- 1976 Gov. Dukakis proclaimed an adoption awareness week in Massachusetts.
- 1984 President Reagan expanded that to a National Adoption Week
- 1995 President Clinton proclaimed November National Adoption Month, stating: “For many people across the United States, adoption provides a means for building and strengthening families. It places children into loving, permanent homes where they can flourish and grow up to become happy, healthy, productive members of our national community. Adoption also enables adults to experience the unique joys of parenthood.”
Much of the emphasis of these proclamations and campaigns has been to move children from the foster care system to permanency. When children enter the foster care system, it is usually because their parents are unable to care for them. Unfortunately, these children are often the victims of abuse and neglect. Sometimes children have lasting scars and need families that can provide the love and stability each child deserves.
Private adoption agencies work with expectant and birth parents that make a choice for their child. These parents make an adoption plan for their child so that their child can have a life that they feel they cannot provide for their child at this time. Making a private adoption plan can keep children out of the foster care system. Through work with expectant and birth parents, they are counseled to make appropriate choices for their children. Many of the women who explore an adoption plan for their child are already single parents, struggling to care for the children that they have at home or trying to work within the child welfare system to regain custody of their children. By providing counseling and resources, adoption agencies strive to enhance the lives of many children; not only those who have been placed for adoption, but for their siblings also. When parents make a plan to place a child for adoption, it is a courageous and loving choice; one that is made with deep personal sacrifice.
Open adoption can ease many of the conflicting feelings that parents have when making an adoption plan. Knowing that they can maintain contact with the parents of their child and be aware of the child’s growth, development and that their child is in a loving family can give them peace of mind.
Those not touched by adoption in a personal manner usually have very little understanding of the adoption process and how it is one of the journeys in life that touch so many of us. National Adoption Month can help educate our society about the positive aspects of adoption.
Amy S. Cohen, LICSW
Adoption has moved from closed to increasing openness. The “Today Show” has been featuring a week long series on “Choosing Adoption.” The show featured Dr. Nancy Snyderman and her adopted daughter’s journey to meet her birth mother for the very first time now that she is 27 years old.
When I began working at Adoptions With Love in October of 1986, unless an adoptive family met the birth mother of their child, they only referred to each other as “birth mother” and “your child’s adoptive parents.” This is how people were instructed to refer to themselves in letters to each other. Today, we have more open adoptions with birth parents and adoptive families exchanging phone numbers, email addresses and last names. Some families are meeting each other yearly or twice yearly. They are texting each other pictures and sharing important events in their child’s life. Families are also communicating via “Face Time” and “Skype.”
Recently, I made flight arrangements for an expectant mom to come to the Boston area to meet the prospective adoptive parents. It is important for her to see the home in which her child will be raised. Why not? She will be entrusting her child’s life to strangers whom she selected from a photo album and letters. She trusts AWL to vet the adoptive parents to raise their child. I am in awe of the courage and the trust the expectant/birth parents put in AWL and the adoptive parents they select. I am surprised that more women do not ask more frequently to meet people in their homes. What I say to prospective adoptive parents is, if you do not take this emotional risk, you will end up with nothing.
This week we had three placements. In each of these the expectant/birth parents and adoptive families have met one another several times and in all cases met members of extended families. What a gift for these children. They will be raised with the awareness of the loving and thoughtful decision their birth parents made in making an adoption plan. The development of these relationships helps give birth/expectant parents peace in making the most difficult decision of their lives.
The result of an open adoption, in the majority of situations, is very positive. Parents have a vast amount of information to share with their child when they have questions about adoption. Most importantly, the expectant/birth parents can have peace with their decision. These are not the adoptions of 40 or 50 years ago.
The relationships between birth and adoptive families are complicated and will change over time. We at AWL are here to aid you in navigating this journey.
Amy S. Cohen, LICSW