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It complicates everything.
Last spring it became legal in Maryland for adoptive parents and licensed adoption agencies to pay for “reasonable expenses” for birth mothers. The payment of “reasonable expenses,” which generally includes necessities such as housing, food, and clothing, was already legal in 37 states, but up until that point, Maryland families and agencies were only allowed to help cover birth mothers’ medical and legal bills. As a result, some birth mothers were choosing to make adoption plans with families out-of-state so that they could receive financial assistance with living expenses while pregnant.
Help During a Tough Time
Birth mothers who were going out of state in order to receive financial assistance were not always able to find an ethical adoption agency or attorney who ensured that they received thorough counseling and legal representation. So, legalizing the payment of birth mother expenses in Maryland was good news in terms of protecting the rights of birth parents. It was also good news because most birth parents are already struggling in some way, and those struggles only increase once they become pregnant. Many women who are considering adoption do not have stable housing; they live with family members, rent rooms, or stay in shelters. They are often either unemployed or underemployed, and those who have been able to find work risk losing their job once their employer finds out about the pregnancy. If you’ve ever been in this boat, then you are well aware that even a small amount of financial assistance with paying rent or buying food can make a big difference to the physical and emotional health of a pregnant woman.
We also need to acknowledge, however, that financial assistance can add pressure to an already emotionally difficult situation. Even when we do a lot of counseling with birth mothers and they understand that legally they can change their minds about their adoption plan at any point until their parental rights expire, they usually still feel a deeper sense of obligation to make an adoption plan if they have received financial assistance during their pregnancy. We never want a woman to go through with an adoption simply because she feels she can’t change her mind, so the fact that Maryland women can now receive financial assistance makes providing emotional support and counseling for birth parents during their decision-making period more crucial than ever.
A Temporary Solution
And of course, whatever financial assistance a birth parent receives during her pregnancy is only temporary, which is why birth parents should always work with an adoption counselor to come up with a reasonable amount to request. For example, it probably isn’t wise for a birth mother to ask for assistance in paying rent for an especially expensive apartment that she will no longer be able to afford after her pregnancy.
What do you think about the payment of birth parent expenses? Did you receive financial assistance from your child’s adoptive family or your adoption agency during your pregnancy? Tell us about it in the comments section!