Guest Post: Birth Parents Don’t Want a “You’re So Courageous and Giving” Parade

Birth Parents Don't Want

image c/o www.salem-news.com

In this edition of Birth Mother Stories, Ellen shares a response to a blog post about birth parents on TV. We wanted to share her words again in Birth Mother Stories since they relate to a post on the same topic.

I happened to see a commercial for this show [with an adoption plot] and as a birthparent my response was “Oh there we are – hiding in the bushes, ready to pounce and be crazy.” Besides knowing it is a stereotype (why would adoption searches be so popular if everyone was out there threatening each other?) I also think it is sad. The piece I think professionals and society in general miss is this: birthparents don’t want a “you’re so courageous and giving parade” when we place our children for adoption.

The circumstances that bring us to these decisions are often traumatic and paralyzing. The grief, depression and ongoing sadness is such an opposite of the world’s views: either you were so loving, courageous or there is some deeply crazy thing about you. Many adoptive parents, friends, acquaintances, professionals have some of these extreme views. Some don’t. The fact is: there are no societal rituals/acknowledgement of losing a child in this particular way. Birthparents aren’t the only ones. Other people have terrible circumstances in their lives for which people are afraid or ignore them. Many birthparents I know are expected to go back to work right away “because their child is now safe and secure in a family,” to take care of other children who may be in the family, go out with friends because “that’s all over with now” and continue with life as usual. Obviously, this post led me to report some of the “insider knowledge” that all birthparents know but often feel there’s no use in saying. I think it’s useful because a birthparent may read this and it may be one of the only places they see that it’s OK to be exactly who they are after placement – the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not pretty or fun – it’s messy.


The Four Birth Parents You See on TV

image c/o threepeascreate.blogspot.com

Ah, television.

The Adoptions Together staff have done their fair share of binging on Netflix shows or staying up late at night to watch bad reality TV. But we’ve also done our fair share of cringing when we see adoption portrayed in the shows and movies we watch. Why, in a country where adoption has changed so much over the past fifty years, does the media have such a hard time wrapping its head around the idea of modern adoption? One blogger perfectly summed up media portrayals of birth parents by dividing them into four stereotypes: “the Juno,” the bad mother, the martyr, and the “baby stealer.”

1) “The Juno,” she explains, is based on “the blockbuster movie that shaped a generation’s opinion of birthmothers as people who make an adoption plan, walk away, don’t look back, and conclude ‘I think he was always hers.’” Sure, there are some birth mothers who do not feel a bond with their baby or grieve after placement, and that’s okay – but it’s rare. Very, very few birth moms can simply walk away after placing their baby and not need time to heal. Oversimplifying the emotions that usually come with birth parenthood is dangerous for women and men who are considering adoption and is unfair to those who have struggled with their adoption decision.

2) She also talks about the stereotype of birth parents as bad parents, “incapable of caring for and wholly unworthy of raising her children.” Movies like The Blind Side and Black or White show birth parents as substance abusers who don’t love or care about their children and don’t deserve to raise them. First of all, to say that all birth parents struggle with drug or alcohol abuse is blatantly incorrect. Second of all, the fact that a birth parent has struggled with substance abuse does not mean that they do not love their children. Even in cases where a child has to be removed from their birth parent’s care, it’s important to remember that each individual birth parent has their own complex set of struggles and emotions. Why judge someone whose life we know nothing about?

3) Then there is the martyr stereotype, where birth moms are portrayed as being “self-sacrificing heroes,” like on the MTV show 16 and Pregnant. The psychologist who hosts the show, Dr. Drew, praises women who choose adoption, calling them “so incredibly mature” and “selfless.” He’s not wrong – adoption can be a mature and selfless choice. However, parenting can also be mature and brave. Every person’s situation is different – in fact, every individual pregnancy is different – and there is no reason to advocate one decision over the other.

4) Finally comes the “baby stealer” stereotype. You might have seen the season of the show Glee where the cheerleader who placed her baby for adoption vowed to “get her back.” This stereotype is particularly harmful because most adoptions today are open, and promoting the idea that birth moms who have contact with their children will scheme to take their babies away from their adoptive families hurts the progress we’ve made in educating adoptive families and the general public about the benefits of open adoption. It also paints a picture of birth parents choosing adoption without thinking at all about their decision and then freaking out after they’ve made it. In reality, most birth parents think long and hard about their adoption decision; many agonize over it, and change their minds multiple times before choosing this option.

