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Resolving Adoption Issues

April 2000
By: Anne Pierson and Paula Smith

Adoption has experienced a major setback as abortion has moved to the top of the list of solutions for unwanted pregnancies.

A 1999 survey of pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and other pro-life organizations by Loving and Caring, Inc. revealed that 82% of respondents provide adoption referrals and counseling. However, 59% reported that 5 or fewer clients per year placed a child in adoption.

Some counselors report they do not feel confident in their ability to present adoption information, while others do not have confidence in adoption itself as a sound option. Counselors should examine their own attitudes toward adoption. Clients will detect negativity.

Being pro-adoption does not mean advocating adoption in 100% of unplanned pregnancies. Being pro-adoption simply means having an understanding of the benefits of adoption for the child, the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and society.

An effective counselor must learn the laws and regulations that relate to facilitating an adoption. What's more, in order to help clients weigh the important aspects of adoption, a counselor should acquire the pertinent training.

Commonly used phrases like "put up for adoption" or "give up the child" may connote to a birth parent that others perceive that he or she does not value the child and that ultimately he or she does not have control of the decision. Substituting phrases like "place in adoption," "make an adoption plan," and "choose adoption for a child," acknowledges the birth parent's care for the child in going through the decision-making process in order to do what is in the child's best interest.

Adoption is not an irresponsible decision or "taking the easy way out." Planning for adoption requires maturity, responsibility, and selflessness as the birth parents place their child's needs above their own natural inclinations. Younger birth mothers are less likely to consider adoption because they underestimate the responsibilities of parenting.

Frequently, the birth mother will vacillate as she encounters the influences of other people in her life and the evolution of her own thoughts and emotions. Initially, she may respond with "I'm not interested in adoption" or "I'd rather have an abortion than carry this baby nine months and then give it away." She may have bought the rhetoric that adoption is a bad choice. What's more, the entertainment media often present unfavorable pictures of adoption through movies about unstable birth parents selling their children, TV shows that portray criminals who had been adopted, and talk shows that depict traumatic reunions between birth parents and their grown children.

The counselor needs to identify the birth mother's bases for her concerns (her perceptions of the impact of adoption on parent and child, her personal experiences, and her emotions) in order to address them. A birth mother may suffer emotional pain and grief during her pregnancy as she anticipates the loss of her child at adoption. After the adoption, her grief is likely to continue through the several common stages of grief. With proper support and counseling, most women complete this process with a very positive outcome.

Planning an adoption dedication service may help the birth mother work through the grief and bring positive closure on the adoption plan. During this service, the child is dedicated to the Lord's care. The ceremony helps the birth parents focus on trusting God for their child's future and honors the birth family for acting in the child's interest.

The relationships between the birth mother and birth father and between the birth mother and her family can greatly affect her decision. When possible, the birth father and family ought to be included in the counseling process. If the baby's birth grandparents are not adequately prepared for the adoption, the plan may fall apart at the hospital when they are struck by their emotions upon seeing the baby.

The cultural background of the family may also affect the birth mother's decision. African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics rarely choose a formal adoption plan. These families tend to "take in" the mother and child, with a grandmother or aunt often becoming the primary caregiver, resulting in an informal adoption. Regardless of the birth mother's individual decision for adoption or parenting, the whole family is affected and needs to be prepared.

The birth mother and her family will often have many practical questions about the adoption process and the effect it will have on their lives in the future. "Can I choose my baby's parents?" "Will I have to go to court?" and "Will my child be able to find me?" are all valid questions that may influence the birth parents' decision. By consulting adoption providers and being prepared for such questions beforehand, the counselor can alleviate many of these concerns as they arise.

Unfortunately, adoption has experienced a major setback as abortion has moved to the top of the list of solutions for unwanted pregnancies. While abortion appears to be quick and easy, adoption requires time, effort, and planning. We need to understand and properly appreciate the sacrificial love of the birth parents who choose adoption for their children. Facilitating the process not only eases the stress on birth parents; ultimately, it saves lives.

Anne Pierson, along with her husband Jim, co-founded and directs Loving and Caring, Inc. This international ministry is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and provides support, training and materials to life-affirming organizations. She was the director and house-parent of a large maternity home and has counseled many young women in unplanned pregnancies. In 1999 she received the "Angel of Adoption" award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption for her leadership and service in promoting adoption.

Paula Smith is Product Development Director for Loving and Caring, Inc. and a freelance writer.

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