News Brief: Financial and Social Pressure and Lack of Support Factor Into Expectant Mothers' Decisions

Expectant mothers who chose adoption most commonly cited financial pressure, social stigma, and a lack of support before and after placement in interviews with the Donaldson Adoption Institute.

an expectant mother considering adoption researches her options

An expectant woman may decide on adoption due to financial instability, social stigma, and/or a lack of support that often continues after placement, found a new study release by the Donaldson Adoption Institute. The report, “Understanding Options Counseling Experiences in Adoption: A Qualitative Analysis of First/Birth Parents and Professionals,” was the follow-up to the quantitative study released in November 2016. The previous study revealed the inadequate counseling and assistance (or “options counseling”) an expectant woman considering adoption generally receives.

The second phase of this study focused on a smaller sample size of first/birth mothers and adoption professionals, and involved in-depth interviews.

Many of the first/birth mothers interviewed for the study cited financial concerns as a major reason for choosing adoption. Social stigma was another common theme. One mother recounted how her feelings of shame took over any other feelings she might have had about the pregnancy: “Shame. I wasn’t even thinking about—it wasn’t even like me being pregnant. It was what others would think of me.” They also cited a lack of support, both during their pregnancies and after placement. As one stated: “It was left up to me to try to heal from it.”

Of the adoption professionals interviewed, less than half reported discussing information or resources related to parenting in addition to adoption. Though most expressed confidence in their working methods, most proposed additional training for professionals in the field.

Key recommendations from both populations included:

  • Require adoption agencies and attorney to provide free pre- and post-adoption counseling (with no time limit for post-adoption services).
  • Mandate “standardized, informed consent that details the possible outcomes associated with relinquishment of parental rights to a child for adoption, as well as potential outcomes that the child may experience.”
  • Increase and standardize education for expectant parents, adoptive parents, and adoption professionals.

The report also recommended further research on pre-birth matches for expectant and adopting parents. “While some first/birth mothers indicated they preferred having contact with the prospective family prior to their child’s birth, for several first/birth mothers, this contact had an explicit negative and coercive effect on their decision-making,” noted the authors.

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