It’s easier, we suppose, for TV stations and movie producers to approach the topic of adoption when they can fit everything there is to know about birth parents into one of these neat little categories. Understanding birth parents as real people, with good and bad qualities just like everyone else, is more difficult than simply assuming their decisions to be easy, selfish, selfless, or just poorly thought out. By sensationalizing adoption stories and oversimplifying the lives of birth parents, the media doesn’t have to really consider the complexity or difficulty of adoption or try to understand the deep emotions that accompany it.

What do you think about how adoption is portrayed on TV and in the movies? Did these portrayals affect your decision or how you felt afterward? Tell us in the comments section below!


Acquiring U.S. Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Children

Acquiring U.S. Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Children

 

The foreword of this post was written by Dawn Musgrave, Associate Director and General Counsel of Adoptions Together & FamilyWorks Together. Dawn represents the agency in adoption cases and oversees its business operations, including finance, human resources and information technology systems.  Dawn is an active advocate for the rights of children, particularly those impacted by the public child welfare system, and frequently consults with policy makers on matters relevant to families and children.

Foreword
by Dawn Musgrave, Associate Director and General Counsel

Over the last few months, I’ve received several calls from parents who adopted their children internationally more than a decade ago and need guidance on how to obtain proof of their child’s U.S. citizenship.  In a few cases, the child wants to sign up for military service and their Russian birth certificate is raising eyebrows with military personnel.  In other cases, parents are finding they need additional proof of citizenship so their child can obtain a driver’s license.  Yet other parents are concerned about proving their child’s citizenship in light of increased government and media attention on immigration and deportation.

Regardless of the reason, the place I turn for answers is in a blog post written several years ago by Irene Jordan, LCSW-C, who ran our international and home study services departments for many years.  Although Irene passed away in 2016, her knowledge and experience in these matters continues to guide families through this complicated issue.  Given the increased attention on citizenship, this seems like a good time to re-post Irene’s blog about international adoption and citizenship.

*****

 

U.S. Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Children
By: Irene Jordan, LCSW-C
Director of International Adoption and Home Study Services (1994 to 2015)
Adoptions Together

 I recently got a call from a frantic adoptive parent: “I took my son to the MVA to apply for a learner’s permit. They said he has to have proof of U.S. citizenship. They told me that his Maryland birth certificate is not proof of citizenship, since he was born overseas.  I’m not even sure if my son is a U.S. citizen!  Help! What do I do?”

Such calls are not unusual.  Whether or not your internationally-adopted child is a U.S. citizen depends on a number of factors.  Even if your child is a U.S. citizen, you may not yet have proof of citizenship.  It is crucial to ensure both that your child has U.S. citizenship, and also that he/she has proof of that citizenship.

  • Is my child a U.S. citizen?

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows certain foreign-born children adopted by U. S. citizens to automatically acquire U. S. citizenship when they enter the United States.  In order to automatically become a U.S. citizen, the child must meet the following requirements of the Child Citizenship Act:  have at least one adoptive parent who is a U.S. citizen; be under 18 years of age; live in the legal and physical custody of the adoptive parent; and the adoption was finalized in the foreign country under the laws of the foreign country and of U.S. Immigration.

The Child Citizenship Act took effect on February 27, 2001. Adoptees who met these requirements on that date automatically became U.S. citizens.  Adoptees who were 18 years of age or older on that date did not acquire American citizenship from the Child Citizenship Act. In addition children whose adoptions were not finalized in the foreign country under the laws of the foreign country and of U.S. immigration did not automatically acquire American citizenship from the Child Citizenship Act.

  • My child meets the other criteria. How do I know if my child’s adoption was finalized in the foreign country under the laws of the foreign country and of U.S. Immigration?

The last requirement for the child to qualify for automatic citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act is that the adoption must have been finalized in the foreign country under the laws of the foreign country and of U.S. Immigration.  If the adoption overseas was final under the laws of the foreign country, and of U. S. Immigration, your child will have entered the U. S. with an IR-3 immigration visa. Children with an IR-3 visas automatically become U.S. citizens when they enter the U.S.

