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Adoption:A Part Of The Counseling Plan

January 2008
By: Linda Hull
The late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's, helped push adoption into mainstream thinking. Consequently, when talking with a client, you will find that many have already thought of adoption and rejected it. Surprising? Yes. Only 1.4 percent of pregnant, single women place their babies for adoption according to a study in 2002 by the National Survey of Family Growth, reports Eliza Newlin Carney in her article, Perception & Reality: The Untold Story of Domestic Adoption.

During my counseling years at a crisis pregnancy center, I encountered only one client who was willing to make an adoption plan. Most planned to keep their baby, while several were determined to abort. One client was pregnant as the result of a rape, but she too planned to keep the baby with the consent and support of her fiancée.



Fears Associated With Adoption

Statistics from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, PhD, support the fact that most decisions to adopt are made by women over 18. Interestingly, the teen girls I counseled were more fearful that their peers and family would negatively judge them if they placed their babies for adoption. Some of the reasons against adoption I heard included:

Fear that friends and family would be disappointed or angry
(I've let people down if I adopt.)
Feelings of responsibility for the baby
(If I give up my child for adoption, then I haven't taken responsibility.)
Fear that an adoptive family might be abusive
(If anything happens to my baby, then it's my fault.)
Future regret
(I could never live with myself if I gave away my baby.)
Desire to do the right thing
(I've already made a mistake. I don't want to make another one.)
Dispelling the Myths

Given the reasons for rejecting adoption, the first thing that a counselor must do is to dispel these fear-based myths. I used my own experience as a potential adoptive parent and selected resources to help my clients understand adoption. Information is essential in helping with the decision making process. Pressure of any kind is taboo because it confuses the client. A change of heart begins with a changed mind because of new information.

When my husband and I began our adoption plan through an out-of-state Christian agency, the most important lesson we learned was putting aside our stereotypical thinking and developing loving compassion for birth mothers. Our most helpful resource was a book called The Mulberry Bird by Anne Braff Brodzinsky. It is the story of a baby bird whose mother cannot care for it. While it is meant for adoptive children, it explains the struggle many birth mothers experience as they seek a plan for their baby. Reading the story literally broke my heart, instilling a far greater understanding, compassion, and respect for birth mothers than I had previously. Without compassion and an understanding of the complex emotions surrounding adoption and its aftermath, it is difficult to persuade anyone that adoption is the right choice.

Effective communication of truth about adoption and available resources is so important when dispelling the myths. I discovered that movies were the most useful means of telling the adoption story. Using an informational video from the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas, I was able to educate my clients about adoption placements and inform them of the many resources available throughout pregnancy and delivery. Most importantly, the video opened the door for further discussion.

My own experience with adoption enabled me to explain the great hope of childless couples to adopt. I explained the process of investigation to insure the suitability of adoptive parents, so that the birth mother could be confident that her child would be safe and loved. Helping my client to understand both sides of the adoption issue broke down her stereotypical images of an adoptive couple, enabling her to dispel the myths of abuse. Having toured our agency's residential home, I could make a referral with enthusiasm and knowledge.

It is important to communicate to the birth mother the fact that making an adoption plan for her unborn child is the greatest demonstration of her love. By making a plan, the birth mother is taking responsibility for the welfare of her child. Using the book, The Mulberry Bird, helps to relieve the natural guilt and fears of the birth mother, and helps her healing process. Participating in the identification of an adoptive family gives her permission to transfer her responsibilities to the adoptive parents. Emotionally this is much more acceptable than the thought of just giving away a baby to an unknown couple. Some birth mothers will be more likely to place their baby for adoption if they know that continued contact with the adoptive parents and baby is possible. Explaining the various adoption options provides emotional comfort.

Success at Last

After counseling with my one previously mentioned client and her parents, a decision was made for an adoption plan. My client chose to work with an out-of-state agency and residential home. Arrangements were made confidentially through our center. Later we were pleased to hear that my client had a successful pregnancy, delivery, and placement for her special needs baby.

I learned that counselors must be informed about adoption if they want to effectively counsel a client on this very viable alternative to abortion. Put yourself in the place of an adoptive couple and do the research from that perspective. Then put yourself in the place of a birth mother and pursue information from that perspective. It will change the way you counsel and dispel your fears so that discussion of adoption can be a part of your counseling plan.

Linda Hull is a free lance writer who worked at a CPC in Alabama prior to moving to New York. She can be contacted at woehome@frontiernet.net.

Bibliography: Adamec, Christine and Pierce, William. The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition, New York: Facts on File, 2000. http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/birthmother-or-birth-mother/64/1.html

Braff Brodzinky, Anne. The Mulberry Bird, Indianapolis: Perspective Press, 1996.

Carney, Eliza Newlin. Perception & Reality: The Untold Story of Domestic Adoption. 2007. http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=1618

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