Guide for Expectant Parents
By: Shannell Stewart // Birth Mom
I wish I could say I knew it all when it comes to adoption. I wish I could give you the foolproof plan for placing a baby and all that comes with this BIG decision, but how do you ever know what will be right for you in this very unique situation? You may not know, but luckily there is a place you can turn that can help you figure it out and move forward with confidence and peace of mind.
With all the unknown and unfamiliar dynamics involved in adoption, what I can tell you is that using an agency will increase your chances of a smooth and healthy transition. I am so grateful that I went through the agency I did and for the support I had from the case workers there. I think it is key in this very delicate process to have an advocate, a resource and a support system. Whether you are in the beginning, middle or final stages– there are so many emotions and uncharted feelings that will influence the way things will go. Here is my guide to determining your needs and the reasons I would recommend going through an agency.
First I want you to put a name on it! Where are you in the process? That will help you decide what you need from an agency. I was less than 12 weeks pregnant when the thought of adoption came to me and I had no clue where to begin. Once I knew adoption was an avenue I wanted to explore, I knew I would benefit from finding the right resources to help me nail down my plan.
Whether you are like me in those early stages or you have independently found a family to place your baby with, it is never to early or late to involve an agency. Let me emphasize this is YOUR process, YOUR baby and completely YOUR bus to drive! So remember when seeking out help and resources that agencies are very much there to help YOU! It felt so good to have found an agency and professionals who were educated and there for me emotionally. That built-in, unbiased support can really make all the difference.
I also want to make it clear that an agency’s degree of involvement can vary. You do not have to have a decision 100% made. The trained case workers are not there expecting an absolute decision. They are not limited to any commitment level or time frame. As this is a very personal choice, they are there to give information and absolute support based on your needs.
Depending on where you are in your own journey, identifying it will help indicate your needs.
- Are you just finding out you are pregnant? Are you scared, confused or torn about your ability to parent?
- Are you near the end of your pregnancy and, because of your circumstances, are now realizing adoption may be the best option for your baby?
- Have you already chosen adoption and a family to place your baby with and feel the pressures that inevitably come with the nearing delivery?
- Have you had the baby and just cannot provide for or parent him/her due to your situation?
These are all very valid points in your journey to seek out an agency. Whether adoption is your final decision or not you can have access to counseling and an equipped third party.
As a newly pregnant birth mom and having no experience; I began the online browse/google search overload for adoption success stories, potential families and legal questions. An agency can be all of that in one and more! They will be a reliable place to go for knowledge and information. Here are the four things that I believe are important that an agency can offer and provide!
You Need an Advocate
You will not always be able to do it for yourself. Even though I was close with my adoptive couple and we were on the same page throughout the last 6 months of my pregnancy I still needed an advocate in those tough emotional times. Because of the nature of adoption, I found the start of this journey quite daunting, but once I found my agency and developed a relationship with my case worker the load seemed lighter. I knew I could speak my truth and she would be my voice. I had an incident with a member of the hospital staff and in that very heavy emotional state I just couldn’t defend myself. My case worker was there to fight for me and my needs and I am so grateful for that! It helped with the relinquishment to have the freedom and right to handle it as I needed to. My adoption was open and the agency fought for the level of openness I wanted. If it had been closed, they would have fought for my privacy and rights that way. So no matter what you choose they will defend it!
You too deserve that freedom and the ability to have things go according to your preferences. An agency is there to do just that! Consider the pressures of adoption and just remember those at the agency are dedicated to you and your expectation of how things should go.
Clarity and Comfort in the Legal ins and outs
I remember the uncertainty that came with wanting to place my baby without the consent of the birth father, which would obviously determine if adoption was even possible. Once I was able to ask my questions and get legitimate answers I could move forward with my choice. It really added that element of peace knowing what the law was in my state and in my circumstances. I knew I was getting real information from a reliable, experienced source instead of guessing with google and being hesitant with each step I made.
I also felt a load off my shoulders with the relinquishment and the process of giving up my parental rights. The agency takes on all of that which leaves you emotional and mental space to grieve and process the adoption. The legal buffer is necessary in ensuring the decision you are making is one you absolutely want to. Crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s is not your burden to bear!
Access and Encouragement to have Counseling Before and After the Adoption
Counseling is a major element of the process, or at least it should be! This choice you are making is very selfless and brave and you deserve to have explored every inch of it with a trained professional. The emotional tools and tactics offered in counseling can prepare you for the events to come. I was able to work through some deep emotions and find real peace in my decision before delivery and relinquishment. I went into the the birth feeling sure and ready. The counseling I received during my pregnancy was completely free but priceless! My agency helped me seek out the preparation I personally needed to handle the process. I am grateful I went through an agency because they had access and the ability to plan and execute the best counseling for me!
Finding the Right Family
For obvious reasons this is the most important element an agency can offer! The exposure you will have to Hopeful adoptive families can help your success in finding the right match for you and your baby. I found my incredible family through profiles provided by my agency. I gave my details to my case worker and she had dozens of profiles ready for me to go through. However, as to not overwhelm me, I received profiles in small groups of 8 so I could give myself the time to really feel out each one. I was actually very excited with that first batch of profiles. I felt the agency, and particularly my case worker, got to know me and my needs in order to provide the most compatible profiles.
I found the couple so easily because the agency allowed me to place my preferences and stick to what I felt I needed for my baby to have the best life. They really nailed it when they sent me the profile of the family I finally chose to be the parents of my baby. I believe each birth mom deserves that assured feeling that comes from finding the right family.
Not only can an agency provide profiles of families, but they also take on the process of connecting you with any families you want to meet. I was given the option to call, video chat or meet them in person according to what I was comfortable with. I was so nervous and unsure how to handle the next steps once I came across a profile I felt right about. My agency set up my meeting with the family based on my preferences and things just took off from there!
My case worker and the other employees at the agency were at my complete disposal as the process continued. They were there to facilitate meetings and make me feel comfortable and safe getting to know my adoptive family.
Those are the reasons I believe an agency can be such an asset during this life changing process.
If you already have a family chosen and do not need that resource, still consider finding an agency and building a relationship with that third party. You still have the right to utilize reasons 1-3 to use an agency.
The struggles that come for birth moms do not end at relinquishment or even one year, five years or twenty years after. I am only two months post relinquishment and I have a friendship with my case worker that I know will last a lifetime. I know I have somewhere to turn when I need emotional support. I know that because I built a relationship with the people at my agency that I have familiar faces to turn to even ten years down the road. Agencies value their birth moms and want to be there for you indefinitely.
I am very passionate about adoption and the brave birth moms exploring the option to place. I hope this information helps aid in your process and what steps to take to ensure the post positive experience for you. This sacrifice will effect so many lives and you deserve to know you are admired and loved.