‘Baby Snugglers Needed’ Article Stirs up Controversy in Adoption Community

Perhaps my experience with interim care will help shed some light on the topic.

Narda Emett February 19, 2016
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A recent article, “Adoption Agencies Need Volunteers to Cuddle, Nurture Newborns Awaiting Adoption,” recently caused a bit of a stir among members of the adoption community. It spread like wildfire, with many news outlets picking up on the story.

After reading the article, I understand why it brought about such angst. There are thousands of hopeful adoptive parents waiting to adopt babies. Some wait days, some months, and many wait years to adopt. The article states:

“Adoption agencies across the country are searching for temporary caregivers to nurture and care for newborn babies as they await adoption.”

What? Babies are out there waiting to be adopted??? The article continues:

“According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 108,000 children were awaiting adoption in 2014.”

This article is about the need to cuddle and nurture newborns, so it makes one assume there were 108,000 newborns awaiting adoption in 2014. (I think that number actually reflects all children awaiting adoption; mostly through foster-care.) This statement made many in the adoption community suspect this news story was a ruse for recruiting adoptive parents to foster care.

Having used “interim care” or “cradle care” 16 years ago in our first adoption, I read the article differently.

Our daughter Maddie was born on October 13th. Her birth mother took her home from the hospital. She was still considering her options as a newly-single parent. She felt adoption was the best choice for her baby, but was feeling pressure to parent from others as well. She needed time to make, what would become one of the biggest decisions in her life. She decided to place Maddie for adoption, chose us as adoptive parents, and relinquished her rights on Thursday, October 28th. We got word in the afternoon of the 28th. We lived over 1000 miles away.

The agency took Maddie and placed her in an interim home with a woman named Marilyn. She, her husband, and her teenaged daughters loved and cared for Maddie until we were able to arrive and sign placement papers Monday, November 1st.

Marilyn didn’t know what the baby was named, so they called her “Anna.” When Marilyn met us, she asked if we were first-time parents. When she learned we were, she went over some of the baby basics for us. She explained to us how to bathe her without getting the umbilical cord wet. She went over her feeding and sleeping schedule with us. She told us she would get fussy for no reason around 7 PM each evening, so they would play classical music to calm her down.

Between October 28th and November 1st, I was so concerned about this new little baby. Where was she? Was she being cared for? After meeting Marilyn, I was so grateful that such a caring woman loved my new baby until I could hold her in my arms.

Maddie’s birth mother had also been very concerned about who was caring for her baby during this interim time-period and was relieved when she learned of the care she received.

The article specifically mentions the Spence-Chapin’s Interim Care Provider Program. The Spence-Chapin webpage explains their interim care program, how to apply, and provides more details. They explain in their frequently asked questions section that:

“Spence-Chapin offers free and unbiased options counseling for biological parents around permanency options for their child. We understand that women and their partners need appropriate time and space to make a decision about the future of their family, especially after a recent birth. Placing their newborn in Interim Care allows biological parents to continue counseling to fully explore their options while knowing their baby is being cared for by a nurturing caregiver in a loving home. Birth parents retain their legal rights while the baby is in care and are encouraged to visit. Babies usually stay in Interim Care for 2-6 weeks, as we aim to create the best permanency plan for each child as soon as it is possible.”

Hopefully, this clears up some of the assumptions and frustrations felt by the hopeful adoptive community about what interim care–provided by “baby snugglers”– is really is all about.

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Narda Emett

Narda Emett is a mother of six, four of whom were adopted. She has been part of the adoption community for over 16 years, serving on local and national boards for Families Supporting Adoption. She has adopted both domestically and internationally and is happy to be part of a transracial adoptive family. In her free time (does a mother of six ever have free time?), she likes to read and make amazing wedding cakes.


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