Coercion in Adoption: What It Is and Why It Is Wrong

Published on Adoption.com 9/14/15

coercionAdoption coercion is when there is any type of pressure, withholding of information or services, or purposeful manipulation that results in her choosing to place her child for adoption.

Coercion in adoption takes away a woman’s right and ability to make a decision. There are adoption coercion laws in place to protect women when placing their child for adoption, but they vary from state to state. But regardless of the laws of your state, an ethical adoption will ensure that the mother is placing the child on her own accord and without any form of coercion. You may have to do extra research to ensure you are working with an adoption professional who will act not only legally, but ethically as well.

Now you are probably wondering what classifies as coercion. Maybe you are even feeling slightly panicked, wondering if anything was done in your adoption to make your child’s birth mother feel like she didn’t have a choice in her placement. Rest assured that everyone makes plenty of unintentional errors; rather than pointing fingers, the purpose of this article is to educate those pursuing adoption and shape the industry to a better standard moving forward.

As adoptive parents we need to recognize the signs of coercion and stand up for expectant parents who are considering adoption placement.

To read more about adoption coercion and how to avoid participating in adoption coercion, read the rest of the article at adoption.com.

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Radio Interview – Adoption Perspectives

The Adoption Perspectives radio show, out of Denver and sponsored by Parker Adventist Hospital, is hosted by a new friend and fellow adoptive mom who is in some of the same adoption groups with me. She invited me to be a guest on her show and I am so honored to have the opportunity! Thank you Rebecca Vahle for having me on your amazing segment!

Big shout out to all our friends and family who are standing by our side. They processed our infertility and while they may not have understood it at first, they became our biggest supporters in our adoption journey. My sister in law for instance, became our cheerleader and a shoulder to cry on when things were tough.  We had many people in our corner, giving advice or just supporting us and loving us in our journey.  These people ached with us when we experienced our first failed match, as they too were losing a child they were eager to love.  Although hesitant to open up to the possibility of having our second match actually happen, they did and we were blessed with the joy of Ezra.  All of our family has welcomed his first family into ours with open arms.  Thank you, to all of you!

Positive Vs. Honest Adoption Language – Adoption.com

PositivevsHonestLanguage-28 In this crazy journey through life, we are in a constant frenzy of education in how the ways of the world work. Adoption language receives no escape in this evolution. Adoption has been a part of history from the earliest days. Adoption of family members through death or other reasons was common. In tribes, parenting as a village was normal. As adoption became a more formal practice, guardianship took on new roles. From the recent history of closed adoptions being the norm, we have now replaced it with open adoptions. Open adoptions favor the child and have had many studies showing the benefits in helping birth parents and people who were adopted gain insight, healing, and acceptance.

One thing that also evolves in adoption is the language used.  To read the rest of the article, visit adoption.com.

The Right Foot

open adoption

Open Adoption, Open Heart

If I can give one piece of advice, it is that in all the training you will receive, you may not be taught that starting off the relationship on the right foot can never begin too early. When I say that, it means learning positive adoption language is a big deal. You may learn a few things like to use “created an adoption plan” over the dated version of “giving up for adoption”. There are many other situations though that choosing your words carefully can go a long way. But it really isn’t about just being politically correct, it’s about respect.  It’s about understanding people’s feelings.  It’s about willingness to learn.

Today with open adoption being the more normal route domestic adoptions are taking, starting that relationship off with respect is so important. As adoptive parents we are gaining something that we could not achieve on our own; a child. Imagine the heart ache and loss the expecting mother goes through every day leading up to placing her child and will likely feel every day after the placement. Respecting her as a human and the parent of that child shows you love not just her baby, but her as well. And don’t forget about the father, he may or may not be involved, but until you know otherwise, assume he is.

Remember, positive adoption language is not just about being politically correct, but respecting her. Moving forward in an open adoption requires respect. Respecting her for her decision and not just going after her baby and saying “all the right things” will create a lasting relationship that your future child can respect you for. There are many resources out there to ensure you understand positive adoption language. If it is not offered in your adoption training, seek it out for yourself, you’ll be happy you did.

