An indication of an ethical adoption agency is what sort of birth parent support they provide. Choosing adoption for their child is one of the most painful decisions in a birth parent’s life. An ethical adoption agency knows this and keeps the best interests of birth mothers and birth fathers in mind.
Finding an ethical adoption professional who supports birth parents is no small task. However, signing on with a birth parent-focused adoption professional comes with many benefits, a safe and legal adoption among them. If you’re just starting your adoption journey, the number of options can be overwhelming. How will you know who to choose?
To help, we’ve put together some questions to ask adoption professionals to ensure their practice is birth parent-focused. We’ll also share the reasons behind Lifetime’s focus on birth parents and what it means for you and your adoption!
Questions to Ask Adoption Professionals
Finding the answers to these questions will help you choose an adoption professional whose practice is ethical and expectant parent-focused.
An ethical adoption professional will ensure that your child’s adoption is emotionally, financially, and physically healthy. Here are our top questions that hopeful adoptive parents can use to evaluate whether a potential adoption partner provides adequate support to birth parents:
- Have birth parents been provided counseling on their options?
Birth parents have the right to objective information on their options, as well as the support and resources they need to make an informed decision free from pressure.
- Do birth parents receive separate legal representation from the adoptive parents?
Expectant parents have the right to their attorney at no cost to them. Receiving separate legal representation ensures they can make an educated, informed decision. In addition, they will receive an adequate explanation of the legal process from a non-biased party.
- Does a birth mother get to choose her child’s adoptive parents?
The adoption agency should present expectant parents with hopeful adoptive parents who match what they are looking for in an adopting family – not the families waiting the longest.
If an adoption agency presents families based on their waitlist, their practice isn’t expectant parent-focused.
- Does the expectant mother get to choose her doctor?
Expectant moms have the right to choose their doctor, hospital to deliver at, and birth plan. Making these choices for her is a coercive practice and a sign of unethical behavior.
- Do you fly birth mothers to another state to place their children?
An adoption agency should never remove a birth mother from her home and support system by flying her to a different state to give birth. Doing so is a sign of an unethical practice meant to coerce women into having a successful placement.
- Do you encourage open adoption?
All parties involved have the right to create a Post-Adoption Contact Agreement to set expectations for future communications and lay the groundwork for relationships. Forming an open adoption agreement sets reasonable expectations and helps hold all involved accountable.
If a professional offers ‘closed adoption’ as an option or encourages you not to tell your child about their adoption until they’re older, these are signs of unethical behavior.
- Does someone from your team support expectant moms in the hospital?
If yes, what does that support look like? Will she be asked to sign anything in the hospital? If no, why not?
- Are both birth parents choosing adoption?
If not, why? Has the birth father been notified of the birth mother’s adoption plan? Birth fathers have rights, and it’s important to involve them as early as possible to ensure your adoption is legal.
- Do you offer post-placement support?
Post-placement support is vital to expectant moms; they should have free access to it.
- Do you ensure a birth mother has access to Medicaid (or insurance) and quality health care?
Most pregnant women can get immediate access to Medicaid, at no cost to them. Make sure your adoption professional will help her get signed up for health care and find a medical provider she is comfortable with.
- How are birth parent expenses handled?
All states have laws surrounding birth parent expenses. Agencies or attorneys willing to break or circumvent these laws are unethical. Offering cash payments or a check for placement is coercive and, in most states, illegal. Expenses should be paid directly to the service providers, such as landlords or utility companies.
- Will an expectant parent ever be offered a lump sum in cash or check?
All states have laws surrounding birth parent expenses. Agencies or attorneys willing to break or circumvent these laws are unethical. Offering cash payments or a check for placement is unethical, coercive, and illegal in most states.
Birth Mother Support Services from Lifetime
Birth mothers and birth fathers are the heart and soul of Lifetime Adoption. These amazing women and men are placing their children for adoption out of great love despite the pain they are causing themselves. We hold these parents in the highest regard, and it is our priority to provide them with all the support and resources they need.
Counseling and Support
To begin with, we offer professional counseling and peer counseling. Lifetime offers licensed third-party counseling to our birth mothers, so the counselor doesn’t have a vested interest in whether she chooses adoption. We do not want a birth mother ever to feel pressured to place her baby for adoption.
We want birth mothers to have the option of speaking with a professional counselor or a peer who has walked in her shoes. Doing so helps her decide if adoption is the right choice for her and her child. Our dedication to supporting birth mothers in this way leads Lifetime Adoption to have one of the lowest reclaim rates among adoption agencies.
Birth Family Involvement
Sometimes, birth fathers and birth grandparents want to be involved in the adoption process as well. We are happy to work with everyone involved in the adoption. There is never too much love for a child, so an adopted child with access to their birth parents and extended birth family can be a wonderful gift.
Our caring adoption coordinators are available to birth families 24 hours a day, seven days a week by text, email, or phone. We are here to listen, help them with their needs, and connect them with the resources they require.
Whether they have just found out they are pregnant, have just decided to place their baby for adoption, or are thinking about adoption for their child, Lifetime is here. Our caring coordinators never judge or make a birth mother feel anything but brave and strong.
Guidance in Creating an Adoption Plan
Once a birth mother has decided on adoption, we work with her to determine what attributes she is looking for in adoptive parents, what she would like the relationship to look like during her pregnancy, and what type and amount of contact she would like after the adoption is final.
Next, we begin showing her adoptive parent’s profiles that we feel would suit her and her baby and connect her online to the adoptive family search.
Once a birth family chooses adoptive parents, we will help navigate the relationship. We will be there for all parties, from the first phone call or text to an eventual meeting. We have extensive experience in forging these relationships and will guide you all through the process.
Referrals to Resources
We are also dedicated to providing expectant mothers with any resources they need during their pregnancy and after. We provide essential items such as maternity clothes, household and personal care necessities, and hospital kits for labor and delivery through our Birth Mother Blessings program.
If a birth mother would like to further her education through college or vocational school after the birth, we direct them to a birth mother scholarship program.
What Does This Mean for Us?
So, now you might be wondering what all of this means to you as adoptive parents. Any birth mother who chooses you has worked with our adoption coordinators and been provided all the information and support needed to make the adoption decision. As a result, any birth mother you speak with will be more secure in her decision to choose adoption for her baby.
We help match adoptive parents and birth parents who have a similar view of what open adoption will look like in the future. Our adoption coordinators help birth mothers create a hospital plan so that everyone knows what will happen when the big day arrives. If the adoption is of a toddler, older child, or sibling group, we will have a professional counselor assist with the transition plan.
At Lifetime Adoption, we know that a successful, happy adoption only happens when all parties are confident with their decisions and happy with the agreed-upon arrangements. Take a look at some of our recent adoptions and believe that you will meet the right birth mother for you, and your story will appear here too!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 17, 2021, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”