How do you determine which adoption agencies you can refer to? Here are some ideas.
Establish relationships with the individuals running these organizations. Your goal is to determine whether they are able to minister to clients in a nonjudgmental, unbiased manner. Remember that some agencies work for the adoptive parents because they are the ones who are paying for the service. They don't see the birthmother as the most important person in the adoption process. I always refer directly to individuals at agencies.
Discover detailed information about the agency's procedures. Ask questions like:
How does the agency select the adoptive parents they will represent?
Is effective counseling offered to the birthparents both before and after the adoption?
How does the agency ensure that the birthparent's expenses are paid?
What happens if the birthmother changes her mind?
Does the agency embrace and facilitate open adoptions?
What is the cost of adoption to the adoptive parents?
How is the governing board of directors selected, and who are the board members?
What is the agency's perspective on adoptions by gay couples?
Request references from both adoptive parents and birthmothers who have used the agency. It's very easy to get reference letters from adoptive families. Most are very loyal to the agency that helped them realize their dream of parenthood. It's another case to get references from birthmothers. It could be that they don't want to provide you with the names of birthmothers because they are bound by contracts to protect birthmothers' identities. However, most agencies have at least one or two birthmothers who are willing to endorse the agency through written or verbal communication.
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Invite an agency representative to address your volunteers. Your advocates need to understand adoption through a variety of perspectives. We naturally become protective of the women that the Lord leads into our ministry. It's much easier to refer agencies if we know the leaders' hearts and believe that our clients will be treated well.
Obtain a list of the agency's board of directors and advisors. Make sure that none of these individuals are members of the pro-choice community. One person from this perspective can affect an entire organization's tone and ministry.
Don't step out of a relationship with your client simply because she is working with an agency. Your role is still to support her throughout her pregnancy. While the agency should be providing specific counseling about the emotions she may be feeling, don't assume this is being accomplished. Perhaps the birthmother's family and friends are continuing to try to talk her out of the adoption. There is a great deal of pressure during the pregnancy. An adoption may increase the level of pressure and stress.
It is especially important that the birthmother receive emotional support after the birth. The Lord has given us the responsibility of loving each client regardless of her choice in a crisis pregnancy. By being her friend throughout the process, you may allow her the freedom to share her honest emotions and fears. She needs you, and you need her. Her testimony can shape hearts in the future and can be used to facilitate more adoption decisions.
God's hand is on the lives of our clients. Their maturity can outmatch our own. Recognize the potential for birthparents to help others understand adoption and use their testimonies to tell others that they found that adoption was their best choice.
Used by permission. Taken from Ramah's Voice, April/May, 2004. For more information, see www.ramahinternational.org.