Dealing with Change
Ask anybody who has ever placed a child for adoption, adopted a child or been adopted, and they can tell you plenty about the adjustments that are required when dealing with change in life.
As we have often mentioned at our Parents of Tomorrow Orientation Weekends, it’s often been said that the only constant in life is change, and with change comes stress, because what we already know is our “normal” and anything new or different requires adjustment to the unknown, and that is almost always stressful.
Mental health professionals teach that there are basically two kinds of stress: there’s the negative stress that is commonly known as “distress,” that icky, gnawing feeling that something is unfamiliar or out of our control. And then there’s the less commonly-known term for positive stress, which is “eustress,” which is that exciting-but-nervous feeling that propels people going through change forward, into new growth.
So the lesson to be learned is that nothing ever stays the same, that change requires adaptation on everyone’s parts, and that this is likely to invoke both positive and negative feelings along the way, as we get to wherever we’re going.
Anyone who ever survived nine months of pregnancy knowing that in the end, they intended to place can probably relate. So can anyone who ever hoped to adopt and waited through a match, only to discover how quickly everything in life can change afterwards, regardless of the outcome. And adoptees surely know this feeling, as they grow up with answers provided to them by others and eventually embrace their own sense of identity.
Adoption Has Changed
On a smaller scale, if you want an example of how big changes can occur in a relatively short span of time, you could look at the more than 1400 infertile couples who have come to Abrazo over the past 23.9 years. Despite documented infertility, they still harbored dreams of building their families, and at Abrazo, they succeeded in making those dreams come true, most in less than 12 months time, and a startling number of them did so in six months or less.
On a larger level, though, consider how drastically adoption has changed over the century. It was one hundred years ago that the first state in America implemented closed adoption records (in Minnesota in 1917,) in hopes of sparing foundlings and orphans the public indignities of being “born out of wedlock” and discriminated against, as a result. A whole adoption industry grew out of such laws, as orphanages and adoption agencies and adoption attorneys and adoption facilitators began serving as the gatekeepers that arranged adoptions and hid the parties from each other under a cloak of “confidentiality.”
Society’s love-hate relationship with illegitimacy and birth control gave rise in the fifties, sixties and seventies, to what came to be known as the “Baby Scoop Era,” in which tens of thousands of unwed-but-pregnant American women were hidden away in maternity homes in anticipation of secret (aka closed) adoptions. By the ’80s, however, social workers and adoption professionals had begun questioning the liabilities of secrecy and shame in adoption, thus the pendulum swung back towards a more open approach to adoption. Many who feared such transparency sought to complete costly closed adoptions internationally, yet the corruption sometimes entailed in such arrangements led to global prohibitions that have since curtailed foreign adoptions drastically.
Nowadays, the vast majority of privately-arranged domestic adoptions do entail some level of openness, and a growing number of state legislatures are mandating open records access for adult adoptees, righting a civil rights injustice that has prevailed for far too long already. Likewise, a growing number of adoptions nowadays are being arranged independently by attorneys or via the internet. Some of America’s largest, best-known adoption agencies are battling to stay relevant in an ever-changing society, in which single motherhood is increasingly common, abortion rates continue to rise, and the numbers of babies being placed for adoption drops every year.
Changes at Abrazo
All of these changes do not happen in a vacuum, of course, and the changes around us invariably require changes within Abrazo’s programs, as well. Our agency struggles to keep fees as low as possible, even as overhead costs for rent and health insurance continue to skyrocket. Many small nonprofits like Abrazo find it difficult to keep staff salaries competitive with a booming for-profit job market. In just the past decade, outreach options such as the Yellow Pages have disappeared, as more and more prospective clients use the internet to explore their adoption options. Open adoption relationships are changing, too, as technology changes commonly-preferred means of communication from phone calls to texts and emails, and as Skyping and Facetime begin to replace in-person visits.
Like most adoption programs nationwide, Abrazo is facing a season of change, as well. Staffing changes necessitate the hiring of a new social worker, and our part-time post-adoption caseworker is retiring this week, so a “changing of the guard” is already in the works. The agency website is about to undergo a major revision, and we hope to re-evaluate all our policies and program requirements before the year’s end, in order to identify needed updates and make timely adjustments. Abrazo has always prided itself on being “the little adoption agency that can” and much as we hope to continue doing great things with a tiny budget, it may be necessary to redefine our agency’s goals in light of limited resources and ever-changing societal needs.
On top of all this, the State of Texas has made a recent decision to completely overhaul its Department of Family & Protective Services and the Residential Childcare Licensing division, so big changes are in the works that will inevitably impact every licensed adoption agency in this state in the year to come. Yet as a longtime Abrazo board member, Karen Stumbough, reminds us: “Adoption– and adoptees– prove to be resilient in an ever-changing world.” Truly, this wisdom should serve as inspiration for us all, as we contemplate adoption’s future in America.
Dealing with change, whether in our individual lives or in the workplace, is never easy, but hopefully, all the growing pains will prove beneficial in time. Thank you for your loyalty, patience and support as we work through upcoming changes and strive to make adoption at Abrazo even better for all.