When you’re faced with an unplanned pregnancy, the choices you’re faced with can be overwhelming. In all the stress and drama of the time, it’s often hard to access reliable, non-judgmental, impartial information. It often seems as though everybody has an opinion and will want to tell you what to do. Often they’re well-meaning, sometimes they want you to do things *their* way. Either way, this decision is one of the biggest you’ll ever make, and for some, it will be the hardest. We’ve spent a lot of time talking to young moms who are raising their children themselves – that’s what we’re about, after all. However, for those of you who’ve arrived here looking for advice during a difficult time (and my website stats say there are many of you) – I thought we should cover the other options as well.
Today we’ll talk about adoption. How does it work, what should you do, what questions should you be asking yourself – will this be the answer you’re looking for?
In the end, whatever you choose – knowledge is power. Ask questions, make sure you understand all the consequences of your choice and go with what feels right for *you*.
Please note that this is only for a South African context so if you’re elsewhere, the process may be different.
Q: If you’d like to explore adoption, who should you contact? Who is the first port of call?
A: Birth moms should start off by finding a social worker, some doctors may offer assistance in this regard but it is best to work directly with a social worker who will be able to counsel the birth parents, help them weigh up all their options and choose the best option for them.
All social workers will tell you that ultimately they are there to act in the best interests of the child and this is always to keep the family unit intact, so they will assist the birth parents in looking at their reasons for placement and try to find a working solution. If, for example, the reasons are purely financial, then the social workers that I’ve worked with, will even go so far as to help the birth parents draw up budgets and shopping lists to see if there is not some way first to keep the baby.
Q: If a mom has had the child but is not coping, and would like to explore adoption or fostering, who should she call? How is the process different from adoption at birth?
A: The birth mom should contact a social worker for assistance. If relinquishment is after birth, the process would still be pretty much the same. She’ll get counselling from the social worker and if she still wanted to proceed with an adoption placement she would then sign the first consent for relinquishment and the baby would be put in a place of safety or with kangaroo parents while the remainder of the process takes place.
Q: Does she need anybody’s permission to give a child up – baby’s father (whether married or not) or her own parents, if she is underage?
A: If the birth father is known or involved, then he would need to give his consent also. If he is not involved, then the onus would be on the social worker to try to find him to get him to give consent as well. If the birth mother is under 18 then one parent or legal guardian would be required to sign consent as well.
Q: What happens once she has made contact with the social worker and decided to proceed with adoption?
A: Then she would receive extensive counselling to ensure that placing her baby really was something she wanted to do. The counselling happens over a period of time and would extend, for as long as she needed it, after the birth and/or placement of her baby.
Q: Under what circumstances may she change her mind?
A: From the time of relinquishment and signing of the first consent and intent to place her baby, she would have 60 days to retract said consent and the process would be reversed.
Q: Is there a difference between open adoption and “traditional” or closed adoption?
A: Traditional adoption is known as a closed adoption. This is the most common form of adoption in South Africa. It means that from the time of relinquishment the birth mother would have no further contact with the AP’s (adoptive parents) and her baby, aside from letters & photos which the AP’s would send to the social workers who would facilitate the sharing of with the birth mother. Once a birth mother starts working with a social worker, it really becomes a lifelong relationship.
An open adoption is when there is agreed direct contact between the birth mother and the AP’s. This is usually a pre-determined type/amount of contact that would include agreed visits etc. The frequency would depend on the birth mother and AP’s and would be agreed to up front.
Q: What if she wants to make contact with her child one day?
A: She could request for contact with the child once the child has past the age of 18. This also works in reverse. If an adopted child wants access to her/his BM, once they are 18, they can request that their adoption record be unsealed and a social worker would facilitate the tracing and meeting of BM’s and adopted child. Of course, depending on the AP’s, an adopted child could choose to find the BM earlier.
From my own experience, this is something I would be comfortable to do with Ava and her BM sooner. As it is, our adoption has moved from a closed adoption to more of an open adoption with our BM. We are now friends on Facebook and have started making the first tentative steps towards more openness.
Q: What about private adoptions? Is there any such thing, is it legal? I.e. if a family knows she is exploring adoption, may they approach her directly to adopt her child?
A: When placing a baby/ child, a BM could either use the services of an NGO or Government organization or she could use the services of a private social worker. Both are legal and similar in process and all adoptions have to be approved by a board of social workers and ratified in the high court in order to be legal. But private adoptions are as legal as government adoptions as they all follow the same legal process.
Q: Is there support available for birth moms after adoption, if they feel it’s necessary?
A: Yes, the social worker would continue to work with our counsel the BM for as long as she needed it. All these costs are covered by the AP’s.
Q: How much input (if any) does she have in the choice of the adoptive family?
A: If she chooses to use a private social worker, then the choice would be entirely hers. AP’s and BM’s are required to complete a psychometric test and are matched according to that. The BM would be presented with the profiles of all the AP’s who have matched with her and ultimately the choice would be hers as to who takes over the parental rights of her child.
Please contact the lovely people at Trinity Heart if you have more questions or need help.
Thank you Sharon!