What Happens When We Get a New Referral?

One of the adoption attorneys we know has started a facebook page chronicling each time he gets a new referral. The purpose of which is to share with families how much time and work goes into working with a new mom. I think it’s a great idea, and as a professional I like seeing that many of the things we do are the same, or even reading something and then thinking hmm maybe we should try this, or maybe we should have done that. As a facilitator I’m not in an “agency office” everyday to share my emotions or ideas, so long story short I “like” his idea and his posts. I’m not going to start doing that on ours, as I enjoy providing updates about our families and articles about adoption support and references to other resources. Maybe that’s the nurse in me? But I will share one piece of a journey with you, just so you can see that we spend a considerable amount of time with the women we work with..many who may choose to go a different path, before we even try to start finding a family for them.

We feel strongly about adoption. We feel that it can be a very positive experience for the adoptive family, the birth mom and the child when everything is transparent and honest. Because of this we are as honest with the women who come to us for guidance. We understand that there are many birth moms and adopted children who feel adoption should have never been the answer for them. I believe that, but I also believe that adoption is not always the reason those individuals are sad, and life is hard. It may have contributed, we don’t know that there would have been a better outcome if the adoption had never occurred. That’s all I’m going to say about that. That all said, women have to be given options and information about outcomes before an informed decision can be made. The hardest part about this is that so many women come to adoption because of a major crisis in their lives.
We always ask why adoption? What do they know about adoption? Do they know anyone who is adopted?
Do they understand that it is a life long commitment and not a foster care situation? Do they have any friends or family members who could raise this child and where is the father of the baby?

When we first meet, we give a brief description about who we are and what we do. We offer a short description of what would happen should they choose adoption and we provide examples of other families and women we have worked with..both who have placed and who haven’t. We get a brief history from them about what is going on and what they hope adoption would accomplish. We provide them with references( women we have worked with) so that they can talk directly to another woman who has gone through an adoption plan. The women we refer them too are very honest. They don’t sugar coat their feelings or the pain they have experienced because of their adoption plan. We leave with this information and another appointment made to discuss any questions or concerns they may have.
When we come back together for the next meeting, most women have decided or not what they want to do. If they want to consider an adoption plan, we then start talking about what that would look like, what kind of relationship they want, what are their needs at this time? It’s still not time to match though, we need medical records which could take up to 2 weeks to obtain. If they have not gotten any medical care then we help them to start this process. During this time we are looking into their backgrounds, listening to them talk, listening for inconsistency or not in their stories and histories. Talking to other people in their lives. The more people that are supportive of this plan the easier it will be for mom if this is what she decides, if friends and family are not supportive then we need to discuss if adoption really is the best option. All of the above can burn through a few weeks. Sometimes in the middle of all of this I might start asking our families if they would be interested in this particular situation should it go to an adoption plan. Depending on the woman we may or may not have her start to fill out paperwork on this second visit or we might wait until the third or fourth. We always ask them to fill out the standard forms for the State of California, one of our intakes, a medical release form, a statement of understanding that entering an adoption plan and taking financial assistance without the intention of following through with an adoption plan (which is much different than delivering and changing their mind) is committing fraud and punishable by law, a statement that they are working exclusively with us to find them a family and support their adoption plan (if they choose to discontinue our relationship and work with someone else then we need that in writing) and finally we look at what type of financial assistance they will need.
We try to obtain as much information about the father of the baby as possible. The best case scenario is that he is and wants to be involved. If not we simply get the information and then leave it up to the agency or attorney to decide on legal plan of action. There are several different thoughts about this. We are not attorneys and WILL NOT practice law.
If mom needs to go to the Dr still we may go with her to her appointment as a source of support. If she needs to stabilize her housing we might be helping her with this.

When it comes time to start matching, we ask our moms to choose at least two or three families to start with. We then start setting up a meeting or a phone call. All of our phone calls are facilitated at first. Once a relationship is established families and moms can talk on their own , have email contact etc. as long as it’s ok with the legal team. Some attorneys advise against this. Matches can take anywhere from a week – up to 2 months depending on requirements of mom and then finding the right family. Mom may like a family and then the family isn’t completely comfortable with all of the details, then we start all over. Facilitating matches is much more than finding people and setting up meetings. Everyone’s schedule has to be taken in to regards, once the individuals talk the families may then need to discuss this with an attorney and this can take several days, then comes all of the legal paperwork. We may spend a week and a half on a situation only to get to a point where someone gets “cold feet” or it’s happening too fast and it scares them and then the match falls apart and we start all over again. We may do all of this and mom matches and then she decides maybe adoption isn’t the best..or a friend has found them the perfect family..or a friend may know someone from their church. As I’ve said many many times..we are working with human beings and because of this, we cannot make promises. We can follow a procedure, and use experience with each new experience but in the end…we cannot make promises of an outcome until it happens.

Once this part is all done we then just support the plan, make sure mom is going to her appointments (or not – because adoption is not surrogacy we cannot mandate this occur) develop a hospital plan, make sure all the players are on board with the health team, social work team etc. and wait for delivery. We try to be there if geographically capable. If not we are available by phone.

We find this part to be the most emotionally draining. Once again there is an anticipated outcome but we all know that something else can happen. I always remind our moms that they do have a right to change their minds, but I will be there to remind them of why they made their adoption plans. Babies come with this chemica/hormone that no matter what they look or smell like – they are the most beautiful thing in the world, they melt the hearts of everyone around. A woman who has never gone through a relinquishment can know what it is going to feel like to be present in that moment or to walk away from the hospital empty handed. As a facilitator my heart is heavy and happy at the same time, happy beyond words for the family who has been waiting for this moment. Heavy for the mom who has spent 9 months growing this baby. When mom goes home she still continues to get support from us. We encourage counseling and a referral to a local organization for birth moms. We have a monthly support group at our Resource Center. Some of our moms go on to work with us, writing blogs and being a resource for other new moms. We have found that those who do this tend to have an easier time with healing and grieving.

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