Nov 27, 2013 Tami Scott Uncategorized
One of the most selfless and loving acts a woman can do is place her newborn baby in the arms of another family. Unfortunately, not all people see it that way due to long-held stereotypes that claim just the opposite and consequently, result in the occurrence of fewer adoptions.
“The biggest [myth about a birthmom] is that she doesn’t love her baby; that she just doesn’t love her and that’s why she’s giving her away,” said Linda Godard, a caseworker at New Hope Family Services located in Syracuse. “It’s partially why we don’t have as many adoptions, because that’s what [pregnant women] are saying to each other. ‘How could you make that plan? How could you give your baby away?’
“We say it’s a very courageous decision, a very loving decision to place [your baby] with another family because there isn’t a birthmom [out there] who wants to do this,” said both Godard and Martha Raub, executive director at New Hope.
New Hope Family Services, a not-for-profit Christian adoption agency established in 1965, specializes in providing birthparent services for unplanned pregnancies, as well as the option for women to place their babies with adoptive families, through its American-born infant program.
The New York state-certified agency receives client referrals — women interested in placing their baby for adoption — from numerous sources, such as the Salvation Army, the Rescue Mission, hospitals, social service agencies and community health centers. A birthparent caseworker is then assigned to that person and they can hold a meeting to discuss her options to place or parent her child.
“We don’t put pressure on her either way,” Godard said. “We just help her, come alongside her and counsel with her. We’ll often see her in a family situation, what her resources are, her support system … we’ll work with her through the pregnancy and through the birth of the child, and then at some point she has to make a decision whether she’s going to parent or place her baby for adoption.”
Godard said the strength of the agency’s program stems from the caseworker’s relationship with the biological mother from the moment they meet to the birth of the child.
“[It’s having] the birthparent caseworker working with the birthparent all the way through [her pregnancy] and not placing [her baby] unless she’s really certain that this is what she wants,” Godard said. “We don’t place if we don’t have a strong case. If she is wavering, we can hold that baby in foster care.”
New Hope Family Services can utilize a New York state-approved temporary foster care program designed specifically for this purpose. In some cases, when the birthmom is still unsure of her decision, the baby may go directly from the hospital to a foster family for short-term care.
“We don’t have to place the child [with the adoptive parents], but we typically do because the baby needs to be with the family that he is going to be with and that’s what the birthmoms want. They want that.”
The good news for adoptive parents is that New Hope has never yet had a biological mother change her mind after the baby has been placed in the care of her new parents.
“This is her plan. She put together this plan. She’s chosen a family,” Godard said of the birthmom. “She knows exactly what she wants; she chooses how much correspondence she wants, she chooses how much openness she wants in adoption.
“We can only go to the families who are open to what she has already put out there in her criteria for a family. This is totally her plan, so her going back on her plan would typically not happen unless she really had a regret about the whole thing and she really wants to parent or is able to parent,” she added.
One Central New York couple, Peter and Amanda, chose to adopt through New Hope Family Services after researching opportunities in both domestic and international adoptions.
“We came across New Hope and their philosophy just seemed to match. We started the process at that point,” Amanda said.
It was a long and often frustrating journey, however. It took years from the time they were accepted into the program to the time they first held their newborn daughter in their arms. At one point, they had even discussed throwing in the towel.
“We had just made a decision that we weren’t sure if we were ready to continue because it had been five years,” said Amanda. Their baby, who was three months old when they received her, is now 2 ½. Amanda and her husband are now 51 and 49 respectively. “So you think about your future and your age and you’re thinking if this isn’t going to happen then we need to just accept that and move forward.”
It was when Peter went in and spoke to Godard about giving the whole process up that she said, ‘I really wish you wouldn’t do that. We just had a mom come in and you guys are at the top of the list. Let’s see how this works out,’” Amanda said. “So Peter called me and we both agreed we’ll give this one more shot and lo and behold, this one was the one.”
New Hope representatives agree that one of the most challenging aspects for adoptive parents is the wait.
“We can’t give them an answer,” said Godard, who listens and responds to classic concerns during monthly informational sessions. “It can be a few months to a couple years or longer. They have to be chosen [by the birthmom or birth parents] and we don’t have control over that.”
Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to reflect on what they are comfortable with in terms of open, closed or semi-open adoptions, race, health conditions, and so forth. These variables play a significant role in determining how long it may take to be matched.
“The more strict or narrow the criteria, then it may be a longer wait,” Godard said.
In addition to the set criterion, the adoptive parents are also required to create a portfolio about their lives that the birthmom can study when it comes time to choose a family — usually in her sixth or seventh month of pregnancy.
“They’re beautiful,” Godard said. “It’s like a scrapbook of everything you could possibly put on that’s not identifying of who you are — characteristics, hobbies, interests, home, pictures of your house, inside and out. When a birthmom is looking at the profile, they will very often find a connection through those profiles. It could be that someone’s a runner … the color purple … once they choose a profile, they bond with that family.”
A good friend of my mother told us about New Hope. We wanted to begin looking for the perfect family for my daughter. When we got there, we asked a lot of questions. Our caseworker was wonderful from the start. She was patient with our questions and answered them all with kindness. The birthfather and I eventually put together a list of qualities that we wanted in adoptive parents for our child. We were then given a group of profiles to look through that met our needs. Each profile told the story of a family anticipating adoption. Before long, we had found exactly what we were looking for. It seemed too good to be true. Each page made the family look better and better … I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. While I felt an immediate connection to her and felt a love for her that I had never known, I knew what was best for my little girl. I spent two days with her in the hospital, and then said my goodbyes. When I got home, a strange peace came over me. I knew I had made the right decision.
My parents and I were fortunate enough to meet the adoptive parents I chose. We made an immediate connection that we still have today. We talked, hugged and shared pictures. We promised to always write to each other and send pictures.*
The support of New Hope, family and my friends have brought me to where I am today.
*Note: Each birthparent determines the amount of openness they would like in their adoption plan.
Source: New Hope Family Services.
Peter and Amanda discovered that the birthmom of their baby connected first to their religion.
“She was drawn to us because we are Catholic, number one, and that we had already had children,” said Amanda, who has two adult children from her first marriage; her first husband died in 1996.
Amanda suspects that already having children had worked against them on previous occasions, because most of the birthmoms were choosing couples who hadn’t.
“That was making the process a little more difficult for us,” she said.
Once they received the good news, however, Peter and Amanda shared it with their family during a special dinner.
“It was almost like you were announcing that you were pregnant,” Amanda said. “This baby … she [the birthmom] selected us. It was really exciting during that time.”
Though Peter and Amanda welcomed this infant into their lives as their own, legally the birthmom still had 45 days to change her mind. It was a legitimate concern for the couple who still had to charge through this last period of limbo.
“We were anxious the entire time,” she said, adding she contacted New Hope frequently during this stage. “’Has she called? Where’s her mind at?’ I put myself in the birthmom’s place during that time. The wondering what she was going through, knowing that she gave up this child. Was she questioning her decision? Did she make the right choice with the parents that she chose? and all these things that might have been going through her mind.”
Amanda said this trial further strengthened her understanding, respect and compassion for the biological mother of their child.
“She did the best that she could under her circumstances,” she said. “We stop and think sometimes — we imagine what [our baby’s] life would have been like if we didn’t come into the picture. We’re thankful that she found a way to us.”
While Peter, Amanda and the birthmom have chosen not to meet personally, they have mutually agreed to terms that include updating the birthmom with photos and progress until their daughter is 18 years old. Other cases may involve more open communication, such as correspondence between both the birthmom and adoptive family, or even receiving gifts from the biological grandparents — with the agency as a liaison. The levels of comfort are dependent on both the birthparents and the adoptive parents involved.
“Usually when they start before they’ve had our training, [prospective adoptive parents] are more closed because a lot of people don’t understand — [birthmoms] are not people to be afraid of,” Godard said. “Once they get past that [fear factor], and they really understand our program, [birthparents] end up becoming an extended family almost, even though you still don’t share last names. There is a feeling of a family — it’s like another family ‘who loves my child.’”
For more information about New Hope Family Services, Inc., visit NewHopeFamilyServices.com, or call 437-8300 or (800) 272-3171. New Hope is located at 3519 James St. in Syracuse.