Make Adoption a Wonderful Choice!

adoption-choicesThis article was written by Laura Godwin, M.P.H, and originally published by The Greenville News.

When this article was written, a woman who chose to place a child with a couple living outside of South Carolina had to go before a judge to state her reasons why she selected a specific family.  This step is no longer required, although a judge must preapprove a family living outside the state of SC.

Also, SC now has a birth father registry, called the Responsible Birth Father Registry.  A man who has an interest in the whereabouts of a child he may have conceived can add his name to the registry.  A woman in SC is not required to name the birth father or potential birth fathers.  Nightlight can check  to see if a man has linked his name to a birth mother on the registry.  A man’s name on the registry does not guarantee him parental rights.

Make adoption wonderful choice, not humiliating ordeal

By Laura Beauvais-Godwin

Recently, The Greenville News published an article and cited the number of U.S. children in foster care: more than half a million. Most children who enter foster care do so as a result of neglect, not abuse. And this neglect is often because a single mother cannot properly care for her child due to limited resources as well as alcohol and drug abuse.

Long before these children became statistics, each mother could have increased the child’s opportunities, for each mother had a choice. In fact, each woman who becomes pregnant unexpectedly has three choices: To parent her baby, abort her baby or place her baby for adoption. Each choice is mutually exclusive, each choice is essentially permanent, and each choice will have society’s blessings, except one:  adoption.

The woman who chooses adoption is often viewed as a victim. “If she only had more resources, she wouldn’t have to ‘give up’ her baby.” Also, laws often make adoption a difficult choice. First, the birth mother will most likely be required to name the birth father, so he can be found and “exercise his rights.” And if he cannot be found, he must be notified—usually in a newspaper classified ad. Birth fathers do not respond to these ads; however, they do demean birth mothers.

Neither the single mother nor the woman having an abortion is expected to name the father. Can you imagine the reaction if a woman had to give the birth father’s name to an abortion counselor, and agree to an ad in the paper if she didn’t know the man’s address?

Now it can be argued one is a fetus whose life is ending, and one is a child who is going to live, so shouldn’t the birth father have some rights? Well, it all depends on the man. Men who make good fathers don’t need to be notified; they’re already in the picture supporting the mother and child. So why does a woman have to reveal the name and whereabouts of a man whose only contribution was the depositing of sperm?

Or if the child is already in foster care, why make great efforts to find a man who is not supporting the child?  The search for a dad, or perhaps a few men who might be the dad, is one more reason a child stays in foster care for months and even years.

One solution in many states (but not in South Carolina) is to have a birth father registry: a government service where a man can send his name so if a women gives birth to his biological child, he can be contacted. And if she decides to place the child for adoption, he can consent and know what has happened, or he can challenge the adoption—but only if his name is on the registry and if he has supported the woman during her pregnancy.

Here in our state a woman’s rights are further limited, for in South Carolina, unlike any other state in the nation, there is a law that forbids an infant or child to be placed with an out-of-state adoptive family unless there are “unusual or exceptional circumstances.” In other words, a baby can go out-of-state if he is handicapped, but if he is white and healthy, he needs to stay in state, so a South Carolina family can adopt him.

So if a birth mother wants to place her child with an adoptive couple in North Carolina, she must go before a judge in a courtroom (birth fathers do not have to go to court) and tell the judge why she has selected a particular couple. And if the judge doesn’t find her reason good enough, the judge simply can deny the birth mother her right to choose.

One birth mother said that after being abandoned by the birth father and rejected by her family, she had to face further disgrace by having to take the stand in court and explain the details of why she became pregnant, why she was placing her unborn child for adoption and why she chose a couple in another state.

Can you imagine the outrage if a woman had to go before a judge if she wanted to have an abortion in another state? Or if a single mom had to go before a judge before she could leave the state with her newborn baby?

South Carolina needs to establish a birth father registry so men can verify their paternity (and pay child support). And let’s get rid of the unusual and exceptional circumstances law that strips a woman of her constitutional right to select the adoptive family.

If South Carolina is a pro-life state, then let’s make adoption a wonderful choice, not a humiliating experience. Not only may the abortion rate go down, but perhaps fewer children will enter the foster care system.

*Article was originally published in The Greenville News, Thursday, September 11, 1997.

