Many today lack direct exposure to the adoption process, leading to misconceptions about its workings. While adoption has evolved significantly over the last century, there’s plenty of confusion between older practices and modern methods.
Whether you’re involved in or considering adoption for your family, you might encounter perplexing myths. Among these, the most baseless and inaccurate revolve around birth mothers, perpetuating damaging stereotypes over time.
Despite its importance, adoption ranks lowest in public understanding, according to a recent study. Most individuals admit to a lack of knowledge about adoption, even though many have a personal connection to it. Engaging with an adoption professional can offer clarity on the process. In the meantime, here’s the truth behind common adoption myths about birth mothers that people hold.
Adoption Myths Video
This video clears up some of the most common myths surrounding adoption. Watch to learn how revealing the truth behind these harmful myths can help more people feel comfortable considering adoption. Then, continue reading to learn 10 of the most common myths people believe about birth mothers.
By clearing up these harmful myths, we can help change the public’s view of adoption and celebrate birth mothers everywhere for their loving, selfless, and brave decision.
- Adoption is “giving up”
- Birth mothers are usually in their teens
Most people think women who choose adoption are very young. In reality, most are in their twenties or thirties. Some are single mothers with other children. Others are young professionals. But all birth mothers share one common bond: they are mothers who want the best life possible for their child.
If you believe the myths about birth mothers, you think they’re all teens who got pregnant by mistake with their boyfriends. The adoption myth says this birth mother had to drop out of school, and she has no job. She’s on welfare because her parents kicked her out of their house. No doubt, this has happened before, but most birth parents aren’t teenagers, and this isn’t their story.
- Birth mothers are poor
Birth mothers are often some of the hardest-working people. Like other American parents, they want to provide for their children.
It’s true that some birth mothers are on welfare and can’t provide for their children. Often, these mothers feel they are just getting by but simply cannot provide for one more child in the midst of all they are already doing.
It’s also true that birth mothers come from middle-class backgrounds with degrees and well-paying jobs. So, the adoption myth that all birth mothers are poor is simply not true.
- Birth mothers are on drugs
Adoption myths spread fear. While some birth mothers struggle with substance abuse, most do not. Lumping all birth mothers into one category spreads fear and misunderstanding.
When prospective adoptive parents believe these myths, they may change their minds about adoption. There is no evidence of this myth. Just like other people, birth mothers are healthy, respectable people who take care of themselves during their pregnancy. They avoid harmful substances, knowing it’s not healthy for them or the baby.
- Birth mothers are unmarried
Some birth mothers aren’t married, but many are married with children. Married couples are sometimes surprised by an unplanned pregnancy.
For a struggling family, the decision to place a child in adoption is heart-wrenching and difficult. Adoption is especially difficult for a couple who cannot afford another child or whose relationship is strained to a near-breaking point.
- Birth mothers have no education and no job skills
Many birth mothers are college graduates with good jobs and prominent positions. Most of them have completed high school and have held jobs for many years.
Many are currently parenting other children, which can be a full-time job.
Some of these birth mothers are raising a child with a learning disability, and the thought of caring for a new baby is overwhelming to them.
- Birth parents can show up at any time to “take back” their child
This adoption myth lingers about birth mothers. A birth mother has a certain time period in which she can revoke consent of the adoption, usually no more than 30 days. After that, she can no longer change her mind.
Open adoption does not mean that the birth mother wants to co-parent. With this kind of adoption, a birth mother gets to know the prospective adoptive parents before she places her baby with them. After placement, she can witness her child growing up through updates that the adoptive parents email her, phone calls, and even visits.
The adoptive parents are the child’s legal parents, so they make all parenting decisions. Through the open adoption process, the birth mother has peace in her heart and mind knowing she’s made the right decision.
This particular myth causes adoptive parents to worry their child’s birth mother will show up at their front door demanding her child back. Most birth mothers work countless hours creating an adoption plan to make the transition for their child as seamless as possible. The last thing they want to do is come back and disrupt what they’ve created.
- Birth mothers don’t care who adopts their child
Most birth mothers spend many hours creating an adoption plan and choosing the perfect loving home for their child. She may view hundreds of adoptive parent profiles before finally selecting the perfect family. As a birth parent, she wants a loving home where her child can grow into a strong, happy adult.
- Birth mothers forget their children
This adoption myth could not be farther from the truth. A birth mother may not raise her child, but she won’t forget them.
Emotionally, she’ll carry her child. Like any other mother, birth mothers hold their children in their hearts every day of their life.
- Birth mothers regret their decision
When a birth mother decides to place her child for adoption, it’s because she knows she can’t raise her child herself. Her decision is well-thought-out, even though this is the hardest decision she’s ever made.
She will experience grief and may wish things had been different. But many birth mothers don’t live with regret because they know they did the best they could in the circumstances.
The term “put up for adoption” comes from the 1800s, when children were coming off the orphan train. They’d step up onto platforms and wait for a family to choose them. But that language is outdated; it’s not “giving up,” “giving away,” or “putting up.” It’s “making an adoption plan;” it’s “placing a child for adoption.” Thinking a birth mother doesn’t love her baby is far from the truth.
The decision to place a child for adoption is an extremely difficult one, often made because the birth mother loves her child. She could have had an abortion, but because she values the life of her baby, she has decided adoption is best. Adoption isn’t “giving up;” it’s thoughtfully making a plan to provide her child with a brighter future. She wants her child to grow up in a loving home with stable adoptive parents who will give her child the opportunities she could never provide.
What is the Typical Birth Mother Like?
Many people believe these myths because they have never heard otherwise. So, who is a typical birth mother?
She is someone in her twenties, parenting other children, and wants a better life for her child than what she can provide. This birth mother may have a man in her life, but likely not one that is currently taking the role of an active dad to her kids. She realizes adoption is a difficult decision, but she knows it’s the best choice for the child.
This birth mother also knows that while ongoing contact may be painful sometimes, she needs the reassurance that her child is growing up happy, healthy, and with the adoptive family she chooses for them.
Myths develop because not enough is known about a person or situation. Myths about birth mothers are no different. They have evolved from a variety of sources, and society has come to develop them into a stereotype birth mother. These adoption myths are based on unfounded, false notions and can be hurtful to the people they represent.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 22, 2011, and has since been updated.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.