Natalie came to our office pregnant with her third child, and without a permanent job or housing. She didn’t have custody of her first two children and working with Christian Adoption Services was a proactive step toward making a loving decision to seek the best future for her child. Natalie met with us over several months and spoke with her case worker about what she would like to provide her child. She carefully selected a family to meet and invited them into the process of Doctor appointments and preparing for placement of the child in their home. She had an opportunity to grieve and discuss goals for her future and the relationship she would like to have with her son. This was a chance for Natalie to have options; she chose the parents her son would call mom & dad and she chose to provide for his needs in a way she did not foresee being able to herself. Natalie avoided having her rights involuntarily terminated and having little control in the placement and future of her son. She put aside her own desires out of love for him…
The parents we work with come from a wide range of circumstances and though multiple factors make them so different from each other, something they all have in common is that they love the baby and are thinking ahead to the life they want for their child. Natalie knew she didn't have the financial stability or supports to provide what she knew her little guy needed. Statistics show that the poverty rate for single-mother families in 2013 was 39.6%* and nearly 22% single mothers had no health coverage in 2013.^
It is hard to look ahead when you are stuck in the middle of a difficult situation. No one expects to have their rights involuntarily terminated and county social services to dictate who will care for their child. When a client has a history of working with social services, it is all the more crucial to understand the opportunity to choose a different future for their child and empower them to learn about creating an adoption plan. However, the most recent data** shows that over 400,000 kids are in the foster care system. We know this is a serious issue and we want to honor the families who welcome foster care placements. We encourage foster care adoption and support this month of awareness. It is an important effort in decreasing the number of kids waiting for placement.
As an agency, we wonder, how can we prevent more children from entering the foster care system? The root issues run so deep and we know there are many great organizations working towards these issues. Instances of addiction, unsafe relationships or trafficking may influence separating a child from their parents. For CAS, we see an opportunity to present these vulnerable families with the choice of adoption earlier. This is a choice to select what family raises their child, a choice to have some control over how often they communicate with or see their child, a choice to voluntarily terminate their rights to give their child a loving, two-parent forever family. It is important that individuals close to pregnant women who may not be able to meet their child's physical, emotional, spiritual needs share the option of adoption. Friends, family, teachers, medical professionals, church communities, and case workers all have an impact on how pregnant women perceive the choice of adoption. If it is seen as abandonment, women will not consider this choice even if they are on a path towards involuntary termination and having no control over their child's upbringing. Infant adoption is much more than a preventative measure. The discouraging statistics (infograph from Michigan Foster Care) about foster alumni make us feel even stronger about the need to share the loving choice of adoption with pregnant women considering their options. They don't have to parent if they choose life, they can offer to bring together a forever family.
Voluntary vs Involuntary termination: Both are legal processes involving a court hearing during which a judge issues a decree that permanently ends all legal parental rights of a birth parent to a child. Generally in our agency's adoption practice the parents are choosing (voluntarily) to end their right so the adoptive couple has full parental rights. We seek to assist birth parents with that choice rather than have their rights (involuntarily) terminated later on when parenting is unsuccessful.
**US Dept of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Family: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport23.pdf