Part of respecting her, is also respecting her story. Respecting that her story is also your future child’s story. People can be nosey when it comes to adoption. Some are genuinely curious about adoption, some just want to the juicy details. So decide how much you want to share with people and stick to it. People will ask all sorts of questions that you never dreamed of. IE. “Why is she giving him up?” “Is she on drugs?” “Does she know who the father is?” “Why doesn’t she want to keep him?” Etc. Keep in mind that what you share with people now, may get back to your child or give the inquisitive people less respect for the birth mother in the future. While you may have the best intentions of sharing the story with people, they may repeat it back at inconvenient times. If your open adoption ends up being like mine, we invite our son’s birth parents and other biological family over a few times a year for family gatherings. We want everyone to feel comfortable. They are all part of our extended family now. While a person may be at a low moment in life at the time of placement, often the reason for them creating an adoption plan is to not to just give their child a better life, but to also give them the ability to improve their own life.

I think that letting the expecting mother know that you will support her in any decision she makes is very important. It shows a great deal of respect. Yes, of course you want to be a parent and adoption is your goal in having this relationship with her, but her knowing that you will be ok if she decides to parent or picks another family over you, goes a long way in her trust in you as good people. But don’t just say it, MEAN IT! Get yourself in the right frame of mind before entering the relationship.  She is not there to make you a parent.  You are there to parent her child.

Starting off on the right foot with the expecting parents will help you in a lifelong respectful relationship that will be cherished by your child and all members of the adoption triad for years to come.

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Creating a “Dear Birthmother” Letter

birth motherOn the adoption forums I frequent, one of the big questions I often see is “What is a birth mother looking for in the letter we are writing?”.   The simple answer is, everyone is different.  There is no way of saying your letter is the perfect letter to be chosen by everyone.  Your letter, however, may be the perfect letter for a specific expecting mother.

So let’s start of with the must haves.

First, no matter what your agency says, do not address your letter with Dear Birth Mother or Birth Parent(s).  This is simply an inaccurate term to use for the woman or parents who have created an adoption plan.  The correct term is Expecting Mother or Expecting Parent(s).  She has not given birth yet and to call her a birth mother is reducing her to a role she may feel obligated to fulfill.  Please respect that until she has given birth and placed the child, she is still an expecting mother.  If you don’t want to write Dear Expecting Parent(s) as your salutation, you can always chose a simple Hi, Hello, or Howdy.  She may not see the difference consciously, but starting off the relationship in a place of respect goes a long way.

Some things to include:

  • Introduction:  Thank her for considering you.  Tell her your names and immediate information, like age and about any other children in your household.
  • Body: Express your lack of understanding on how difficult her decision must be.  Tell her you hope to meet her.
  • Body:  Elaborate on who you are.  Tell her about your family, what brought you to adoption, and what your goals are in raising a child.  Be positive and be yourself.
  • Conclusion:  Thank her again for her time, wish her luck in her journey and sign off with something positive.
  • Include pictures that tell a story of your life.
  • Get creative.  It doesn’t have to look like a formal letter.  It can include graphics, colors, pictures, bullet points, fun (yet easy to read) fonts, etc.  Stick to a 8.5×11 letter, but you can use front and back.
  • Proof read multiple times.

Some things to avoid:

  • Salutation, as mentioned above, do not address her as birth mother or birth parent.
  • Avoid any terms that are negative to adoption or imply you expect her to place her baby for adoption.
  • Don’t try to appeal to every expecting mother, appeal to the one that is the right fit for you.  This is a long term, open relationship, you want it to work.
  • While being positive, don’t be overly flowery.  Be normal.
  • Don’t assume she considered abortion by thanking her for choosing life.  Abortion may have crossed her mind, abortion may have been her first plan, but abortion may have never even been an option.
  • Don’t be more religious than you actually are.  Talk about God or religion the way you would with any day to day person.  If it’s a huge part of your life, include it, otherwise, just give the basics.
  • Don’t talk about your infertility in a lengthy depressing way.  You can mention it in your introduction as why you came to adoption, if that is the reason, but this letter is not the time for a pity party.  She has a big decision to make, don’t make her feel like she owes you a child.
  • Don’t over promise and under deliver.  Stick to honesty.
  • Don’t pretend to know what she is going through unless you have personally placed a child for adoption.
  • Don’t include out of focus, under/overexposed, low resolution, or inappropriate pictures.

Use Positive Adoption Language:

This is not just about being politically correct or sugar coating terms to make the adoption sound more romantic, it is about respecting all members of the adoption triad and having a successful relationship in an open adoption.

  • Birth Mother – instead use “Expecting Mother” or “Expecting Parent(s)”.
  • Give up for adoption – instead use “Place for adoption” or “Create an adoption plan”.
  • Closed adoption – instead educate yourself on open adoption.
  • Thank you for choosing life  – instead use “Thank you for considering adoption”.
  • If you reference possibly keeping their child – instead use “parent your child”.

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