Adoptions from Russia, China, Guatemala, Latvia, Lithuania, Vietnam and Azerbaijan are all finalized in the foreign country.  However the Child Citizenship Act also requires that the adoption was finalized under U. S. Immigration regulations. Those regulations require that the child be visited by the sole adoptive parent (in the case of a single parent) or by both adoptive parents before the adoption was finalized. Adoptive parents are required by the foreign adoption laws in Russia, Lithuania, and Azerbaijan to visit the child before completing the adoption. Therefore if you adopted from one of those countries, your child should have entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa, and is a U. S. Citizen.

Adoptions from China, Guatemala, Latvia and Vietnam do not require both parents to see the child before the adoption was finalized.  If the sole adoptive parent or both parents did not see the child before the adoption was finalized, then the child will have entered the U. S. on an IR-4 visa, and is not a U.S. citizen until the adoption is finalized in the U.S.  Children with IR-4 visas obtain a Resident Alien card (sometimes referred to as a “green card”.) Please note that many of the children from these countries were visited by the sole adoptive parent or by both parents before the adoption.  Those children entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa, and are therefore U.S. citizens.

Adoptions from Korea are not finalized overseas.    Families adopting a child from Korea need to finalize the adoption in the U.S. so that the child will meet the requirements for U.S. citizenship.

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 visa, the adoption should be finalized in the United States under your state’s regulations. Your child acquires citizenship in the U.S. when the adoption is full and final in the U.S.  The adoption decree and the birth certificate from your state, however, do not serve as proof of citizenship.

  • What documentation do I need to serve as proof of my child’s citizenship?

There are 2 forms of proof of citizenship: a U.S. Passport and a Certificate of Citizenship.

Beginning in January 2004, USCIS has issued Certificates of Citizenship automatically to children who qualify as citizens under the Child Citizenship Act.

If your child entered the U.S. before January 2004 on an IR-3 visa, you can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by filing the N-600 application. You can also apply for a U.S. passport as proof of citizenship.

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 visa or an IH-4 visa, you can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by filing the N-600 application after you have finalized the adoption in the U.S. You can also apply for a U.S. passport as proof of citizenship after you have finalized the adoption in the U.S.

  • How do I apply for a certificate of citizenship?

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 visa and the adoption has been finalized in the United States, you can apply for a certificate of citizenship by submitting Form N-600 Application.  Information and the form can be obtained through the USCIS website.  This site also provides the fee information and the address to which to send the form.

With your application, you will send a copy of the adoption decree from the court in your state.  You will need to submit 2 photos of your child. The filing fee should be paid by certified check or money order. Send copies of the required documents, unless specifically asked to send originals after your application has been reviewed. It is recommended that the application be submitted through a delivery service that can be tracked, such as Federal Express or UPS.

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa before January 2004, you can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by submitting Form N-600 Application as above. You will not need an adoption decree from the court in your state.

  • How do I obtain a U.S. passport for my child?

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa, then you can apply for a U.S. passport at any time. If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 visa and the adoption has been finalized in the United States, you can apply for a U.S. passport.  You and your child will need to go in person to a passport office or satellite location. A list of locations nationwide that accept passport applications can be obtained through the Department of State website.

You will need to send a certified copy of the final adoption decree (with translation if the decree is not in English). You will also need to send the child’s foreign passport, showing the immigration stamp in the passport, or the child’s permanent resident card (“green card”).  The foreign passport will be returned with the child’s new U.S. passport. You will also need to send proof of identity of the American citizen parent(s).  Submit these documents with the passport application, passport photos of the child, and fees. The forms and full instructions can be obtained through the Department of State website here.

  • What if my child was adopted under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions? Is she a U.S. citizen?

A child whose adoption was finalized in the foreign country under the Hague Convention (including recent adoptions from China) will receive an IH-3 visa, and will automatically be a U.S. citizen. The requirement that the sole or both parents visit the child before the adoption is finalized has been eliminated under the Hague Convention.  A certificate of citizenship will be issued and mailed to you automatically by USCIS.

  • My daughter was over age 18 at the time that the Child Citizenship Act took effect on February 27, 2001. Is she a citizen?

