Healthcare providers like social workers, nurses, doctors and others are often the first persons a pregnant individual or couple talks to when they’re confronting an unplanned pregnancy. If you find yourself in this situation, here’s some information to help you give helpful, accurate advice.
What Healthcare Providers Need To Know About Adoption and Unplanned Pregnancy
Your first discussion with a pregnant individual or couple who’s unsure about what to do will be a challenge. We suggest you begin by reviewing their options, that is, parenting, abortion,or adoption.
This can be an emotional and overwhelming time for the patient. Presenting unbiased, fact-based information about the options will help ease tension. Listen, answer questions, and give them resources to help them make a decision. Remember, the decision belongs to the pregnant individual.
You can also refer pregnant individuals and couples to us. Our compassionate, experienced counselors are experts at conveying the needed information and creating a pressure-free, judgment-free environment.
Friends in Adoption offers free workshops that cover the basic information you’ll need for this initial talk.
Types of Adoption
There are private, public, independent, and international adoptions. This guide focuses on private adoptions since those involve adoption agencies like Friends in Adoption.
When it comes to private adoption, you may hear terms used like open adoption, closed adoption, semi-open, and even semi-closed. The reality is that every adoption is unique and falls on a continuum from open to closed. The actual relationships are set by choices that are negotiated by birth and adoptive parents.
Defining “open” and “closed” adoption
Here are brief explanations of terms:
This is an adoption in which the adoptive and birth families share identifying information and have contact with each other during the pregnancy and after the placement. After placement, the relationship continues through photos, cards and letters, emails and texts, and even in-person visits. The type and frequency of contact depends on what the birth parents and the adoptive family have agreed to.
In this case, the identities of the adoptive family and birth family remain confidential, and there’s no contact prior to or after the placement of the child. Communication and information to be shared between goes through a third party, often an adoption agency, until the child reaches legal age (usually 18-21).
Most private adoptions exist in the middle ground between open and closed. There are a lot of options for how the relationships among the birth parents, adoptive family, and adopted child can work. An adoption for one family will look very different from another.
The choices in any adoption are up to the pregnant individual or couple and the adoptive family.
Planned and Unplanned Adoptions
Many birth mothers/parents will work with an adoption agency to develop an adoption plan which will include what should happen before, during and after the birth. If you’ll be involved in the birth, you should have a copy of that plan and understand your part in it.
On the other hand, sometimes the decision to place the baby for adoption is made at the hospital. In that case, you’ll want a partner you can trust. Friends in Adoption is a licensed, full service newborn adoption agency that is ready to help.
Supporting An Adoption Plan
Most private adoption placements in the U.S. take place in the hospital shortly after birth, so nurses, physicians, hospital social workers, and even administrative staff have a major impact on how the experience is perceived by birth and adoptive families.
In current adoptions the prospective biological parents are in charge. Pregnant individuals and couples have more choices and resources than ever before. The adoption process empowers them to make a plan they feel is best for their baby.
To better support prospective birth and adoptive parents, we encourage healthcare providers and facilities to:
- Establish a system that quickly and discreetly alerts hospital staff to a patient’s adoption plan. Facilities need to let staff know that an individual is considering adoption so they can be sensitive to the patient’s specific needs and emotions.
- Review and understand the patient’s adoption plan. Make sure you’re clear on the choices the birth mother has made.
- Partner with the adoption agency’s case manager. The case manager is an excellent resource for information on adoption in general, as well as the specifics of the pregnant individual’s adoption plan.
- Respect the birth mother’s decisions. Do not pressure her to do something she doesn’t want to do.
- Accommodate the needs of the adoptive family as much as possible.
- Use positive adoption language. For example, instead of saying “giving a baby up for adoption,” say “making an adoption plan,” “choosing adoption,” or “placing a baby for adoption.”
- Respect the confidentiality of your patient. Birth mothers will have made clear decisions about with whom and how to share their adoption decision. It is crucial not to disclose anything to anyone about a patient’s adoption plan without express permission to do so.
Adoption is a legal process. Adoption laws vary by state and can be complex and difficult to understand. We recommend you don’t provide legal advice.
Pregnant individuals considering adoption can be connected with the legal counsel they need through a reputable adoption agency like Friends in Adoption. We provide free and independent legal counsel to pregnant individuals.
Myths and Realities of Adoption
There are a lot of misconceptions about adoption even though it helps over 100,000 children find loving homes in the United States every year. Here are four commonly held myths along with the realities you should understand.
