Both the courage and trust of those who decide to place their babies for adoption and the enthusiasm of those who adopt them are overwhelmingly vindicated by the tens of thousands of successful adoptions that take place in this country every year.
The New Yorker, editorial
The assumption that a birth mother who could give her child up for adoption is somehow lacking in maternal instinct is far from the truth. Birth parents are often in life circumstances which make it nearly impossible for them to provide proper care and nurturing of their baby. These parents make a loving but heart-wrenching decision to put the needs of their baby before their own. It can be the ultimate sacrifice.
In days past, adoptions were done in secret and records were sealed. It was felt that the child would be better off not knowing anything about her biological family – somehow the burden of knowing would be too great. There was the feeling that the birth mother must not want any contact – after all, why would she give up a baby if she wanted to see her grow up?
Times have changed. Many babies now find their families through open adoption. This process, though charged with much conflicting emotion, can be a loving and compassionate experience for both birth parents and adoptive parents. It takes great courage to give a child up for adoption; a selfless act of protectiveness and love.
Even though a birth mother may know adoption is the right choice, the actual surrendering of the baby may cause her to go through the phases of grief – numbness, shock, denial, depression, anger, guilt, and finally acceptance. Often, there is no acknowledgment of her feelings, or support from family or friends. They simply fail to see this as a loss. Nearly all agencies specializing in open adoption provide counseling to the birth parents to assist them through these emotions and help them come to resolution. Just knowing that someone understands and supports them is comforting.
What about adoptive parents? They may often feel as if they are applying for a job – and in many ways that is true. It may be the most important job of their lives. They want to show what good parents they will be, that they are able to financially support the child, and are trustworthy and responsible. It can be difficult to do this and allow your individual personality to shine through. One of the complaints voiced by birth parents is that all the bios start to sound the same.
Some adoptive parents feel guilty for taking the child from the biological mother – the event can be infused with such wild swings of emotion – and empathy sparks the realization that although the biological mother may be making a sound and positive decision, she feels pain at the separation.
These are challenges that must be dealt with – for all involved – through counseling, honest communication, and respect. Many are able to navigate these waters with grace and aplomb, resulting in the best possible outcome for the child.
Some of the most successful adoptions are open, with the biological mother and her extended family participating in a blanket of love and support for the child. The children seem to benefit from the idea that they have a very large group of people who love them. Contrary to what some naysayers claim, most of these children have no confusion about the role each of the players holds in their lives.
Who should adopt? Being a loving parent entrusted to raise a healthy, happy child is not an exclusive ability of two heterosexual Caucasian parents. Parents come in all types, ethnicities, sexual orientation, marital status, religion and age. To be a parent simply means you love a child unequivocally, and put his or her needs first. You are a teacher of life and champion cheerleader.
In Florida just a few years ago, it was illegal for a gay couple to adopt. They could, however, be a foster parent. Apparently the Florida legislature felt it was safe for a gay couple to act as an ‘interim’ parent to the most vulnerable of children, but as permanent parents – they just didn’t cut it. Their lawmakers finally came to their senses and realized the hypocrisy.
Not so long ago, single parents-to-be and interracial couples were also discouraged from adopting. The narrow view of who makes a good parent has, thankfully, changed. Now, many open-adoption agencies are encouraging birth parents to be actively involved in the choice of adoptive parents for their baby. This empowering method gives a voice to the birth parent, and engenders a much higher success rate for the adoption, and therefore the child. Families come in all shapes and sizes – those who are successful are the ones with plenty of love and support to go around.
Adopted children may have the same issues as biological children, and some unique to their own situation. Particularly in adolescence, it is normal for an adopted child to ask about the biological parent, and want to understand why that parent decided to give them up. An open adoption with extended families involved can make this transition to adulthood easier. Hurt and anger can take center stage while the child works the problems out. Feelings of rejection and loss are valid to a teen, who may view life in a less comprehensive and understanding way than an adult. Counseling can be very critical at this point to help adolescents develop their own sense of identity and self-worth.
The good news is that given a loving and nurturing family, a supportive and positive birth and extended family, adopted children can grow into confident, self-assured and productive adults.
Adoption Choices of Northern California (run by Women’s Health Specialists) offers a wonderful program of open-adoption, without bias due to age, marital status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion. They firmly believe that the birth parent is the obvious choice to decide who will raise their child. Encouraging the birth parent(s) and adoptive parents to have open, honest communication and develop their own relationship for the sake of the child, they open the possibilities and opportunities for the child to succeed in life. What more could you ask?
For more information, see:
Women’s Health Specialists, in partnership with Citizens for Choice, runs The Clinic! in Grass Valley. www.citizensforchoice.org