It’s summer, and baseball season is in full swing. Not only is America’s national pastime entertaining, but it also provides some education parallels for the adoption of a newborn. How so? Step up to the plate, and let’s see what insight this sport can give to prospective adoptive parents of a bundle of joy.
Not a baseball fan? A few basic facts about the sport are all one needs to know. Critically important is the fact that baseball is not a one-man sport. Many players make up a team; a minimum of nine players take the field each inning. Before the first pitch is thrown, a lineup is in place. Specific players have designated positions. While some players, such as the pitcher, see more action, all the players contribute to the team. It is a joint effort to play a game.
Although adoption is not a sport, the dynamics of the process are not all that different from baseball. Many “players” are involved in the process. While references to an adoption triad indicate a small number of people take part, the truth is that an entire lineup of players making up a team work together to make the adoption process successful.
Before a baseball game begins, a lineup card is filled out identifying the players who will be taking the field. Prior to moving forward with a match opportunity, prospective adoptive players should understand the line-up required for a successful adoption. Mirroring baseball, the adoption process typically involves nine key players. Let’s introduce the starting lineup.
A birth mother, like a pitcher, is the most visible and active player in the adoption lineup. All eyes are on her. She carries the baby and will make the decision as to what her child’s future will look like; that decision may be for her to parent the child or for her to place her child in a loving and stable forever home. But the call is hers and hers alone. No one else in the line-up can make the decision for her. A pitcher delivers a pitch to home plate. The birth mother will deliver a baby and decide the home to which her child will go.
The adoption entity, like a catcher with a pitcher, has the most interaction with the birth mother. This entity may be an individual such as a licensed attorney or it may be an organization such as an adoption agency. Working together with the birth mother, the adoption entity helps devise a plan for the baby’s placement and makes the necessary arrangements for a placement to occur. This plan may include assisting the birth mother to select a prospective adoptive couple if the birth mother has not identified a couple in advance. The adoption entity will also be responsible for coordinating with the hospital and making sure that the legal steps required to finalize an adoption are taken.
The birth father is also a key player in an adoption because, without him, there would be no baby. He must be addressed in an adoptive placement. While the birth father’s position on the team is prominent, his identity is not always known. The birth mother might be unsure of which man of multiple partners is the actual biological father of her child or she may know who the man is (the guy she met at the party) but not know his name. Known or unknown, the birth father cannot be ignored. The legal requirements of the applicable state adoption law must be met so his rights, if any, can be terminated in order for the child be adopted. Despite a birth mother’s claim that the baby’s father is “not involved,” a birth father is biologically and legally involved in any and every adoption case.
While a birth mother and the birth father may be the “star” players in an adoption, a legal father is less high profile but still an essential player. In states where legitimacy is presumed, such as Florida, the husband of a woman who conceives or gives birth during the marriage is the child’s legal father even if he is not the child’s biological father. As such, his rights must be terminated for the child to be legally available for adoption.
A home study provider provides a crucial piece of the game plan—approval for the prospective adoptive couple to have a baby placed in their home. Baseball has rules of the game, and adoption has laws that outline how an adoption must be handled. State adoption laws require couples, who are not closely related to a child being adopted, to undergo an extensive background investigation called a home study. A favorable home study must have been completed before a child can legally be placed with the adoptive couple. The home study is evidence that there are no concerns with placing a helpless infant in the intended adoptive home. Once a child is in the home, the home study provider will conduct post-placement supervisory visits to establish that there are no concerns with making the arrangement permanent, i.e., the adoption can be finalized.
A medical professional such as an OB-GYN becomes a player at some point in the adoption process. This professional’s key roles are to provide pre-natal care (if sought) and/or to deliver the baby. The health of the baby is of utmost concern to the prospective adoptive parents; therefore, the OB-GYN’s performance on the field will be a focus for them. Pre-natal care records are typically obtained from the medical professional by the adoption entity for the couple; these records provide valuable information on the baby’s health and possible risks thereto such as drug or alcohol exposure during pregnancy.
A hospital contact, usually a social worker, comes into play in relation to the baby’s delivery. As the hospital’s point of contact for the adoption entity, the social worker assists in making advance arrangements for when the birth mother is hospitalized. Who does the birth mother want present for the delivery? Does she want to see or have contact with the baby following delivery? Does she want the adoptive parents to be provided with a bonding room in which to spend time with the baby prior to discharge? While doctors and nurses attend to the birth mother’s physical needs, the social worker interacts with the birth mother to assess any emotional needs she might have.