“Giving up” a child for adoption is an outdated phrase that can convey a negative connotation. The truth is adoption is a selfless act of love for a baby that has nothing to do with “giving up” on a child. Current terminology is that a child is placed for adoption.
In reality open adoption has positive outcomes since an open adoption is an ongoing relationship between the birth family, adoptive family and the child that grows over time.
Many people think that birth mothers who choose adoption are primarily teenagers who feel they’re too young to raise a baby. In fact, birth mothers who place babies for adoption are of all ages. They may be married or in a committed relationship. They may have other children. They all have their own reasons for choosing adoption.
A baby who has special needs is not less adoptable than other children. There are families who adopt babies with special needs because they have the knowledge, love, and patience to help those children grow and thrive.
The Adoption Process for Birth Parents
Every adoption is unique. Each pregnant individual or couple comes into adoption with their own back story. The same is true of prospective adoptive families. An ethical adoption agency will guide the pregnant individual through the process and allow them to make their own decisions.
Here’s an explanation of our adoption process for pregnant individuals.
Birth Parents’ Rights
Adoption can give pregnant individuals and couples a chance to play a significant role in defining the future they want for their child. Birth parents have certain rights in adoption. Here are what we consider to be the most important ones.
Birth parents have the right to:
- Choose their level of participation in all phases of the adoption planning process.
- Select and meet the family they want to raise their child (if they want to).
- See, hold and spend time with their baby at the hospital (if they decide to).
- Have an experienced adoption attorney provided to them at no cost.
- Be treated with dignity and respect.
- Review profiles of families who have been carefully screened, educated and meet all state requirements to adopt, or choose to have their case manager handle this process.
- Select the adoption type that best fits their unique situation.
- Have any and all their questions answered completely and honestly.
- Receive education, guidance, and support during the adoption process and into the future.
Adoption As An Alternative to “Safe Havens”
Many state legislatures have passed what’s called Safe Haven laws. These laws let birth parents leave an infant at certain locations anonymously if they feel unable to care for the infant, locations like hospitals, or fire and police stations. Parents who leave their newborn at these designated locations can do so without fear of criminal prosecution.
Here’s a comparison of “Safe Haven” placements and adoption.
The decision to leave a baby at a “Safe Haven” is often made when birth parents are under extreme pressure – the baby is born, and decisions about parenting have to be made immediately. Safe Haven laws create safety for birth parents and infants. However, these placements are permanent and immediate. A decision made in a time of extraordinary pressure will have a long-lasting impact on the birth family and their baby.
The choice of adoption for an unplanned pregnancy can be made at any point either during the pregnancy or after birth. Reputable adoption agencies will help with resources that can support birth parents as they decide their path. Adoption agencies can work quickly to put an adoption plan in place for a baby.
With a Safe Haven placement, the baby goes into the foster care system. Placement with a permanent family can take years in this instance. With adoption, a newborn can often be placed with a permanent family very quickly.
Reputable agencies let birth parents control their baby’s adoption process. Pregnant individuals and couples can choose the adoptive family and the kind of relationship they’d like to have with them.
By choosing Safe Haven, birth parents will not have a say in who adopts the baby, and they won’t be able to specify the amount and type of future contact. Because safe haven drop offs are completely anonymous, the child and their future parents will not know their social and medical history.
An unplanned pregnancy can take a major emotional toll, not only now but in the future. Reputable adoption agencies offer birth mothers support and counseling at no charge – before, during, and after the adoption. Also, many adoption agencies provide access to free legal counsel. With a Safe Haven placement, there’s no access to these free services.
Characteristics of a Reputable, Ethical Adoption Agency
By reputable, ethical agency we mean one that’s:
- Committed to inclusivity (i.e., serves all types of families, no matter the race, ethnicity, marital status, age, religion, disability, income, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression)
- Provides a no-pressure, judgment-free environment that empowers the pregnant individual to make their own decisions
- Provides free services like counseling and legal advice
- Provides lifelong support
Keeping Your Facility Out of Legal Trouble
Adoption laws vary by state. It’s best to consult your organization’s legal counsel on relevant adoption laws in your state. To avoid putting yourself or your staff in a situation that could create a conflict of interest or violate clinic or hospital protocols, the best course of action is to refer the pregnant individual to a licensed adoption agency. If you have any questions, please contact 1-800-982-3678 / 1-800-98-ADOPT. Our staff is here to help!