Place: State of Wisconsin, United States
Time: Exact dates are left a bit vague in the story, but 1997-2003 is a reasonable range for when this part of the backstory would have happened
Now, I have the broad details of what I want to happen planned out, I just need to figure out how to make it work, and to make sure that I don't overlook anything obvious.
First, before we get to the questions, here's what I want to have happen: There's a woman, who has a baby girl (the future Very Important Character). The mother is unable/unwilling to raise the girl. She has no close relatives, and the child's father is out of the picture, so she decides to let someone else raise the baby. I'm pretty much envisioning that she walks in to a hospital/church/police station/whatever, puts the baby down on the counter in front of someone and then runs out. I realize that, obviously, that's neither the best nor the usual way of giving up a child, but it is very important to the plot that it happen in this fashion (or something similar), so unless it creates insurmountable difficulties in the questions I'm going to ask, I can't really change it.
The baby girl is several months old at the time, but no more than a year old. The girl is going to end up being adopted by a married couple. They are probably around 30 years old, and unable to have their own children. They are respectable, responsible, law-abiding citizens who are well-to-do and would be both willing and capable of caring and providing for their adopted daughter.
Now, what I need help with is the details of making this work. Specifically:
1) The abandonment itself is almost certainly illegal. As far as I can tell, Wisconsin's safe-haven law (which allows infants to be legally abandoned at hospitals, police stations and fire stations) was created in 2001, and only covers infants up to three days old (and for later plot reasons, it is necessary that the girl be at least a few months old when she was abandoned). How would this affect the girl's adoption? Is it even legally possible to adopt a child who had at least one parent known to still be alive, even if no one knows who/where that parent is? (And, incidentally, the police aren't going to be finding the biological mother or any other relatives, no matter how hard they look). What if the biological mother left a note with the girl, saying that she wanted the child to be adopted? Would that affect the issue at all?
[research for #1 -- I had no idea how to go about finding an answer to something that complicated/specific on Google, so I've only done very sketchy research on it.]
2) What exactly would happen to the girl between her abandonment and her adoption? Would she be put with foster parents, or something like that? If it's possible for the couple who are going to end up adopting her to be her foster parents or otherwise take care of her right from the beginning, that would be superb. If it would help in this regard, the biographic details of the adoptive parents are flexible enough that one of them could be working at the hospital where the girl is abandoned (they could even be the person who the biological mother set the girl in front of before walking out), and they would be eager/happy to be foster parents, especially if there was a chance that they could adopt the girl permanently.
Speaking of adopting her permanently, and keeping in mind the legal problem mentioned in #1, how would this couple go about adopting her? Would they have to wait until the police gave up their search for the mother/other relatives (like I said, they're never going to find any), and if so how long would that take? And who would they adopt her "from"? Would they have to go to court, or something like that?
[research for #2 -- Googling "abandoned infants" mostly turns up news stories that make me angry and sad; searching for "adopting abandoned infants", "modern-day foundlings" and similar things didn't turn up much that was useful]
3) If the biological mother leaves a note with the girl stating the girl's given name, how likely is it that the state (or whoever) would keep that as the girl's legal name -- especially if they have no birth certificate on record of a child being born with that name at the right time? Also, what surname would the girl be given? And would (or could) her surname be legally changed to her adoptive parents' surname once she was adopted?
[research for #3 -- Googling "abandoned infant surname" turned up a lot of historical information, but I'm not sure how it's done nowadays]
Sorry for the length of this question -- I didn't realize how much detail was involved in explaining it! And thank you all in advance for your answers!