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Introduction to Adoption from the Birth Parent Perspective

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

People in many different circumstances choose to place children in adoption for a variety of reasons. The majority of birthparents choosing to adopt out their child are single women. A minority of married couples also decide to place their child into adoption, primarily because they are unable to financially support a child (or another child). For the purposes of this article, which focuses on adoptions occurring inside the United States, we focus on the birthmother's path through adoption, as well as touching on the rights of the unmarried birth father. Our references to birthmothers should be understood to include birthfathers as well, when the birthfathers make themselves available to the adoption process.

This article can provide valuable information to birthmothers about the adoptive process, however, it is not designed to give advice about the pros and cons of the adoption decision itself. We assume that if you are reading this article, you are seriously considering (or have already chosen to) start adoption procedures. We recognize that you have already likely experienced a tremendous roller-coaster ride of emotions such as denial, anger, guilt, frustration, sadness, anxiety, relief and joy. Unfortunately, these emotions will not disappear after you have made your adoption decision. Be prepared for these emotions to continue and perhaps even intensify as you work your way through the process. Sharing your thoughts and emotions with family members, friends, or other helping professionals (social workers, clergy, or psychotherapists for example) will likely help you to avoid being overwhelmed by them.

If you are "on the fence" about adoption, or are just interested in exploring different options, you likely have lots of questions and concerns about how to make such a decision. Using a website such as Adoption.com, or speaking with people at crisis pregnancy centers, family planning clinics, therapist's or counselor's offices and adoption agencies can help you explore the options that exist for you and your pregnancy, including adoption.

Reasons for Adoption

A birthmother typically contemplates adoption for one of several reasons. Some mothers find themselves pregnant while not in a committed relationship, and are unwilling or unable to become single mothers. Other women may feel like they are too young, or are not ready or willing to accept the responsibility that comes with raising a child. In these cases, the mother may decide that for the child and/or herself, it is best to place the child for adoption.

A second circumstance occurs when a birthmother begins to raise her child, and the child is taken away from her by the state and placed temporarily in foster care. Factors for removing a child include irresponsible and/or abusive behavior towards the child, drug abuse, or other similar circumstances. When the birthmother proves unable or unwilling to turn around her negative situation (e.g., to stop using drugs, or acting neglectfully or abusively) her parental rights may be terminated, and her child is then placed up for adoption.

A third situation occurs with birthmothers who may be living in poverty and who find themselves unable to adequately support a child (or an additional child). In this case, the birthmother may choose to place her child up for adoption and hope that a family in better financial circumstances will provide that child with a good life.

Finally, there are birthmothers who find themselves pregnant, but who never desired to raise a child and would rather give their child a chance to grow up as a wanted member of a family.