A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Educating Hospitals About Adoption: (Part 1)

How Hospital Staff Can Support Parents Considering an Adoption Plan

Imagine a teenager or a young woman in her hospital room, staring at her new baby. She has never seen or felt anything like this before. Despite the enormous emotional difficulty, this particular young woman chose adoption for her child. Today she will sign papers and place her child with his new adoptive family. She believes that this is the best decision for her and her child. Yet she may be thinking: “I didn’t expect to feel so connected to this baby.” “Do other birthparents feel this way?” “Am I doing the right thing?”

Many young women making adoption plans have experienced similar feelings.(1) In a perfect world, childbirth and parenting might be both expected and desired for every person involved, every time. In reality, however, pregnancy is often unexpected, and then a woman or couple must deal with this news and make difficult decisions about the future. Will a woman carry her pregnancy to term or choose to terminate? If she goes ahead with the pregnancy, will she parent the child herself? Will she consider allowing others to parent her child through adoption?

image by Harbor Life
Although pregnancy decisions can be difficult to make and adoption is the less frequently chosen option, there are many reasons why adoption can be a positive option for both birthparents and children who are adopted. Many birthparents feel great love for their children, yet they make an adoption plan for them rather than parenting because they believe it is the best choice. Compared with unmarried mothers who parent their children, unmarried teenagers who place their children for adoption are more likely to obtain a higher level of education, obtain better employment, and achieve a higher level of financial stability. They are also less likely to need public assistance, and are more likely to marry in the future – and when they do, are more likely to delay marriage until an older age.(2) According to the National Campaign to End Teenage Pregnancies, 62% of mothers who became pregnant under the age of 18 do not receive a high school diploma.(3)

If an expectant mother believes that making an adoption plan might be best for her and her child, it is an option she should be able to freely consider. Many women report a high level of satisfaction with their decision to make an adoption plan.(4) Women who voluntarily choose adoption, free from pressure or coercion, also report a high level of satisfaction with their decision. Many express positive feelings about providing their children with loving families through adoption.

Infant adoption also often offers many positive benefits to children. Children who are adopted are less likely than their non-adopted peers to have divorced parents and are more likely to be raised by parents with college degrees. They score higher than others in the general population on many indicators of wellbeing, including school performance, friendships, volunteerism, optimism, self-esteem, social competency, and feelings of support from others. They are also less likely to exhibit high-risk behaviors such as alcohol use, depression, vandalism, fighting, theft, weapon use, and driving/riding while drinking.(5)

In 2007, infant adoption represented 0.4% of live births – 1.3% of births to unmarried women – in the United States.(6) All expectant parents receiving pregnancy options counseling should be fully informed about all of their options, including the option of adoption, and fully supported in the choice they make.

Respecting Their Decision

It is essential that parents who have made the complicated but loving decision to make an adoption plan feel supported and respected in their decision. It is especially important that they be treated with respect and understanding during the pivotal time when they are in the hospital for the birth of their child.
image by circulating
Frequently, expectant parents considering adoption are very involved in the process of choosing the potential adoptive parents, and may have even gotten to know them quite well. Hospital staff should be trained on and aware of the emotional and legal implications of adoption, and strict policies should prohibit any medical staff or hospital employee from attempting to influence the mother’s decision for or against adoption. While in the hospital, she should always feel supported and respected in her decision, and free to exercise her right to change her mind about adoption.

When the child is born, parents who have made an adoption plan will have the option to see their baby and spend time with her, and many do. This is a highly emotional time for any family. The birth of their child can cause even parents that might have felt very certain about their adoption plan to question their decision or change their minds, and prospective adoptive parents need to be aware of this. It is important for mothers considering adoption to know their rights, and for hospital staff to be accommodating and respectful of her decisions during the birth and hospital stay.