The birth parents’ biological family does not play an official role in an adoption, but they do play a practical one. The biological family can be the cause of the placement decision or at least influence a placement decision. For example, a birth mother may not want her family to be aware of the pregnancy, so she hides the pregnancy and makes an adoption plan. Alternatively, she may have been raised in a dysfunctional family and desires her child experience a more stable upbringing than she can provide.
The biological family can be supportive of an adoption plan or oppose an adoption plan. Where the former is the case, the birth mother is more likely to follow through on her plan when she is getting encouragement and positive reinforcement from those closest to her. When the biological family opposes a placement, red flags are waving. Family members may use whatever emotional or financial leverage at their disposal to convince or pressure the birth parent not to make a placement. The birth parent does not live in a vacuum, and the opinions and desires of those closest to them in the world (at least by blood) will have some sway.
The biological family member most likely to voice an opinion is a birth parent’s mother. She is the grandmother after all, and this baby is her grandbaby. The birth parent may place a child for adoption, but he/she is still going to have a relationship with his/her mother. The decision made about a placement will impact the future relationship with the woman who gave the birth parent birth.
Physical placement of the child is not the end of the game. Adoption is a legal process, so a judge is going to play a huge role in it. He presides over the adoption case and makes the critical decisions allowing the adoption to be finalized. Two decisions are essential. First, for a child to be legally available for adoption, parental rights (or possible parental rights if paternity is uncertain) must be terminated. The judge determines if the legal grounds have been met to allow those rights to be terminated and the child’s connection to the birth (or legal) parent severed. Ultimately, the judge holds a final adoption hearing and gives legal existence to the family which has already been formed in the adoptive couple’s hearts and minds.
While this lineup of players is essential to a successful adoption, these are not the only people involved. In a baseball game, nine players may take the field, but other players are in the dugout and available to enter the game as needed. Likewise, additional individuals other than the nine players identified in the lineup above can play a part in the adoption process.
Some birth mothers request or need counseling in connection with their decision to make an adoptive placement. A counselor may be an invaluable asset to the birth mother in sorting through her situation and what is best for her and for her baby. While having a baby is a physical process, considering an adoptive placement inevitably entails emotional concerns and reactions. An individual experienced in counseling pregnant women is uniquely qualified to interact with the birth mother and help her to address the issues she is facing.
For the adoptive couple, the placement process is not only emotional, but it is also expensive. In order to pay for an adoption, the couple might need to apply for adoption grants or consider taking out a loan. A financial advisor might be consulted to devise the best plan for covering the expenses required for an adoption. Prudent people seek advice about retirement planning, so why not do the same with planning to expand one’s family?
After an adoption is finalized, a tax attorney or CPA may be retained to assist with claiming the federal adoption tax credit. Taxes are complicated enough with a normal tax return. When something out of the ordinary like an adoption occurs, specialized advice might be sought since the ability to recoup thousands of dollars spent on an adoption is at stake. With the federal tax credit at $14,080 for the tax year 2019, an adoptive couple wants to make sure their financial ducks are in a row to obtain this financial benefit.
A government employee plays a role in any adoption process. If the case is an interstate one, a government employee in the sending state and one in the receiving state’s Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children office must review the paperwork and give clearance for the child to leave the sending state. After the adoption is finalized, a government employee in the vital records office in the child’s state of birth will issue an amended birth certificate to reflect the child’s adoptive parents as mother and father and identify the child by his adopted name. A government employee working for the Social Security Administration will issue a social security number for the child in his adopted name upon application by the adoptive parents.
Baseball games are played in stadiums before large crowds of people. Similarly, adoptions unfold before many spectators. Fans can cheer the players on their team on to victory. On the other hand, a hostile crowd may sabotage a player’s confidence and performance. The adoption process is the same.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about a birth mother making a placement. And people often feel entitled or compelled to tell the birth mother what that opinion is. A birth mother’s friends, co-workers, and current boyfriend (not the baby daddy) are some of those people. While they may not hold as much sway as her biological family members, these individuals can influence the birth mother’s adoption journey and its ultimate destination. Berating a birth mother for “giving your baby away” or praising the birth mother for making a difficult and selfless decision undeniably has an impact on her placement decision.
Both baseball and the adoption process can be confusing to someone unfamiliar with the lineup of players taking part. Each is a team effort involving many players. Knowing the lineup and the positions individuals play provides perspective and a grasp of what is taking place; this understanding is beneficial whether one is a baseball fan rooting for a run to come home or a prospective adoptive couple waiting for a newborn to join them at home. Go, team!
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