National Birthmother’s Day

The Saturday before Mother’s Day, is National Birthmother’s Day, a day to honor the millions of brave and loving women placed their babies and children for adoption.

So how we can as adoptive parents honor our children’s birthmothers? It need not be very complicated. Just talking about the birthmother, sharing her name and celebrating the gift that she has given your family is one way to honor her.

I remember about 15 years ago, when my children were about five and eight years old, a friend in adoption made a video dedicated to birthmothers. The friend asked me and other adoptive families what were our children’s birthmother’s names so that she could put these names in the video. At the end of the videos, as the credits ran, the birthmothers were thanked and named. My children loved to watch the video and proudly shouted out the names of their birthmothers when the credits rolled. It was our way of honoring these women and reminding my daughters of the love their birthmothers had for them.

If you stay in regular communication with your child’s birthmother, you or your child can send a card as many do with our aunts, daughters, grandmothers, and any other mothers we know and love–even if they are not our mothers. Now that cards and notes can be sent via email, this can be a way for you and your child to send a loving message along with a few pictures to thank your child’s birthmother for choosing adoption.

So many children, whether adopted domestically or internationally, do not know how to contact their birthmothers—some do not even have her name. If you have no information about your child’s birthmother, honoring her on this special day can be a little more complicated, but it is important that in whatever way you can, you do so— It doesn’t  have to be limited to  a special holiday, but throughout the year.

You may say to your child that this coming Saturday is Birthmother’s Day, and although we not know who your birthmother is, or how to contact her, I think we should thank her. Perhaps you can plant a flower in her honor. Or make a cake and put a candle on it to thank her for giving your child life. If your child is old enough, you may want to ask your child what they would like to do. Maybe they would like to make her a card and put it on the refrigerator. If you do not know her name, perhaps you can give her a name—such as an endearing term in your child’s original language.

On this Saturday and Sunday, you can also write out a special prayer for your child’s birthmother. In fact, when you pray with your children at night, you can regularly remember their birthmothers and to pray for their salvation and well-being. Based on your child’s country of origin, you can remember her at other times of the year. So, if your child is from China, you may honor her on at the Chinese New Year, or if your child is from Russia or Eastern Europe, on International Women’s Day. Of course, Christmas is also a special time for remembering.

If your child came from a background in which there was abuse or neglect caused by the birth family, appropriately honoring the birthmother may require more creativity. Think of one or two positive attributes of the birthmother and let your child know you like these qualities in a person. Think of some way in which she was pretty, or smart, or had a special gift. Also, share with your child the birthmother’s love of music, animals, her favorite color, or the movies she enjoyed. By sharing what you like or admire about the birthmother you are also sharing the traits your child may share with their birthmother. By noting some positive qualities in the birthmother you are affirming you find these same good qualities in your child. Without knowing anything positive about their birthparents, children may not be able to have a sense of what is good about them.

Perhaps your child is pre-adolescent and is just beginning to want to know more, and the telling your child that she grew in her another woman’s tummy is not enough. Your child probably wants to have more in-depth information and there may be few facts to give your child. So what can you do? You can talk to your child about the area of the world where she came. You may consider a trip to visit the country. You may ask your child what she thinks her birthmother is doing right now. If your child can concretely verbalize what she thinks about her birthmother, what she may be doing, and what she may look like, then this may help your child feel that through sharing and talking about the birthmother, some of the gaps are being filled.

And most children will ask, “Why did she give me up?” Ultimately our children come into our homes because God ordained it, but this answer may not be enough to satisfy questions. There are many reasons (based on the birthmother, the country’s political and economic status, and a number of other factors) as to why children are placed for adoption. When children are younger, you can share the birthmother’s love for the child and the fact that she could not care for them. As your child matures, a fuller explanation is due. Regardless of the reasons why a birthmother chooses adoption, she and God chose life for your child and this we can all celebrate.

If you are a birthmother—even if no one knows that you placed a child for adoption—we honor you today. If you have an open relationship with your birth child, we honor you for this relationship. If you have regrets about your decision, we can still honor you for the decision you made to give your child life and a loving family. If you are sad because you believe that you can never find the child you placed for adoption, but want to know that your child is all right, we honor you for caring. You are all truly mothers because you chose life, you chose to give your child a loving and caring family, and you continue to want what is best for your child. We pray that you can know the peace and the love of God.