If your daughter was over 18 at the time that the Child Citizenship Act took effect, it is possible that she is not a U.S. citizen. Although legislation has been proposed to retroactively give citizenship to foreign adoptees who turned 18 before the Child Citizenship Act took effect, this legislation has not yet been passed. Therefore it is very important to determine if she is a citizen and for her to apply for naturalization if she is not a U.S. citizen.  She may have a Permanent Resident Card, giving her the immigration status of a lawful permanent resident. The Permanent Resident Card may have expired, but the Lawful Permanent Resident status does not expire unless she travels outside the U.S. for more than 6 months.

Check to see if you have a Certificate of Citizenship or a Certificate of Naturalization for her.  If not, your daughter should apply for naturalization in order to gain citizenship.  It is strongly recommended that she do this in order to avoid any risk of deportation or any potential denial of the application for naturalization.  The Application for Naturalization, form N-400, is available on the USCIS website.  If you need an attorney to assist you with immigration issues, check the website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

For additional information about the citizenship status of adult adopted persons, check the Guide to U.S. Citizenship for Adult International Adoptees at the Ethica.


Why We Support National Adoption Laws

national-adoption-lawsOne of our pet peeves in the world of adoption is that adoption laws are different in every state.

This means that while some states have great laws that are fair to everyone involved in the adoption process, others have laws that are not very birthparent-friendly. For example, we are glad that in Maryland, where most of our adoptions happen, birth parents have 30 days to change their mind after signing paperwork. We believe it’s important for birth parents to have that time to fully make up their mind about what’s best for them and their baby. In more than ten states, however, birth parents have no revocation period during which they can change their mind after they relinquish their parental rights.

Not only is this unfair to women who give birth in those states, but it also causes problems even in states with better laws. We have seen many situations in which an adoption organization or attorney based in a state with no revocation period convinces a birth mother here in Maryland to agree to use the adoption laws from their (the adoption organization’s or attorney’s) state – even though doing so is not in the birth mother’s best interest. For example, an organization from New Jersey, where adoption relinquishment paperwork is 100% final, might find a birth mother from here in Maryland and ask her to sign paperwork saying she’ll go ahead with the adoption under New Jersey law instead. If she agrees, she’ll be signing away her right to change her mind, even though she lives in a state with a 30-day revocation period!

What’s the solution? We think adoption laws should be national, rather than determined by each individual state, and that they should include a reasonable period of time during which a birth parent can change their mind about the adoption. Birth parents in every state have the right to laws that protect them, and adoption organizations shouldn’t be able to cheat the system.

What do you think about national vs. state adoption laws? Do you agree that all states should be following the same rules?


Raising Compassion and Awareness for Individuals Affected by FASD

This post about FASD was written by the Director of FamilyWorks Together, Alisha Wolf, LGSW, MPH.  Alisha oversees the counseling, training, education, and special projects teams at Adoptions Together & FamilyWorks Together.  She received her bachelors from Skidmore College in English and Spanish and her Masters in Social Work and Maternal and Child Health from UNC Chapel Hill.  During her graduate studies, Alisha focused on issues surrounding adoption, foster care, and early childhood mental health.  

The New York Times recently published an article stating that more U.S. Children than previously thought may have Fetal Alcohol Disorders.  I was so excited to see this article published in such a high profile publication, because Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) have been an area of interest, expertise, and advocacy for Adoptions Together.  We have trained professionals on symptoms of FASD, treated families affected by FASD, and advocated for policy changes to better support individuals and families affected by FASD.  We believe greater awareness and understanding of the disorders among mental health providers, pediatricians, teachers and others that care for children will lead to better care, and ultimately more support for kids and families.

However, when I sat down to write this blog, I immediately felt nervous.  Talking about FASD isn’t easy, because it involves the stigmatized behavior of drinking during pregnancy.  This is also perhaps the reason that it is not as widely identified or diagnosed as it could be. With this article as further evidence, FASD is far more common than previously thought—according to the new numbers, more common than autism. And yet there is far more conversation around and awareness of autism.  I think this reflects the larger community’s challenge in taking on these disorders.  How to we simultaneously raise awareness, support the individuals affected, and show compassion to those mothers and birth mothers who consumed alcohol during pregnancy?  The challenges of FASD are as layered as an onion, and pulling one back only exposes another.  Issues of addiction, trauma, and access to and understanding family planning all arise.

