Three Primary Goals of Expectant Parent Counseling During the Pregnancy
A Three Part Series: Informed Decision Making, Adoption Education, and Grief Preparation
Part One: Informed Decision Making
“You’re doing counseling, right?” – A question posed to me several times by clients throughout the years. The implication is generally, “You’re going over why she should place, right?” That is not adoption counseling. In adoption counseling the goal is to assist the client with weighing the pros and cons of every single option available to her so that she is able to make the decision that is right for her (or them if the birth father is involved). Because no situation is the same, this varies greatly from client to client. Counseling should include realistically exploring the situation with the father, family, and/or friends who are important in her life, or their lives if the birth father is involved. Some of the questions presented to the expectant parent include: If someone says they will help, how has that looked in the past? Can you go live with them? Will they help with diapers, child care, and/or formula? Are they reliable? How much can they really help? And if their preference is that the expectant parent chooses adoption: What would parenting look like without that person’s support? Can you get a job, live with the father or a friend? Will your family really ‘disown’ you? Adoption counseling should allow the expectant parents to weigh these options without the counselor swaying them towards any particular decision, especially when she is in an emotionally fragile state. Coercion not only violates the counselor’s professional code of ethics, but is also illegal.
Last year we had two situations, one in Austin, Texas and one in Round Rock, Texas, where the birth family called us from the hospital after the baby was born. In each situation both the birth mother and the birth father were involved. Neither couple was planning to tell their families about the babies. They wanted to move forward without their families’ knowledge. Our counsel to them was that we couldn’t keep them from grieving in the future if they decide to place, but if possible, we would like to prevent their regretting not having explored all options fully before making their decision. Both couples decided to tell their families. One couple chose to parent after sharing the information with their family who offered support. The other couple chose adoption, despite the fact that the family offered support. It is not the counselor’s place to say if any one decision is right or wrong because that decision belongs to the birth parents. Both couples were thankful for the counsel and moved forward with their decisions with greater confidence.
In the medical field to make an informed decision is to do research and educate one’s self about each of the options available. Likewise in adoption considering all of the factors that contribute to the life an expectant parent will have with or without the baby she is carrying is imperative. This should always be the approach in assisting someone considering making an adoption plan. Before an expectant parent can decide if adoption is the right choice for them, they have to truly understand what adoption means in this day and age.
Be sure to check back next week for Part Two when we discuss adoption education as it relates to expectant parents.