Domestic infant adoption has changed a lot through the years, both for expecting moms and birth families, as well as prospective adoptive families. It’s important for those interested in adoption to make sure they are aware of the many resources available to expectant moms as well adoptive families, in addition to points to consider as the landscape of adoption continues to evolve and adoption professionals can better put into perspective for us helpful information and important takeaways of what your own unique adoption journey may bring.
In Episode 17 of this season’s Gladney reFRAMED podcast, Emily Morehead, LPC, sits down with health expert Ashley Whiteside, LMSW, LCPAA, who shares her 14 years of hands-on experience with domestic infant adoption, having come from a background as a birth parent caseworker and currently serving as manager of Gladney’s Domestic Infant Team.
To understand what domestic adoption looks like today through the eyes of The Gladney Center for Adoption, Whiteside shares that Gladney has always made it a top priority to work closely with birth mothers all over the country—making the effort to meet directly with birth mothers in person, which oftentimes includes last-minute emergency travel plans to make sure expectant moms receive the support they deserve from Day 1, including doctor’s appointments, right through to delivery. Bottom line, Gladney strives to be in front of expected moms—available and ready to help provide whatever resources they may need or require. She mentions that the responsibility and sacrifice that comes with being a birth parent caseworker is by far the hardest job, but one Gladney is proud to be able to offer with the understanding that the caseworker may be the expectant mom’s only line of support.
Reasons for Choosing Adoption
In speaking about why clients first come to Gladney, Whiteside explains that expectant mothers all experience different things leading up to approaching Gladney with the intent of considering adoption. Four of the most common reasons include:
Financial Instability. The expected mom may not have a safe place to live or any place at all for that matter. She may not have a stable job. In other cases, due to a combination of financial reasons, she may just not feel as if she’s ready or able to take care of a baby at this time in her life.
Drugs and Addiction Issues: She may be struggling and aware that this would not be in the best interest of the child.
Other Children: In some cases, expected moms may have other children at home and the idea of bringing home another baby may feel like too much or unfair to the other children and be an added stress she feels unable to manage.
Not the Right Time: Another reason an expectant mom may offer for considering placing her child for adoption is already in place plans (such as heading off to college or starting a new career). Despite her best intentions, she may feel like the timing may just not be right to start a family.
For a better understanding of what it’s like to place a baby for adoption, you can check out Adoption.com’s free ebook download Stories From Birth Mothers.
Reaching Out to Expectant Parents
In response to women seeking support with an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy, like other agencies, Gladney does the typical internet and online “marketing” so that if an expected mom is searching for certain words, Gladney will pop up as an option for her. Moreso, Gladney looks to build healthy relationships with the support network of people and professionals who are going to come into contact with these women who don’t understand or don’t know what they’re going to do—from medical providers to pregnancy resource providers to hospital workers. Gladney wants to make sure expected moms’ needs are met across the board.
Additionally, the Gladney AdoptED Program through Gladney University, designed to address the issues of teen pregnancy and school dropout rates, is an innovative teaching opportunity available to hundreds of schools a year and reaching thousands of students to offer factual information about adoption and teach about an unplanned pregnancy, while letting students know that adoption is a viable option.
We want to be known as a place where women can come to learn more about their options. This process looks like this:
1. Education and Sharing: Gladney works with expectant moms and families as they are the ones now choosing the adoptive family. These two groups need to come together to discuss plans involving how they are going to support the child together.
Whiteside explains that Gladney also works directly with adoptive families with the realization that it’s not just the expectant moms who may be uncertain and overwhelmed by the choices and decisions they are facing. Adoptive families, too, can feel vulnerable. Gladney understands that in many cases, adoptive families are coming from Ground Zero so far as their understanding of expectant mothers, or what to expect from the adoption process itself.
Both expectant parents and adoptive families are encouraged to go to the Gladney website for basic information, with the possibility of picking up the phone to talk one-on-one with someone for a deeper dive into what domestic adoption will mean for them.
2. Orientation: According to Whiteside, domestic adoption will look and feel different with every agency, and that’s no different with Gladney. From the process itself to matching to the terminology—attending orientation will provide interested parties with the important ins and outs on how to do adoption at Gladney. Orientation provides you with the opportunity to see what will work best for your family, see if it’s a good fit, and have your questions answered.
3. What is the Fee?: Knowing the fees associated with adoption is extremely important for an adopting family. Gladney’s fee structure is very different from some other agencies in that it’s an all-inclusive fee that was structured with all families in mind and to make adoption a reality for all families. Once a family has paid its fee, Gladney will never ask you for any other amount of money for any reason, according to Whiteside. Additionally, she says that there are no surprises that will need to be covered down the line.
