“I want to place my baby for adoption, but my mother is my only emotional support system and she is against adoption,” E, an anguished 23-year-old, confided this week. How could I help her see adoption as a positive choice? Phoning me from the hospital hours after giving birth to a fourth child, she described feeling overwhelmed trying to raise her three other children, ranging in age from 2 to 5. Even worse, E was homeless and had been living with an abusive grandfather during the pregnancy who “would not let me come back to his house with another baby.” Her mother’s “support” consisted of some babysitting, but no financial assistance, and the baby’s birth father was absent. That afternoon her mother was coming to the hospital to visit and I arranged to contact her that evening to see if she had convinced her sole backup to approve an adoption. When I phoned E at 5:15, my call went to voice mail and I never heard from her.
What impact will parenting that fourth child have on E’s other children? How will she break the cycle of poverty, homelessness, and despair? Why wouldn’t her mother view adoption as a positive choice for her daughter, her new grandchild, and her three other grandchildren? Perhaps E’s mother incorrectly thought of adoption as the involuntary termination of her daughter’s parental rights through the State and placing her grandchild in the often harrowing limbo of moving from impermanent foster home to impermanent foster home, rather than the very different private adoption process I tried to offer. In a private adoption, E would choose and meet a legally qualified adoptive family to provide a permanent home for her child, sign a voluntary consent to adoption and termination of her rights, receive counseling and legal representation, and even arrange for post-adoption contact with her child if she wished.
Public perception of adoption is improving as archaic notions of adoption as shameful for birth and adoptive families are debunked. Another factor contributing to acceptance is the increasingly diverse ways families are formed, with adoption as just one of many routes, from step-parenthood to parenthood via sperm and ova donation to same sex parenthood. More education and advocacy about private adoption could help women like E and her mother view adoption as a positive choice.