San Antonio, TX, February 22, 2016 --(PR.com
)-- A large, well-funded adoption agency in New York recently launched a public appeal to find 5-10 new foster homes to provide interim care for infants born to mothers considering adoption, and the national media predictably jumped on the story.
"Adoption Agencies Seeking Volunteers to Cuddle, Nurture Newborns," screamed headlines, implying that across America, babies are awaiting adoption and in need of strangers willing to rock them in the interim. Adoption expert Adam Pertman weighed in, telling ABC News that due to funding limitations, adoption agencies "probably need volunteer labor" more than ever.
Suddenly, adoption agencies from coast to coast were swamped with inquiries from a concerned public, excited about the opportunity to cuddle babies in need. Adoption professionals, who are under strict licensing standards, have had to explain over and over again that careful background checks and hours of training are required before adoption agencies can possibly put any volunteers in touch with children in care.
The truth is that most progressive adoption agencies rarely use foster care in voluntary infant placements anymore.
Unlike years ago, when babies went immediately from the hospital to a foster home for months before a mother surrendered legal rights and an adoptive family was chosen, most infant adoptions today are what is known as "direct placements," meaning the newborn goes from the birthmother's arms to the adoptive parents' care. Mothers today can choose an adoptive family during pregnancy and relinquish parental rights after birth but while still hospitalized, enabling infants to leave a hospital with their new adoptive families.
Mothers who are uncertain as to whether or not they wish to place a baby for adoption always have the option of taking their baby home, until they are sure of their decision. Only those who are hesitant to do so have a need for substitute care, known as "cradle care" or "foster care." For those who do need someone else to care for their child temporarily, using foster care provided by an adoption agency may cause a mother to feel pressured to go through with an adoption plan, rather than a foster care agency that does not provide adoption services.
What adoption agencies nationwide know all too well is that the numbers of American mothers willing to consider voluntary adoption fall incrementally every year. The historical stigma of single parenting is largely a thing of the past, and there are more financial resources available to unwed parents now than ever before in history.
National child abuse and neglect statistics have not fallen as fast as adoption numbers have, however, and more children are homeless than than have been in decades. What most adoption agencies seem to need most nowadays is not volunteer baby rockers as much as they need a serious retooling of their services and procedures, and a fresh appeal to a jaded public.
How would this impact the private, voluntary adoption system today?
* Closed adoption procedures should be abolished, and open adoption records made available to adopted adults. Transparency is vital, both as a business ethic and a best practice standard, as adoptees deserve to grow up with information about and access to their families of origin. Much of the public disdain for adoption has been the result of the secrecy and shame so prevalent in the closed adoption system.
* The stigma of adoption as a "third option" for girls and women with unplanned pregnancies must be publicly addressed and overcome through outreach and education. The adoption alternative is not even on the radar screen for most young women today who are struggling to choose between abortion and parenting, and more public support is necessary to reverse this course and to provide validation for birthparents who do make a responsible adoption plan voluntarily.
* Adoption professionals in the private sector should do more to help find homes not just for newborns, but for children of all ages. The foster care system in nearly every state in the US is overrun with adoptable children who all too often "age out" of the system without ever finding the "forever families" they deserve because the existing private agency system of adoption is typically focused on finding healthy babies for families that want them, rather than finding stable homes for children who need them most.
* Adoption fees for private adoptions should be adjusted to make adoption more affordable. The costs of infant adoption in America have become exorbitant, making the process too expensive for far too many couples who could otherwise provide safe and loving homes for children in need. Most private agencies' adoption fees have consistently increased in accordance with the Adoption Tax Credit, yet the services provided to the children involved have not improved in any discernible way.
Elizabeth Jurenovich, the founder and director of Abrazo Adoption Associates (www.abrazo.org
) of San Antonio, Texas, believes that adoption agencies can still provide services that are essential and relevant to the needs of birthparents, children and adoptive families today.
"Given the prevalence of the internet, it's easy for folks to assume that adoption can be another 'do-it-yourself' project, but the best adoptions still involve qualified professionals who can counsel and guide all the participants, not just during a pregnancy or during a placement, but for years to come, as the needs of all the parties in the adoption change over time."
However, she says, the days of 'girls in trouble' coming to adoption agencies amidst secrecy and shame are long gone -- and rightly so.
"Mothers who choose to place their children for adoption deserve to have a starring role in the lives of the children they place. And the kind of adoptive couples who are best prepared to parent adopted children are typically those who support their child's right to grow up with a lasting connection to everyone that loves them most," says Jurenovich.
Abrazo is always ready to help expectant mothers (as well as parents placing toddlers, children and sibling groups who are already born,) and the agency welcomes the interest of prospective adoptive couples from across the US (except NY,) who have documented infertility or an interest in special needs adoptions. Nonprofit adoption agencies such as Abrazo do not want to discourage those who are eager to volunteer, yet emphasize that they may have other essential ways for them to serve, besides cuddling babies.
"Adoption agencies that do truly child-centered adoptions want newborns to spend all the time they can in the loving arms of their birthparents and their adopting families," says Jurenovich. "We can still find plenty of other equally-important work for any qualified volunteers with a heart for children."