News Brief: Study Finds Counseling for Expectant Mothers Lacking

Expectant mothers considering adoption don't receive adequate options counseling, finds a new Donaldson Adoption Institute study that surveyed 223 birth mothers.

An expectant mother who is considering adoption talks on the phone

A woman who finds herself grappling with an unintended pregnancy is likely to receive inadequate “options counseling,” or information about her full range of options and assistance in objectively evaluating them, finds a groundbreaking study. The report, “Understanding Options Counseling Experiences in Adoption: A Quantitative Analysis of First/Birth Parents and Professionals,” was released by the Donaldson Adoption Institute.

For the study, a team of researchers from The University of Texas of Arlington, Baylor University, and the University of Alaska-Anchorage conducted surveys with 223 first/birth mothers and 141 adoption professionals. An analysis based on individual interviews will be released as a second phase of the study in Spring 2017.

While about one-third of first/birth mothers in the study indicated that the decision to relinquish was based on their own wishes, and they felt satisfied with the decision, more than two-thirds seriously considered parenting their child, or other options aside from adoption. However, the majority reported “limited to no access to information about parenting.” Other key findings include:

  • “An overwhelming majority indicated they would have liked more knowledge about resources that could help them potentially parent their child.”
  • Approximate half reported a sense of isolation as they made their decision, lacking “family or friends with whom they could share their concerns and feelings.”
  • Slightly more than half reported feeling pressured to place their child for adoption, with the two most common sources of pressure being “my immediate family members” (63.2%) and “my financial circumstances” (59.8%). Forty-one percent reported feeling pressure from agency professionals.
  • Only about one-third of adoption professionals reported discussing termination of the pregnancy as an option.
  • Only about 20 percent of the first/birth mothers in this study had their own attorneys.

Recommendations from the report included increasing expectant parents’ access to support and other parents, to decrease isolation; informing them about financial and housing resources; ensuring access to independent legal representation; establishing a standard national waiting period before relinquishment papers can be signed; and developing and adhering to best practices surrounding options counseling.

Watch for a more in-depth report on this research in a coming issue of Adoptive Families.

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