And what happens with the money should an expectant mother decide to parent her child? On the adoptive family side of things, money is guaranteed for placement so families do not lose their funds. Gladney’s goal is to work toward placement for each of its families.
That said, Whiteside acknowledges that the adoption fees are not cheap and Gladney knows this. In fact, they are willing to speak with families to help them to identify the available scholarships, loans, grants, and other resources such as employment benefits that can make adoption more affordable and a reality. Gladney is well aware of how agency fees can be a concern for a family hoping to adopt and as a nonprofit agency they do their best to help, including fundraising that goes on to subsidence every adoption they handle while serving expectant parents as the priority.
New Language and Promoting Positive Adoption Language
Another thing that has changed about domestic adoption even just within the past few years is the adoption language. Again, Whiteside states that every agency uses its own language and it’s important to try and keep up with what is acceptable language vs. dated. Some examples provided include:
“Giving up a child.” We’ve all heard this one before—maybe a while ago, or maybe last week. ”She gave up her child.” This one is a big no as it may feel negative as if the expectant mom just gave up and didn’t care about the baby and decided to go with the “easier” option of adoption. Gladney, meanwhile, acknowledges that there is nothing easy about the choice of placing a child for adoption and that it is oftentimes a painful, loving, brave, strong, and selfless act
Instead, it is more accurate to say, “She’s making a placement plan/alternative parenting plan.” Gladney thoroughly understands that adoption is hard and it’s beautiful. It’s a place “where joy and pain coexist.”
“Birth mom.” While this isn’t a negative term, it is an often misused term in that an expectant mom and birth mom are two entirely different things with a huge differentiator. For example, she is not yet a birth mother until she’s actually placed the child for adoption, nor has she made the final decision to place her baby for adoption. So while she’s waiting to give birth, she is an expectant mom.
Domestic Adoption – What do Relationships Look Like?
Even the relationships themselves between expectant parents and adoptive parents have changed over the years, including how these relationships are expressed and administered. Whitehouse explains that Gladney has some minimums. For instance, at a minimum, an expected mom must share your first name (but not your last), must share what state you live in (but not what city), and must state your profession (but not where you work).
Another big change is that phone calls or meetings are highly encouraged if that’s what the expected mom wants. It’s up to the expected parent(s) and adoptive families to come up with an agreement, relationship, and/or a contact contract that works for them on behalf of the child. Whether it’s via email, texting, skype, social media, or phone… the relationship you build will look different for everybody. One thing that remains the same is that Gladney has found that a more open experience for everybody seems to work better overall. Knowing people are healthy and happy seems to bring peace across the aisle. Sometimes these relationships are strong, to begin with, and oftentimes, after sitting down to carve out a plan, these relationships begin to open up as a result of trust-building, understanding, and follow-through. Whiteside says that Gladney has witnessed incredible relationships form.
Advice & Takeaways
Asked to provide some advice for someone considering adoption as an option on which to build their family, Whiteside says, “We don’t know everybody’s story.” What we do know is that all parties to adoption have come from difficult places that have led them to Gladney. On the part of adoptive families, they come in questioning if their family will grow, and if so, in what capacity?
Whiteside assures that family’s know that once they enter Gladney it’s not a question of if, but of when. Having worked with families through Gladney for so many years, she understands that it may feel like a long journey, but she encourages prospective parents to learn to celebrate the milestones and small moments, saying that by noting each step, you will be more likely to enjoy the journey. “The process doesn’t have to be painful, but hopeful and exciting.”
Both Morehead and Whiteside double down on the idea that by having a better idea of what domestic adoption is, what working with Gladney is like, by understanding the financial aspects associated with adoption, and by learning adoption language to help build understand and empathy toward all members of the adoption community, you, too, will be evolving as a positive advocate and supporter of those intimately involved with domestic adoption.
The reFRAMED podcast is created to educate, encourage, and inspire parents and professionals that have a love for children and want to meet their needs.
For any questions or concerns associated with this podcast reFraming How You See Adoption or for more information about the content discussed you can email firstname.lastname@example.org The reFramed Podcast is a service of Gladney Center for Adoption located in Fort Worth, Texas. Gladney serves those interested in domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. The reFramed Podcast can be located on iTunes/Apple Podcast | Google Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | Spotify | RSS.
You can learn more about the guests by going to the show notes.
Adoption.com is a subsidiary of Gladney Center for Adoption.