Simply for convenience, we’re going to assume that the expectant father is a part of the adoption plan. For more about expectant fathers, see Birthfathers in Robyn’s Adoption Land.
Matching in Agency Adoptions
Most of the adoptions that take place in Robyn’s Adoption Land happen using an agency. Expectant parents contact the agency. Information is exchanged. If the e-parents choose to continue, options counseling occurs. During options counseling, specific prospective adoptive parents are not discussed. That is, the counselor isn’t sharing any profiles. If the e-parents ask about one they saw on the web, the counselor may make a note of it, but explains that no action can be taken quite yet. The earliest a match could happen is after the minimum three hours of options counseling or when the expectant mom is about 20 weeks along in her pregnancy, whichever comes later.
Let’s say Wendy and Peter come to the Journey of Love Adoption agency when Wendy is about 16 weeks pregnant. The Options Counselor works with them for their three hours of counseling over the course of three weeks. That makes Wendy 19 weeks pregnant. Peter and Wendy decide that they do want to see profiles. The agency can give them profiles that match the couple’s criteria. However, the earliest any meetings could actually take place is 1 week later, when Wendy is 20 weeks pregnant.
Why 20 weeks?
- Statistics show that most miscarriages take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.
- Abortions can usually be obtained until 20 weeks. Some states allow later abortions, some are trying their hardest to restrict them to before that, but 20 weeks is generally the norm. If a woman is considering abortion – and certainly not all will – then it makes sense to let that clock run out, so to speak, before adding the next complexity. (Also, I’ve been on the other side of “I can’t decide if I want to place or abort” and it’s truly not a good place to be, for anyone.)
- At this point in time, fetal viability is 24 weeks.
But just because the agency can match e-parents with prospective adoptive parents at 20 weeks doesn’t mean they will, or even that the agency will encourage said behavior. I firmly believe that the agency should be balancing what the e-parents want with the counselor’s opinion of how ready the e-parents are to match. Some e-parents want to match right away. Some want to take their time. Some might feel that they want to match right away, but a trained counselor might see that they need more time. E-parents will be encouraged to take all the time they need.
Here’s another situation: Bianca and Bernard come to Journey of Love Adoption agency when Bianca is 30 weeks pregnant. The Options Counselor must work with them for their minimum three hours of counseling before a match could take place.
Or this one: Nikky calls Journey of Love when she is at the hospital. Nikky has just had a beautiful baby boy whom she wants to place for adoption. The Options Counselor will still need to provide Nikky with the minimum three hours of counseling. This could be done over three days instead of three weeks, if that’s what Nikky and the OC thought was best. But still, no match could occur until the counseling does.
The match meeting occurs. Flowers, hearts, unicorns… a match is made. E-parents and PAPs are very clearly told that, although the e-parents may intend to place, the actual decision to place their child for adoption cannot occur until at least 48 hours after the baby is born. While the PAPs may be cautiously optimistic, a match is not a guarantee.
PAPs are given guidance on how to support e-parents without becoming their sole support, without overstepping boundaries, and without coercion, intentional or not. E-parents are given support by the Options Counselor and agency social worker. They are encouraged to find support within their friends, family, and community. They, too, learn how to have a relationship with the PAPs that does not overstep boundaries.
Specific issues are addressed with a social worker present, the two most pressing issues being what happens at the hospital and the open adoption agreement.
The bottom line is: Everyone is on the same page. No one is left floundering.
Matching in Independent Adoptions
Occasionally, independent adoptions – those that take place outside of an agency – are allowed in Robyn’s Adoption Land. The same basic rules apply. The e-parents are still required to have a minimum of three hours of options counseling, and the official match cannot take place until the e-parents have had said counseling or the e-mom is 20 weeks pregnant, whichever is later. The main difference is, the e-parents and PAPs are essentially pre-matched, because they’ve already identified one another. No expenses can be paid until the expectant mother is 20 weeks pregnant. I might be persuaded to make an exception for true emergency situations. Again, though, the point is stressed that a match means “maybe” not “we’re going to have a baby.”