In this month that honors the gift of adoption, we must pause to also honor, and to thank, the courageous birth parents who make the difficult decision to voluntarily place their children for adoption. Difficult, not only because someone else will be raising the children they love, but also because too many in our society make birth parents out to be victims. When done well, with licensed, ethical professionals, adoption can be an empowering decision, that opens a new life for the birth parents in addition to new possibilities for these cherished children.
It is past time to give adopted adults access to their original birth certificates, and the Gladney Center for Adoption is working to make that happen. As with everything else, adoption is ever evolving. Even with this evolution, everything surrounding the adoption is intended to protect everyone involved, including the best interests of the child as well as the rights and needs of the birth parents. When the child grows up and wants to search for his or her birth parents, we must continue to be respectful of the birth parents, allowing them to have some control over having their story exposed. In the new age of technology and genetic testing, limiting access to birth records does not protect birth mothers. Giving easy access to birth certificates will not only allow adopted adults to search out and possibly connect with their birth parents, it will give birth parents the opportunity to choose their next steps in a world where privacy is not guaranteed.
Today, the expectant mothers we serve have more complex needs than the clients we served 10 years ago, and we have adjusted our services to meet them where they are.
Expectant mothers experiencing unplanned pregnancies and mothers with young children who contact us considering making an adoption plan are sometimes coming from a challenging, vulnerable place. While some expectant mothers have a strong support system and access to resources, others may be in an abusive relationship, unemployed, experiencing homelessness, or have mental health or substance abuse treatment needs. The women Gladney serves range from teenagers to women in their forties, with an average age of 26, and 49% of the women already have other children. More than 70% of the women are from Texas, and the remainder of the women are from other states across the U.S., including 15 states outside Texas in 2019 alone.
As a birth parent caseworker in Houston, I am used to meeting with my expectant mothers face to face in their homes or in a public place where we can plan their adoptions. However, COVID-19 came to town and abruptly halted our way of meeting. How do I provide the services and the attention that my clients need at this time of crisis in the community (and the world!)?
Family changes everything.
At Gladney, we say this often and believe in its power—the power to heal, evolve, and withstand each season, shoulder to shoulder as Family for Life.