At Adoptions Together, we think it’s critical to lean into the tough conversations.  FASD affects children in the adoption community as well as children raised within their biological families, and we believe this article sheds light on a tough conversation that we want to be a part of.  Will you join us?  Together, how can we provide prevention education surrounding the effects of drinking during pregnancy, provide support for women experiencing addiction during pregnancy, and support for families parenting children with FASD on both a direct service and policy level?  In a world that can sometimes feel increasingly divided, we embrace the challenge of coming together on this issue and compel our readers to become part of this conversation.

To learn more about FASD, check out our on-demand video: “Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders” (1 hour)

About the video: Children who have been exposed to alcohol before birth often experience social, emotional, and cognitive limitations that impact every aspect of their life as they grow, and can significantly influence the life of their family.  However, with early identification, diagnosis, and appropriate intervention, children who have been prenatally exposed to alcohol can increase their potential to lead healthy, productive lives. This seminar will help parents to better understand the physical and developmental impact of prenatal alcohol exposure so that they can effectively guide and support their child.  Participants will learn effective ways to discipline and create a supportive home environment, as well as practical strategies for helping their child reach his/her full potential.


Guest Post: Feeling Good About My Decision

Birth Mother Stories: Feeling Good About My Decision

image c/o www.pambooth.com

In this edition of Birth Mother Stories, we hear from Talisa, a birth mother who placed through Adoptions Together many years ago. Talisa wrote several posts about her experience. This one is about feeling good about your adoption decision and sharing those feelings with others. You can read Talisa’s other guest posts here, here, and here.

Hello everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve written for the blog! I want to share something that one of my co-workers said to me today, and I was happy to hear it. I’m a supervisor in the childcare department in a Fitness Club in Silver Spring, and this morning when I had walked in, one of the managers that I work with, who I’m very close to, told me how wonderful I was doing and how well I work with the children and my co-workers! I was so happy to hear that, but that’s not it!

He came into my office around lunch time to talk to me about adoption, and I was shocked that he would ask me. Because he is the type that wouldn’t talk about something like that with me. So while we were talking, he was saying that he never thought that adoption could be such a beautiful thing. I asked him why, and he said that he couldn’t picture himself giving up a child even if he knew that’s what his fiancé wanted. I was telling him that everyone has their own opinion, but it’s not a bad thing, it’s quite wonderful!

Then he said his fiancé is thinking about adopting a baby when they get married, and I told him that it is wonderful that they will be making someone happy and that person will be making them happy. Then, he asked me about my adoption plan, and I had told him and he was like that it’s not so bad. I told that when he sees that child for the first time, he will be in love and that the person who is doing the adoption will know that she has found the perfect family for her little one and that makes her happy too.

He was happy to hear that coming from me, and he said that he definitely wanted to do it now. I was happy to hear that he felt that way. Then he told me that my daughter was lucky to have a mom like me because I made the right decision for her, and I continue to be part of her life and he couldn’t believe how well I take everything. I was very excited to hear that. I just wanted to know if anyone ever had one of those days where someone just makes you feel good about the really important decision you made.

 

Sharing Birth Mother Stories is one way Adoptions Together provides support to women in the community who’ve experienced adoption. Would you like to share yours on an edition of Birth Mother Stories? Contact us at pregnancyinquiry@adoptionstogether.org!

Respond to Talisa’s question in the comments section below!


Guest Post: “With All the Love I Can”

images

A couple of years ago we shared Keisha’s story. Recently we came upon her first blog post for us and it was so lovely that we decided to post her thoughtful words again.

I came upon your blog and believe me I was quite hesitant as to whether I was going to write anything about my situation. As you know I am a birthmother and am currently going through the process of putting my child up for adoption. It is one of the most challenging and hard decisions that I have had to make in my life, and luckily my child’s birthfather is helping me with this decision. For the both of us, it has been an up and down rollercoaster, filled with so many emotions. But as much as it hurts, I know that this is going to be the best decision for my child. 

