Best Practices Recommendations for Hospitals
Like social workers and adoption professionals working with parents considering adoption, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare staff at the hospital must also be aware and respectful of the parents’ rights. The delivery and hospital stay is an important and emotional time for any parent, and this is equally true for parents who have chosen adoption for their child. Hospital staff should be sensitive and responsive to the needs of women who choose adoption, as well as the adoptive parents who may also be present at or after the birth.
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The most important thing a hospital can do to support parents considering adoption and prospective adoptive parents is train staff on adoption policy, including the legal basics involved. Training is particularly important for staff members and social workers who might be responsible for reporting pregnancy results, assisting in labor and delivery, or helping new parents during their hospital stay.
Through a federal grant from the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program provides free training to many workers in both clinic and hospital settings. This training provides participants with an understanding of adoption policy and practice, an overview of the adoption laws in their state, and ways to accurately and comfortably share the option of adoption with expectant parents and provide the appropriate support should they make an adoption plan.(8)
It is also valuable to have one designated staff member who is an “expert” in adoption. This person can be the point of contact when other staff members are uncertain how to proceed in a situation with a particular parent or family. This staff member can also build relationships with adoption and other social services providers, and update hospital or clinic policies as needed to reflect current laws, trends, and best practices in adoption.
Establish policies that are birthparent-focused and friendly to adoptive parents.
The best way to ensure compassionate care for all participants involved in the adoption process is to plan ahead for it. Hospitals with clear policies in place will understand what it means if a patient makes an adoption plan, and will make sure that staff members are prepared in advance. In most states, birthparents rightfully have parental rights until taking the necessary legal steps to transfer rights to adoptive parents. Clear policies legally safeguard the hospital in sending an infant home with someone other than the biological parent(s).
The Sanford and Parker programs stand out in part because supportive hospital and clinic administrators worked to put clear, ordered policies in place in order to better serve both birthparents and adoptive families. Parents making an adoption plan deserve to have their choices honored and their wishes respected throughout the birth and their stay in the hospital. Following are some important issues to be considered when creating hospital policies regarding adoption:
- Designate a staff member to be an adoption expert, and clearly define the role. Alert all staff that this person is the best in-house resource for questions regarding the adoption process.
- Follow the birth plan provided by the mother, or work with her to create one that reflects her wishes. Remember to include prospective adoptive parents if and when the mother has chosen to do so.
- Clearly identify ahead of time the people whom the mother wishes to be present at the birth.
- Establish a clear way to identify on a mother’s chart or elsewhere in her hospital room that she is considering adoption or has made an adoption plan, so that staff can be aware and act accordingly regarding her birth plan, visitors, etc.
- Clearly determine with the mother whether she would like the adoptive parents to be allowed to spend time with her and/or the infant in the hospital, and at what times she would like to allow this. Decisions must also be made regarding who may visit the infant in the nursery, and whether adoptive parents should receive a wristband, ID, or other designation indicating to staff that the mother has allowed them to be there.
- Establish a clear policy based on the law in your state regarding the infant’s release from the hospital. Determine who the baby may be released to, and ensure that any necessary paperwork is completed by adoption workers or hospital staff to ensure a smooth discharge for both the mother and child.
- Ensure that appropriate post-hospital care instructions and any complimentary gifts for new parents are given separately as needed to both parents and prospective adoptive parents.
Having clear policies in place allows hospitals to better inform and assist their patients in advance, ensuring that parents considering adoption are not distracted by unnecessary questions or, worse, judgments about their decision-making process. Such policies also help inform prospective adoptive parents and allow them to better understand the role they will be allowed to play during the hospital experience. At Parker Adventist, if the mother is willing, potential adoptive parents are allowed to “room in” at the hospital and remain there until the infant is discharged. If the mother chooses, the child to be adopted can also stay in the adoptive parents’ room, allowing the parents to benefit from the infant care expertise and guidance of the hospital nursing staff.
Create and distribute helpful resources.
Both Parker and Sanford hospitals provide excellent resources that can be given to parents considering adoption. Sanford’s brochure lists the rights and responsibilities of birthparents, and gives quick and clear information about their options under state law. This resource also lists contact information for several local adoption agencies so that further information can be sought if needed.(9) Parker’s brochure for birthparents answers frequently asked questions about adoption, provides a basic discussion about the different types of adoption, and includes a list of important things to consider when thinking about adoption.(10) Hospitals interested in providing similar brochures to women considering the option of adoption can also request free brochures from the National Council For Adoption.(11)
Provide opportunities for patients to learn, connect, and support.
Some hospitals choose to host support groups or educational trainings regarding adoption. Hospitals might host support groups for birthparents who have made adoption plans, or they might provide special training for adoptive parents. Parker Adventist offers several classes, including one entitled “Maybe We’ll Adopt,” which gives prospective adoptive parents information about a variety of local adoption resources as well as a broad overview of the adoption process. Parker Adventist also provides CPR and Newborn Infant Care classes for parents, which meet the parental training requirements for some adoption agencies.
Assist in recognizing the adoption for the child as well as all parents involved.
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For parents considering adoption, the hospital’s policies, knowledge of, and overall attitude towards adoption may have a tremendous impact on the birth experience and adoption process. For those that do make the decision to place their children, the time in the hospital may be the only time they are able to spend as sole parents to their children.
Helping parents considering adoption to feel safe, respected, and empowered throughout their child’s birth and their hospital stay is consistent with the high quality of service, professional ethics, and patient-focused values that good hospitals, clinics, and healthcare workers endeavor to provide. An adoption-friendly hospital environment benefits all involved in the adoption process, and is especially important for parents considering an adoption plan.
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.
(8) Six regional grantees and their networks of trainers in every state provide this training throughout the United States. Grantees include: Arizona’s Children Association, Harmony Adoptions, Latino Family Institute, Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota, National Council For Adoption, and Spaulding for Children. For more information on the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program, please visit www.iaatp.com to learn about the grantee in your region or request a training.
(9) Sanford Clinic Women’s Health. Adoption Rights and Responsibilities. Sioux Falls, SD.
(10) Family to Family Adoption Support Program at Parker Adventist Hospital. It’s Your Choice. Parker, CO.
(11) National Council For Adoption provides free brochures in English and Spanish that can be given to women considering adoption. Two brochure options are available – one to provide information to expectant mothers considering adoption; the other for those individuals that make up an expectant mother’s support system, to help them understand adoption and how to best support mothers considering this option. NCFA recommends that health clinic staff and others add to the brochures relevant information for local adoption agencies and other important resources.