3 things to ask an adoption agency (from a birthmother’s prospective)

As we get close to wrapping up National Adoption Awareness Month I wanted to say thank you for everyone that has been sharing their experiences and their stories through this journey.  It has been eye-opening, healing and so powerful, and it’s opened the door for really hard but honest conversation about adoption.  

For those that aren’t aware I have launched Lifetime Healing, LLC.  It is the nation’s first post placement curriculum and training for adoption professionals.  As we prepare to train all over the country in 2018 we wanted to bring the conversation here to Kindred + Co.  

One question that I get a lot as an advocate for post placement support is “what are we supposed to look for in an agency?”

It is so important that we hold the adoption professionals accountable for the services they are providing –  I truly believe that the adoptive parents hold so much power.  You can love and honor birth mothers well from the minute you start the adoption process.  

We need healthy and holistic adoption agencies.  We need the services that they can provide.  Without agencies, we are left with private lawyers and online matching, not that they don’t have their value or place, but it eliminates any post-placement support or advocacy work through the process.  

Here are a few things that we think should be deal breakers when choosing an agency:

  1. Do you offer separate legal representation/caseworker for the expectant mothers?
    A lot of times smaller agencies will have staff that services BOTH the hopeful adoptive parents and the expectant parents.  As you can imagine, there are few concerns with this structure.  I believe that it is unrealistic to expect the agencies to be able service the needs of both families through every need, every emotional hill and every question that comes up in this very demanding process.  The work that the adopting parents alone have to go through is enough to keep anyone completely occupied.  Each person involved deserves unique and specific attention.  It is too easy for things to fall through the cracks, for people to get neglected in times of need and it is impossible to offer true advocacy for one side when torn between both.  This includes an opportunity to serve the expectant mother in the hospital when she typically doesn’t have an advocate that can be a powerful voice for her when she may feel silenced.  
  2. Do you encourage an open adoption contract/mediation for families?  
    I know, I know!  We all have the very best intentions when we go into these relationships.  We love the mothers well and we can’t ever imagine not wanting an open adoption but the reality is WE DON’T KNOW HOW WE ARE GOING TO FEEL.  We can’t predict emotion, grief, new baby life, and more.  It makes such a difference for the women that place to have some peace of mind that you care enough to make some solid commitments.  The feeling of being used for our babies is VERY real and knowing that you are willing to put on paper your willingness to keep her in this lifelong process is powerful.  It opens the doors for trust, love and healthier open adoption relationships and this is a blessing for all involved.  Even if the agencies are going to tell you that these are not necessary, that they are not legally binding in all states, that you can just play it by ear please stand firm in your desire to ease the heart of the birth mother.
  3. Do you offer post placement care?  
    If you pay attention every agency has some sort of post placement care offering on their website but when you start to ask questions you find that it comes with restrictions, cost or limited to ONLY one-on-one-therapy with their social worker, which tends to be a huge trigger.  Agencies will typically say “if you decide you want therapy, we are here for you”.  But statistics show that less than 15% will actually come back to that form of support.  There needs to be a variety of services, community support and peer groups with women that can relate to their journey.  Lifetime support should not be a luxury that costs families more money, it should be a standard.  If the agencies are going to stand with the mothers in the destruction, then they should be there in the rebuild!  Our mission for Lifetime Healing is to not only train these agencies on how to run these groups but to provide the concrete tools to help them stay consistent and successful.  

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. One vital key to a healthy open adoption is a healthy birth mother and that is not possible if she is not presented with support from the beginning.  We need to close the gap from the time she leaves the hospital empty handed to the time she finds a group on her own.  The sooner the better.  For more information on our services or if you have an agency that would be interested in this information please head on over to lifetimehealingadoption.com.

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