Rights of Parents Considering Adoption

When considering an adoption plan for their child, parents have many rights that should always be fully communicated to them and respected at all times throughout the adoption consideration and placement process. These rights include:

The right to be fully informed. Expectant parents considering adoption deserve free, accurate, and easily accessible information about all of their options, including adoption, and access to responsive professionals who can help answer all of their questions.
image from lacrossepregnancy.com
The right to make an independent decision. Adoption can be a positive option for many, but it is important to recognize that an expectant parent knows better than anyone what the best decision is for herself and her child. Counselors, healthcare workers, and adoption professionals can help inform the decision-making process, but should never be permitted to be coercive, present a bias for or against an adoption or parenting decision, or rush any parent to make a choice before she has fully explored and weighed all of the options. Even if an existing adoption plan is in place, a mother has the right to change her mind or revoke her consent according to the laws in her state, and if she does choose to parent rather than place her child, her decision must be honored.

The right to professional counseling. Expectant parents, both mothers and fathers, should have access to compassionate, professional counseling both before and after a child is placed for adoption. Those making a pregnancy decision deserve the opportunity to process all of their thoughts and emotions in a supportive and nonjudgmental environment, both as they consider and after a decision has been made.

The right to a safe and legal process. Birthparents should always have the right to be represented by independent legal counsel if they choose. The adoption process should always be safe, fair, and efficient for all involved, protecting the rights of birthparents while prioritizing the best interests of the child. Expectant parents should have and be advised of the right to change their mind within the legal limitations permitted in their state. This process varies by state, and so an adoption agency or attorney should always explain this process in advance and be available to help implement this process when requested.
image by Muffet

The right to their preferred level of continued communication if an adoption plan is made. Parents may wonder if they will be allowed or required to remain connected with their child if they make an adoption plan. Whether no communication, occasional letters and phone calls, or a close relationship with face-to-face visits is preferred, agreements should be made with adoptive parents who support the birthparents’ preferred level of openness and contact in the adoption relationship.

The right to be involved in choosing adoptive parents. Expectant parents have the right to be presented with options and have input regarding their child’s adoptive parents. Expectant parents should be able to ask questions of and meet with different prospective adoptive parents as they consider making an adoption plan.(7)

Now that we know why it is imperative that hospital staff have an educated understanding about adoption, the parties involved, and their rights, part two (following tomorrow) will examine ways we can accomplish this task.

Part 2 coming tomorrow...
Published October 2012 by Devon Karst with Megan Lindsey
Posted here with permission from NCFA

Devon Karst was an NCFA intern from May to August 2011. In May 2012, she graduated from Appalachian State University magna cum laude with a degree in psychology. She hopes to attend law school and one day practice adoption law. Megan Lindsey is the Director of the Infant Adoption Training Initiative and NCFA’s Assistant Director of Policy.

(1) At times, this article refers to pregnant women and mothers as the decision-makers. This language choice is not intended to deny the importance of fathers or their role in the decision-making process.

(2) Donnelly, B.W. & Voydanoff, P. (1996). Parenting versus placing for adoption: Consequences for adolescent mothers. Family Relations, 45, 427-34.

(3) Teenage pregnancy and education. (2010). National Campaign to End Teenage Pregnancy.

(4) McLaughlin, S., Manninen, D., and Winges, L. (1988). Do adolescents who relinquish their children fare better than those who raise them? Family Planning Perspectives, 20, 25-32.

(5) Benson, P., Sharma, A., & Roehlkepartain, E. (1994) Growing up adopted: A portrait of adolescents and their families. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.

(6) Placek, P. (2011). National adoption data assembled by the National Council For Adoption. Adoption Factbook V. 7-8.

(7) Adapted in part from Harmony Adoptions “Birthmother’s Bill of Rights” (http://iaatp.com/docs/bmbor.pdf) and Spence Chapin’s “A Birthparent’s Bill of Rights” (http://www.spence-chapin.org/downloads/BillORights-2008_English.pdf).

1 comment:

  1. I have been seeing a lot of subtle, and even open, pressuring from hospital staff members directed against adoption placements. If that reflects the policy of the hospital, then it needs to be promptly reevaluated and changed, in order to make the environment safe for birth mothers who are seriously considering this very acceptable option for themselves and their child. If this kind of attitude does not reflect the official policy of the hospital, then there is even more of a need to see that there is an immediate and enforced change made in this kind of a hostile and coercive environment. There is no place in the professional environment of a hospital for this kind of an agenda.


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