No one sets out to get pregnant and place a child for adoption, but sometimes life throws curveballs. When faced with an unexpected pregnancy or a situation where circumstances do not make it possible to raise a child, adoption may be a viable option for an expectant parent. That option, however, is not an everyday occurrence. How is an adoption even handled? Breaking the process down into steps can make the adoption journey more manageable.
Step 1: Reframe Thinking about Adoption
An adoption is a win-win-win option. A child is given a stable and loving home, a couple is enabled to make their dream of becoming parents a reality, and a birth parent is given peace of mind that he or she has provided a good life for his or her child. These are positive outcomes.
Despite these positive outcomes, negative language about adoption remains common. One such negative phrase is “put a child up for adoption.” People put houses up for sale, cars up for auction, and items up for bid on online sites, but they do not put babies up for adoption. Babies are not material objects; they are living and breathing human beings.
What an expectant parent does when choosing the adoption option is to act in the truest sense as a parent. A mother’s job is to make certain that her child is cared for and has his or her needs met. If she realizes she is not in a position to ensure that provision, then making an affirmative plan so her child can be provided for is an act of unselfish motherly love. There is nothing negative about it. Her choice is a selfless and loving one. She is placing her child in a carefully chosen forever home to give him or her the best chance in life.
Words do matter. Using a positive description of the journey an expectant parent is taking is a good start. Shifting the perspective of the adoption option away from a negative view and speaking of it in positive terms is the best way to embark on the adoption journey.
Step 2: Carefully Consider the Option
Whether parenting, terminating the pregnancy, or placing a child for adoption, an expectant parent is making a life-altering decision. Therefore, it is not a choice that should be made in haste or without careful consideration. The consequences of whatever option an expectant parent chooses are enormous, so appropriate thought should be given as to which option should be selected. No one except the expectant parent can make that decision.
How does one consider the option of adoption? A practical way which can be undertaken without cost or having to involve others is to make a list of pros and cons. Take a sheet of paper and make a column for the positives and a column for the negatives of the choice. Writing down concerns and what one likes about the option forces the expectant parent to face what the issues are and how they might be addressed.
For example, a con for the adoption option might be that it would be emotionally difficult to deal with the aftermath of such a decision. Thinking about this potential problem can lead to questions that must be answered before the option can be chosen. If a placement is made, will the adoption attorney or agency provide counseling to help the expectant parent to maneuver post-placement emotions?
A positive of the adoption option might be that there is no question the child will have all his or her needs met and perhaps be given opportunities that the expectant parent could never provide. Could the expectant parent offer the child the ability to obtain a college education? Could some wants such as a trip to Disneyworld or ballet lessons be provided that the expectant parent is simply unable to give the child?
Another positive of making an adoption placement may be the child’s safety and well-being. If the expectant father has issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, or criminal history, adoption will remove the child from the bad influence that the expectant father would bring to the child’s life. Even if the expectant mother is no longer in a relationship with him, he is the child’s father and legally could claim visitation rights or even custody of the child.
Step 3: Gather Information about Adoption
Everyone wants to make an informed choice about the big decisions in their lives. But an informed choice cannot be made without having information on the options. Taking time to collect information before plunging ahead is prudent.
Let’s say an expectant parent wants to buy a car. They will consider what type of car works for them. Do they need a larger car due to family size? Do they need a car with good gas mileage due to budget concerns? Do they need a reliable car that isn’t likely to need many repairs? These are practical considerations that must be taken into account. Expectant parents should approach the adoption option the same way.
Adoption is not a one-size-fits-all process. Each expectant mother is a unique human being, so her adoption plan must be devised based on her specific circumstances. Many options exist, and the expectant parent will need to make the call on them.
A crucial choice is with whom the expectant mother will work to make a placement. This journey is quite personal, so she will want to select an adoption attorney or agency with whom she is comfortable and in whom she has confidence. An attorney is a licensed professional with legal experience. Adoption is a legal process, so adoption attorneys are equipped to maneuver the legal requirements to make an adoption happen. An agency is an organization made up of individuals; typically, such organizations are staffed by social workers. They have experience in dealing with the human side of the process, and adoption will certainly bring personal issues and concerns to the forefront. Whether an attorney or an agency, the adoption entity must comply with the applicable state’s adoption laws.
These adoption resources will have an internet presence. An expectant parent can go online and search to see what adoption attorneys and agencies are in her area, who these people are, what their experience is, and what help they offer.
