Responding to pregnant patients’ queries about how to deal with nausea, what medications are safe to take during pregnancy, and when to schedule a prenatal care appointment are all in a day’s work for hospital staff. These are subjects on which the staff has been educated and for which they are well-equipped to field questions. But what happens if a pregnant patient or one who has just delivered a baby asks a non-medical question such as, “What can I do if I am not in a position to parent my child?” If hospital staff are not prepared to address the available options with a patient or the patient’s family members, will the patient’s need for information fail to be met?
Such a scenario is not an unlikely situation. According to a 2016 Guttmacher Report, 45 percent of the 6 million annual pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Therefore, a large number of pregnant women each year will find themselves unexpectedly in a position where they must consider pregnancy options. And to whom do they turn for information? Members of the hospital staff deliver pregnancy test results as well as babies, so they are often on the front lines of requests for information. While adoption is one pregnancy option, it is a specialized area of the law—a topic which is not within a hospital staff member’s professional area of expertise.
Recognizing hospital staff should be able to provide information on pregnancy options to patients and their families, the federal government has taken action to get information on the adoption option to them. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a grant to provide the Infant Adoption Training Initiative to grant partners Spaulding For Children, Harmony Family Center, and Public Research and Evaluation Services. The grant, initially set to run for eighteen months and later expanded to twenty-four months, concludes September 30, 2019. The initiative’s primary goal is to develop local trainers who can provide adoption training to hospital staff in their area.
The Infant Adoption Training Initiative curriculum is grounded in the belief that women facing unplanned/unintended pregnancies should be provided with information and counseling in a nondirective, non-coercive manner to allow an informed decision to be made. Specific guidelines for the curriculum have been published by HHS. While the training provides information about adoption as one pregnancy option, the focus is on educating hospital staff about the option, not advocating for the option.
The target population for this training is hospital-based health care and helping professionals providing services to women who are or who may be pregnant. The acronym H-BASS, hospital-based adoption support services, describes the grant for the training. Nurses and social workers undergoing the “Understanding Infant Adoption” training are eligible to receive 4.5 hours of continuing education credit through national nursing and social work organizations. All training is provided at no cost to the hospital and at a location chosen by the hospital.
Experienced adoption professionals serve as trainers for the program. Each trainer must have a minimum of two year’s experience providing pregnancy counseling and infant adoption services. These individuals include social workers, pregnancy counselors, and adoption workers. Over and above experience in the field, trainers must undergo 9 hours of training and pass a test with at least a 90 percent score in order to be certified to teach the course.
Participants in the program are given a Participant’s Handbook which may serve as a handy future reference. In addition to this written material and the information verbally provided by the trainer, participants learn from videos and activities during the training time. What attendees learn is gauged by the difference in scores between tests taken pre-training and post-training. In order to obtain continuing education credit, the participant must pass the post-training test by a score of at least 80 percent within five days of completing the training. A three-month follow-up also allows for information to be gathered on the training’s effectiveness and the participant’s use of new knowledge and skills obtained through the training.
A wide range of topics, including legal and historical perspectives of the process, are addressed in the material covered in the training sessions. Participants learn about the social, cultural, and personal influences impacting a patient’s decision as well as nondirective techniques for informed decision-making. Practical help in the way of a list of resources and community referrals for pregnancy counseling and adoption is also provided.
The professional development opportunity for hospital staff does not aim for program participants to become experts on adoption. Rather, as the name “Understanding Infant Adoption” implies, the program seeks to provide the staff with general knowledge and understanding regarding adoption which can be shared with a patient. With this information, the hospital staff will be able to provide a balanced and accurate picture of adoption as one available option. While staff needs to be prepared to share general information about this particular option, the nondirective counseling which the program discusses recognizes that a patient has the right to refuse to receive information on an option.
By awarding the grant for the Infant Adoption Training Initiative, the federal government has acknowledged that adoption awareness by hospital professionals is an important goal. Hospital staff may be the first and sole opportunity that some patients (pregnant or who have just delivered) and their families have to receive information on available options, one of which is adoption. While it is ultimately a birth mother’s choice as to how to handle an unplanned pregnancy, the Infant Adoption Training Initiative strives to make sure that her choice is an informed one resulting from having received and considered accurate information on her options, including adoption.
If you are unexpectedly pregnant, please consider adoption. Visit Adoption.com to view adoption profiles from hopeful adoptive parents. Visit Adoption.com/unplanned-pregnancy to find guidance with your unplanned pregnancy.