When you have children, your job as a parent is to provide for them, do what’s best for them, love, care, and nurture them. But what happens when you know that even though the baby is here, that you cannot do all the tasks that are needed for the upbringing of your child? As a birthmother, it breaks my heart that at this time, I cannot do everything for my child, and I know that I have to be selfless. This is probably the biggest sacrifice I will ever make in my life, but I know its right. I also know that God and Time will allow me to see my child again, and that this family will provide love and care and all the things my child needs. I got to spend time holding my child and sending her out with all the love I can and a huge piece of my heart, and I know that that means something. The hardest part of giving your child up is waking up every morning and knowing they aren’t there and you will spend a big portion of that day worrying and wondering, and knowing that you can only be together in dreams at night. You cling to the pictures that you have and “what if” questions litter your mind. Despite all of this, you know that they are in a good environment and that your child has double the love that many go without, the love from the birth parents and the adoptive parents.


When Should You Be Able to Sign Paperwork?

image c/o legalwills.wordpress.com

Did you sign adoption papers in your hospital bed?

A number of folks pushing for adoption reform believe that birth mothers should not be able to sign adoption paperwork until 72 hours (3 days) after they’ve given birth.

We totally agree that birth mothers shouldn’t be asked to sign paperwork when they are still groggy from being medicated or exhausted from labor. Unfortunately, most hospitals in our area only allow women to stay in the hospital for one or two days after they’ve given birth, which means that if a birth mother hasn’t been able to sign paperwork yet, then she has to take the baby home.

Why Should Birth Mothers Consider When to Sign Adoption Paperwork?

When we first talk to women considering placing a baby for adoption, many of them are extremely worried about being told they must take their baby home before placement. Making the adoption decision itself is hard enough; they do not want to start the process of bonding knowing that they will be placing their baby very soon. Nor do they want to buy all of the necessary baby supplies only to be left with an empty crib and lots of tiny clothes when they return from an emotional placement.

That’s why our practice at Adoptions Together is to wait at least 24 hours to have birth mothers sign paperwork, but not necessarily 72 hours. Of course, if a birth mother wants to take the baby home first, we support that decision. But if she doesn’t want to, we feel she should be able to sign paperwork in the hospital before she leaves.

Can Birth Mothers Change their Mind After Signing Paperwork?

Luckily for us, the majority of our adoptions take place in Maryland, where birth parents have 30 days to change their minds after signing paperwork. This means that if they feel they were mistaken when they originally signed, they can regain custody of their baby anytime within the next month. Maryland has a longer revocation period than many other states, which makes us feel confident that even a birth mom who signed paperwork relatively soon after she gave birth still has time to feel certain of her decision.

The rest of our adoptions happen in DC and Virginia. In DC, birth moms have 14 days to change their minds after they sign an adoption consent, and in Virginia, they have 10 days from the date of the baby’s birth. We prefer the 30-day waiting period but are glad birth mothers still have 10-14 days to change their minds.

How long did you wait to sign paperwork? Do you think there should be a mandatory 72-hour period between delivery and signing? Tell us in the comments section below.


Why Adoption Gets a Bad Rap

Some people really don’t like adoption.

There are a few high-profile anti-adoption bloggers and activists out there who talk about the supposedly evil “adoption industry” and warn women considering adoption that they’ll regret their choices.

Hearing from these folks can be tough for us because they often group all adoption organizations into the same awful category. We need to listen to their side of the story, though, because the words of people who have had negative adoption experiences remind us that there is still a lot of work to be done in the world of adoption.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Back In The Day

Nurse with crying baby

image c/o adoptionvoicesmagazine.com

The 1940s began what is sometimes called the “Baby Scoop Era.” Increasing numbers of unmarried women were becoming pregnant, and psychologists and social workers started to spread the false idea that babies born “out of wedlock” would have better lives if they were separated from their birth parents and placed for adoption with married couples. Unwed women who became pregnant before marriage were sent to maternity homes where they were shamed and isolated from their friends and family for the duration of their pregnancy. Then, after giving birth, some women were told their babies had died, while others were pressured to sign adoption papers or had their babies taken from them while they were still sedated. It was a horrible and unethical time for adoption in the United States.

Things began to change in the 1970s. Not only was the birth rate declining, but the country was becoming more socially liberal. It was still difficult to be an unmarried parent, but it was a little bit less taboo. More government services also became available for pregnant and parenting women, and by the 1980s, the Baby Scoop Era had passed.

