So I wrote this blog for work... but also wanted to share it with my personal blog followers. Please read it, as it sheds some light on the aspects of domestic adoption which are often not understood or comprehended. If you ever have any questions... I'd be more than happy to answer them!
Dan Rather recently filmed a news story on unethical practices within domestic adoption. It will be airing on May 1st on HDNet as an episode of "Dan Rather Reports." The story speaks of adoptions completed 20-50 years ago in which the birthmother was not able to see or touch her baby. She was not allowed to know anything about the adoptive family or the baby after the adoption. The story sheds a strongly negative light on domestic adoption. So now I must get on my soapbox! I would like to publicly shed some light on practices within domestic adoption, and the true beauty of domestic adoption when it is done ethically and holistically.
As most of you know, Illini Christian Ministries is just that… a Christian ministry. In everything that we say and do, we try our best to make it Christ-centered. As I look back over the history of ICM, I am amazed at the wonderful work our agency has done with our clients… especially our birthmothers, all through Christ’s love and grace. In working with birthmothers, we have always desired that they know they are valued and loved. Making an adoption plan for a child can be one of the most selfless, loving things a woman can do for her child.
From the moment a young pregnant woman calls me to inquire about making an adoption plan for her child, my goal is to help her know that she is valued and loved, and every decision she makes is absolutely and completely hers to make. While I am here to assist her in any way she needs, the decisions in the adoption process are all up to her. She can change her mind at any point during the adoption process up until the time that her rights are terminated. This scares most adoptive families… the thought that a birthmother can change her mind. However, in my experience, discussing this with a young woman helps her feel confident in whatever decision she chooses to make. And that is our goal… for her to make a loving decision that she feels confident is the best choice for both her and her baby.
We meet with the young woman several times during her pregnancy and build a relationship with her. During these visits, we discuss the adoption process, ensuring that all of the women’s questions concerning the adoption process and the legalities are answered. During these visits, we also show the birthmother profiles of potential adoptive families. We answer any questions that she has about the family, while protecting their confidentiality. She is able to choose the family herself, and often looks at such factors as if they have children or not, their careers, their family life, etc.
After choosing a family, the birthmother has the option of meeting the adoptive family or not. Again, the decision is completely hers to make. I have worked with some amazing open adoptions, where the family and the young lady have contact with one another, and a lasting relationship is built. I recently worked with a case where myself, the adoptive mother, and the birthmother all had lunch together. It was a great experience, and so emotionally beneficial for both women. The adoptive mother was able to ask the birthmother, “What things would you like me to tell your son about you, his mother?” How wonderful that this little boy will be able to hear stories about his mommy, and how much she loved him?!
In the hospital, the birthmother again makes all of the decisions. It is up to her whether or not she sees and holds the baby. Each woman finds closure in a different way, but most women do prefer to at least see and hold their baby. While this is an emotionally difficult time for the young lady, I am there for her if she needs me, not with an agenda that she make an adoption plan… but as a loving sister in Christ who wants to hold her hand and be there for her.
The birthmother also has the opportunity to name the child if she would like to. This name can always be changed at a later time if the adoptive family chooses to do so. But I have also seen adoptive families want to keep that aspect of their child’s heritage, even if they only keep the name as a middle name.
It is also the birthmother’s decision if she would like the adoptive family to be at the hospital or not. Some women have already built a relationship with the adoptive family, and I have even experienced the adoptive mom being in the delivery room with the birthmom, and they are there to support one another. The birthmother is able to spend as much time in the hospital with her baby as she would like.
Each state has different adoption laws regarding when the birthmother’s rights are terminated. In Illinois the birthmother can sign the paperwork 72 hours after the child is born. Again, I am there to not only explain the paperwork and the process to her, but I am there as an emotional support for her as this can be emotionally draining.
After she has signed the paperwork, ICM’s role is not done.The most important time has just begun. We remain in contact with the birthmother, seeing if she has any needs, physically or emotionally, that we can assist with. We encourage the woman to speak with a therapist and assist her in finding a good therapist. ICM also assists in facilitating ongoing contact with the birthmother and the adoptive family. The two families are able to remain in contact with one another (while still maintaining confidentiality) by sending letters and pictures to our agency, which we then forward on to the other party. This can last for a couple months, or years. We have a family that has remained in contact with their child’s birthmother through the last 17 years. They are now in the process of arranging a meeting with their family and their birthmother. It has blossomed into a beautiful relationship and this young person is blessed with both an adoptive family and a biological family who love him deeply.
Are there agencies and individuals who might conduct adoptions in an unethical manner… unfortunately yes. It is a sad and unfortunate thing. But I promise you that Illini Christian Ministries values and respects our birthmothers, and strives to show these women Christ’s love and compassion through this difficult time. So, Dan Rather, please do not diminish the true beauty of adoption!