The Everchanging Adoption Process

By Jacob LaBau

The adoption process was much different a couple of years ago in comparison to what it is today. Birth Mothers are encouraged to create an adoption plan with their adoption specialist. An adoption plan includes:

  • Choosing the perfect adoptive family.
  • Creating a hospital plan.
  • Agreeing on a post-placement communication plan.

Some changes and shifts include the United States’ acceptance of adoption, the birth mother’s preferences for an adoptive family, and transparent communication. 

What has caused adoption agencies to consider improving the adoption process? Well, it starts with feedback from the birth mothers. After allbirth mothers are the catalyst in the adoption process. Private adoption agencies want to cater to the needs of whatever the birth mother may desire.

Christy Ikeler, executive director of Adoption and Surrogacy Choices of Colorado (ASCOC), and Brenda Hudson Retrum, director of adoptive parent services at ASCOC, got together to analyze feedback they have received from birth mothers.

“We receive many suggestions from our clients. The main feedback we get from our birth mothers would include that when adoptive parents agree to a certain level of post-adoption contact, birth mothers naturally want them to follow through with what they promised. Other feedback includes providing a group setting for birth mothers who need counseling after placement. We have a monthly birth mother support group that has been well received since we started. In addition, Colorado recently passed a law called the “Post Adoption Contact Agreement,” or PACA. It is enforceable in court if adoptive parents don’t follow through with the level of openness agreed upon by birth parents and the adoptive parents,” Ikeler and Retrum said.

Colorado legislature is also assisting in making the adoption process smoother. For example, open adoption agreements are written down in contracts. But there are often verbal agreements addressing the frequency of meetings, messaging, and videos being sent to the birth mother, which is now enforceable in court. Ikeler and Retrum went on to explain how else the adoption process has changed.

“There have been numerous changes in adoption over the years. Society has become a lot more adoption friendly. Open adoptions are much more common and accepted than they used to be. This is because has been such a pendulum swing in the last decade. People have been more open to infant adoption, transracial adoption, and adoption from foster care. LGBTQ has also been highly accepted in numerous adoption agencies across the nation. The number of unplanned pregnancies has dropped nationwide, as has the national birthrate. The availability of birth control is more affordable (sometimes free) and is reliable and effective now. Women now have access to birth control patches, NuvaRing, IUDs, and barrier methods. Gen Z treats sex differently; initial sexual experiences occur later than in other generations. Research shows that this generation has a general ambivalence about ever becoming parents. Cell phones have also contributed to the drop in the birthrate because of the tendency of young people to have virtual relationships and, too often, never meet in person. All of these factors lead to a decrease in unplanned pregnancies, which affects the number of infants available for adoption. Other states are not necessarily experiencing the same decrease due to different demographics, laws, and the availability of birth control,” Ikeler and Retrum stated.

Most people in today’s society have accepted and celebrated adoption. The shame and stigma of adoption are no longer prevalent, and instead, people tend to be more accepting of birth mothers who decide to pursue adoption for their child. They select the adoptive parents for their baby, and most are now open to diverse types of families.

Adoption rates could steadily decline due to Gen Z’s views on sex and being more prepared to have a child. The exact number remains to be seen, but the swing is already taking place. Nigeria McHellon, executive director of Adoption Choices of Florida (ACOF), also noted the difficulties of communication between adoptive parents and birth parents.

“Birth mothers want genuine communication and support throughout the process. The more open/professional the adoptive parents are, the more transparent they will be. The adoption process will then become smoother and increase the birth parents’ understanding of what is going on. Birth mothers have limited information about what is happening, which creates an opportunity for them to feel like the adoptive parents will stick by their word,” Nigeria said.

McHellon has seen similar feedback from birth mothers at ACOF as ACOC did. But Florida does not have any laws to fight back against adoptive parents who stay true to a verbal agreement. Based on how the law affects verbal agreements for adoption in the future, Florida may want to follow suit and consider passing a similar law.  

Although ASCOC saw changes in adoptive family preferences, Adoption Choices of Kansas (ACOK) did not. Amy Bryant, executive director and child placement supervisor for ACOK, had this to say:

“There has not been a noticeable change in adoptive family preferences. Most people are just hoping for a healthy child. Birth parents’ preferences vary widely. Many are looking for a family with a shared racial or ethnic background. Sometimes religion or faith is important to them. They all want a family that can care for and loves their child.”

Amy explained one small change that is affecting the adoption process today.

“I have not noticed any major differences in the last decade. The only thing I can think of is that the internet and digital processes have played a larger role in matching expectant parents to hopeful adoptive parents,” Amy said. 

Both ASCOC and ACOF have experienced changes/shifts in their adoption process. But, ACOK has experienced little to no changes within the adoption process and adoptive family preferences. The adoption process is everchanging. Adoption agencies want the birth mother to feel as comfortable as possible. However, adoption cannot happen without an adoptive family or a birth mother. Private adoption agencies aim to ensure that both parties are satisfied and may do so by making appropriate changes in the foreseeable future.