Based on that research, the expectant parent can narrow down her possibilities for an adoption entity and make a list of questions as to what she wants to know about each resource. At that point, direct contact can be made with the adoption resource. There is no obligation to work with whoever is contacted simply because an expectant parent calls to obtain information about the process and the resource. This direct contact will generally give an expectant parent a sense of whether she would feel comfortable working with that adoption entity.
Step 4: Make a List
Once a choice has been made about with whom the expectant parent wishes to work, details must be hammered out. This is the expectant parent’s journey, so he or she has to provide the adoption entity with the plan of how he or she wants to get to his or her destination. He or she must make a series of decisions that will determine the route of his or her journey.
This part of the adoption journey is like going out for dinner. Once the choice of a restaurant has been made, the decision-making process is not over. It is just getting started. What beverage will be ordered? Are appetizers desired? How will the meat be cooked? What type of salad dressing should be used? Is there going to be room for dessert?
An expectant parent should make a list of questions to help him or her choose the prospective adoptive parent(s). How should this selection be made? Should the expectant parent or the adoption entity make the choice? Does he or she wish to meet the prospective adoptive parent(s)? What requirements does he or she have for the prospective adoptive parents? Is there a religious preference? Are other children in the home acceptable? Is it permissible for the prospective adoptive parent(s) to live in another state? Do childcare arrangements or disciplinary plans make a difference?
Now is the time for the expectant parents’ voices to be heard. This journey belongs to them, and only they can tailor it to their desires by answering questions and compiling a list of what they want in a forever home for their child.
Step 5: Make an Adoption Plan
At some point, the expectant mother will give birth. The thought of giving birth and then being separated from her child may not be pleasant, but it will not help her to avoid thinking about the delivery and what follows. Having a hospital plan in place lessens the stress of making decisions when the expectant mother is in pain, tired, under the influence of medication, or dealing with a rush of hormones.
A basic plan for after the birth is crucial to a smooth adoption journey. Plans can be changed, so the expectant parents need not feel that the initial plan is written in stone. Plan B, C, or even M can be implemented should circumstances or desires change.
The adoption entity will be a great help to the expectant parents in devising a birth plan. With experience in such situations, the entity is likely to think of things the expectant parents have not. Expectant parents should work with the adoption entity to formulate a plan that best meets what is helpful for the hospital and birth experience.
A variety of decisions must be made for the hospital experience. Who does the expectant mother want with her as a support person in the delivery room? Is there anyone she does not want to have contact with her while she is a patient? Does she want the prospective adoptive parent(s) present at the hospital for delivery? Will she be giving the baby a name?
The expectant mother also should consider what contact she will want with the baby following delivery. Most hospitals offer a bonding room in which the prospective adoptive parent(s) can be with the baby to learn to care for and bond with him or her. This arrangement appeal to an expectant mother who feels direct contact and quality time with the baby post-delivery would be too emotionally difficult for her. Other expectant mothers may desire to hold, feed, and care for their baby to achieve closure.
Step 6: Look to the Future
The adoption journey does not end when a child is placed for adoption with a forever family. A future awaits all members of the adoption triad—the birth mother, the child, and the adoptive parent(s). What will that future look like? Expectant parents can shape the future by putting plans in place pre-birth.
Consideration must be given as to whether contact with the child and his or her forever family will continue post-placement. If so, what type of contact will that be and when will it occur? Some birth parents desire to simply shut the door on their placement decision and not look back. Others want peace of mind that their placement decision was a good one and wish to receive periodic pictures and updates on the child’s progress. In open adoptions, direct contact is available. All these are issues that the expectant parents have to answer for themselves to be on the same page with the forever family they have chosen.
And babies placed for adoption do not stay babies forever. They grow older and become adults who may be curious about their adoption story and birth parents. If the adoption was closed or semi-open, the adoptee may wish to connect with the birth parents. The question is, would that contact be welcomed or even desired by the birth parents? If it is, the adoption entity can provide information as to whether an adoption reunion registry, such as the one the state of Florida has in place, is available to facilitate a connection.
Adoption is a scary and unknown journey for some expectant parents. But breaking the process down into manageable steps will make that journey smoother. The expectant parents can map out the journey and make sure it goes the way they want by following those steps. Expectant parents can have an appropriate perspective, carefully consider their options, gather information, make lists and plans, and look to the future. Just like a journey of a thousand miles, the adoption journey begins by taking the first step.