusual medical circumstances).

You must sign a receipt for all items received or paid on you behalf, since the adoptive parents must report all of these payments to the court at the time of adoption finalization.

These payments are unconditional gifts that do not need to be repaid if you change your mind about the adoption plan. However, if you received those payments with no intent to place the child for adoption, you could be prosecuted for fraud.

As a practical matter, this means that you can receive assistance with housing, food, basic utilities, transportation, maternity clothing, and medical expenses. It is not ethical to receive a gift of, or payment for, anything of permanent value that will exceed the length of your pregnancy and recovery, such as a car or furniture. Anyone who offers you these kinds of incentives is working outside the legal boundaries for adoption in California.  And if this person is willing to be dishonest and unethical in this area, they may well be dishonest and unethical with you, as well.