Most people are still surprisingly unaware of how adoption has changed over the years.
It used to be that American adoptions were kept secret. Folks whispered about “girls in trouble” who went away to a maternity home to hide being “pregnant out of wedlock” and to “give a baby up for adoption,” never knowing where the child went. Birthmothers were expected to forget it ever happened, and to go on to marry and “have children of their own” later on in life. The adoptive couples were typically ashamed of “being barren” and were urged not to tell anyone they had adopted– including the adopted child. “Raise him/her like your own,” they were told, “and never think about where your child came from because it doesn’t matter, your love is all they’ll need.” Adoptees who did find out they’d been born to and raised by different parents were told to keep it secret, to always be grateful to their adopters and to never betray them by showing any interest in their origins.
That might have been fine, except that it really didn’t work– not for the parents that placed, not for the parents who adopted, and most of all, not for those people who’d been adopted yet always had the nagging sense that something or someone was missing. (Even those who weren’t told they were adopted, curiously enough.)
Good Plans Start with Honesty
See, human beings have a basic, intrinsic need to know their own stuff. They need to be able to know their own truth in order to know and accept and yes, to love themselves. That’s important. Adoptionfolk didn’t always “get” how important that was… but most do, now. That’s one of the most important ways how adoption has changed.
Nowadays, ethical adoption agencies like Abrazo take time to educate and counsel placing parents and adopting parents about the importance of being open and transparent. About the effects of adoption loss. And the need for adoptee rights. One way how adoption has changed is that the best adoption professionals are honest and upfront with clients about the parts of the adoption process that are going to be hard, like why child- placement can trigger feelings of loss and grief? The best adoption professionals help parents know in advance how to respond when issues do arise. “(And they will– because that’s just a normal part of any parenting &/or adoption experience.)
Not everyone wants to learn this stuff right from the start, so it doesn’t exactly “sell” people on adoption. Yet it’s part of helping parents make a good adoption decision– and sometimes, helping people decide if adoption is best or not, Because adoption isn’t right for everyone, and if it’s going to be right for anyone, it must be done right for the child/ren at the center of that plan.
Parents in Partnership
Parents planning to place a child for adoption can get counseling free of charge. Abrazo has waiting parent profiles available on line for their review. Prospective birthparents can talk or text with those families they like, meet in person and get to know each other weeks or months before they actually make the legal decision to place or not. They are able to know the adopting parents’ full names and address upfront (and why not? Nobody would even trust a childcare worker who refused to share a last name or location, right?)
Expectant moms are treated with respect at Abrazo, and not hidden away in maternity homes anymore. In Texas, a licensed agency like Abrazo can provide pregnant mothers with counseling, housing, medical care, food, clothes, utilities, rights to the doctor or agency or hospital, and necessary childcare during hospitalization. Support continues for the first couple of months after placement, to help the mom recover and get back on her feet. And counseling remains available as long as it’s needed.
These days, all parents considering placing or adopting have the right to walk away from the plan if it becomes evident it isn’t right for them and the child. (All they owe anyone is just an honest answer.) That’s one of the ways adoption has changed, because it used to be folks thought they had to say yes or else. Having as much time as she needed was important to Tamara, a mother who wasn’t sure whether she could give her baby up for adoption or not. “I didn’t know how I would feel? I knew my relatives wouldn’t agree no matter what I did. But I needed to know I wouldn’t be judged by the agency either way.” After the birth, she took her baby home with her for 3 weeks before she finally made the decision that adoption was going to be best for him. “I know it was harder this way, cuz we did bond and all. But I had to be sure, and this way, I had time to know it for sure.”
Another way how adoption has changed is that we now know that the only ethical adoptions are those that are child-centered. Adoption used to be about orphanages and agencies making Godlike decisions about who had the right to adopt and which baby went to what couple. It’s not that way anymore! Nowadays, placing parents have a say in which couple they want their child to be raised by. And adopting parents have the right to say “yes, we want to match” or “no, that match doesn’t feel right for us.”
These decisions always need to take into full account what is going to be optimal (and a good fit) for the child who would be adopted. It’s the duty of adoption professionals to help all the parents make sure the adoption plan is truly child-centered.
When Davis & Denise began their quest to adopt, they wanted a baby who would look just like the biological child they couldn’t have. That way, they thought, there would be less questions asked. After learning about adoption, however, they came to realize that adoptees with questions tend to grow into healthier people. They refocused their search for placing parents who had similar values and were invested in open adoption. That way, their adopted child could always have ready access to answers about their heritage and their adoption.
Any placing parent who chooses an adoptive couple because of their income or the size of their mansion is probably as misguided as the adopting couple who picks someone to match with based on how pretty they are and how little contact they’ll want after adoption. (Those are prime examples of adoption plans that really aren’t child-centered and may become problematic placements for the adoptee in time,)
Inclusive and Intentional
The most important thing about how adoption has changed is that we now recognize that adoption doesn’t end with placement… that’s just the beginning! Adoptive parents now understand the need to start telling the baby or child they’ve adopted the true adoption story from Day One. Birthparents now realize that they can still have a role to play in the child of the child they’ve placed. In Abrazo’s adoptions, the parents that place(d) and the parents who adopt(ed) keep in touch after placement.
They exchange calls, texts and mailings and FaceTime and visit just like any other relatives do.
Being inclusive and intentional means all the parents of the adoptee see themselves as a team, and they don’t fear each other because they all bring something unique to the child’s life. Birthparents offer roots, adoptive parents provide wings.
For adoptees we know and love, who have never not known their birthfamily, how adoption has changed for them means the benefits of open adoption free them from rejection and shame. For kids like Camp Abrazo regulars Hank, Garrett and Madelyn, Joah and Avery, Lexi and Amanda, Kate, Mckenna, Mikayla, Katherine and Addison, Ty and Selah, Kate and so many others, there’s never been a day in their lives that they didn’t know their own truth. Adoption doesn’t define who they are, but it should provide the truth of how they got to be where they are and with whom. Their birthmothers’ pregnancies may have been unplanned, yet their adoptions were carefully planned, so their lives have never been “an accident” in any way. Modern adoption is both inclusive and intentional, as it affirms that there’s no such thing as a child being loved too much nor by too many relatives.
And all of these changes are proof positive of how modern adoption has changed, for good– at Abrazo, at least.