Many anti-adoption activists are parents whose babies were stolen from them during the Baby Scoop Era. We understand their point of view; they still see adoption as forcing someone who wants to parent their baby to give up that child against their will.

And unfortunately, there are still many organizations that do pressure women to place for adoption. Keep reading to learn how you can avoid them.

What Still Needs to Change: The “Adoption Industry”

choose

image c/o zazzle.com

We’ve written before about professionals, and in some cases adoption facilitators, that make a profit each time a woman chooses adoption for her baby. There is a large industry of these businesses, many of which take advantage of women whose pregnancies make them financially and emotionally vulnerable. You’ve probably seen their advertisements on the Internet; they often play up their offer to pay living expenses, and many of them try to “sell” people on the idea of adoption by telling birth parents how heroic they are and assuring them that their children will have better lives this way.

At Adoptions Together, we do not believe that anyone should be talking women into (or out of) adoption; birth parents should be provided with unbiased counseling and information about all of their options and then be trusted to know what decision is right for them. And no one should be making a profit from adoption, either. While some of our funding comes from the fees that adoptive parents pay (fees which we use to offer services like free counseling, even for those who are not sure yet whether adoption is right for them), much of it also comes from other sources, like foundations and individual donations. Basically, this means that if we work with a birth parent who decides not to go forward with adoption, our employees still get paid. We’re able to be unbiased in our work with birth parents because we aren’t financially dependent upon their choosing adoption.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be writing more about changes we think need to happen in the adoption world. But first, tell us what you think – how is adoption different from (or the same as) it was during the Baby Scoop Era?


“What Happens When They Start Asking Questions?”

image c/o blog.xpressdocs.com

Many birth mothers tell us that they worry about the day their child will ask them the tough questions about being adopted, like why they were placed or who their birth father was (if he’s not involved in their life).

Sometimes, the answers to those questions are straightforward, but other times the subject is touchy. There may be aspects of your adoption journey that you don’t necessarily want your child to associate with you, like drug use or casual sex, or that were upsetting and traumatic, like sexual assault. What happens when your child starts asking questions whose answers are difficult to talk about?

The Need for Trust

When your child’s parents adopted, they signed on for both the fun parts of parenting and the difficult parts, including having tough conversations. They will hear your child’s questions before you do, which is one of the reasons why trust is so important in any adoptive relationship. Choosing adoption means taking a leap of faith and trusting your child’s family to talk openly and appropriately about the adoption story you all share. Trusting them to raise your child also means trusting them to have the tough conversations that come with parenting.

What Will They Say?

Adoptions Together encourages birth mothers and adoptive parents to talk to their child about adoption from a very early age in a way they can understand, and we strongly discourage them from lying to their children, even about difficult topics. For example, if your pregnancy was the result of sexual assault, we might suggest to your child’s adoptive parents that they simply say “We only know a little bit about your birth daddy because he and your birth mommy were not close friends.” If you were struggling with substance use during your pregnancy, they could explain, “Your birth mommy was sick when she was pregnant with you and wanted you to have parents who could take care of you when she couldn’t.”

Your child’s parents will decide, as your child grows older, when and how to share additional information based on your child’s personality, maturity, and overall development. Remember, by the time your child is old enough to hear about the more upsetting parts of your adoption journey, their family will know them inside and out. This won’t be the first difficult topic they’ve ever discussed, so they’ll already understand how your child processes information and will be able to choose the right time, place, and environment for sharing the tougher aspects of their adoption story.

What’s the Agency Got to Do With It?

After your child is placed with an adoptive family, we send a social worker to visit with them every couple of months for six months. During those conversations, the social worker discusses with the family how they plan to talk to their child about adoption. We feel it is important for families to be extremely open with their children and not to leave out details even if the prospect of sharing them seems upsetting, and we address this subject in the mandatory seminar-style training we hold for parents to attend after placement. We also offer specialized training, coaching, counseling, and support for adoptive families who need extra help in this area. If you’re still in the process of choosing an adoption agency, you may want to ask how the agency prepares its adoptive families for tackling the difficult topics that often come with adoption.

How did your child’s adoptive parents explain the “tough stuff” to them? Have you talked to your child about the more painful aspects of your adoption story?