Friday, February 19, 2010

Infant Adoption Training Initiative

I went to a training today, aptly called the Infant Adoption Training Initiative. My field supervisor encouraged me to attend because she felt it would be very beneficial to my learning. She was right. However, I must give credit to her. I knew a lot of the more important pieces of the training because of my supervisor. She has been a fabulous teacher and I was surprised to find myself speaking about the adoption option so freely, and actually explaining the differences between private and state adoption to some of the nurses in the training.

For people who know the laws, how to counsel a pregnant women about he
r options, etc. - you probably don't need to take this class. However, for those who interact with these women - nurses, volunteers, etc - who don't necessarily have knowledge on adoption, should really take this training! It is nation-wide and it is a federally funded and free to participants. It was non-biased, didn't sway this way or that way. It simply gave you factual information in which to properly counsel a pregnant woman on her options. The only have one more year left on the grant, so hurry up!

We covered the history and legacy of adoption, and how it is has drastically changed over the years. Orphan trains, anyone? I learned that the term "put up for adoption" (which is a BAD term to use) was derived from the orphan train days when parents who couldn't care for their children "put" them on a train to be "bid on" in another town. Terms like "give away" and "keep the baby" imply that the baby is property, and a baby should never be viewed this way. However, that is certainly how children were viewed in history.

We watched a "commercial" on adoption that was made in the 1930's. It was typically shown in movie theaters. There were SO many ugly things about this video, but it is the way things were down back then. The birth mom was typically wondering how much money she could get out of the deal, the baby's eye and hair color were matched to adoptive parents, the baby needed to be perfectly healthy so they wouldn't be a burden to the adoptive parents, they placed intelligent babies with intelligent parents so they could live up to their full potential. Adoption was never spoken about - many children never knew they were adopted until their parents died and they had to go through records. And, only childless couples were eligible! That is just what I picked up on. Not the way adoption is done in today's world.

Today, we encourage adoptive parents to be honest with their child about adoption. Being adopted is nothing to be ashamed about! We counsel both sides to ensure they are proceeding down the right path for them. Some people can choose to have completely open adoptions with full disclosure of identifying info, others prefer to go through an agency, and still some want complete confidentiality.
Openness is becoming more and more common today. Single people are now free to adopt, and transracial/cultural adoptions are way more common. Also, adoption isn't only limited to infertile and childless couples.

I learned a
lot about the laws, but I already knew quite enough about them. We talked a lot about social, cultural and personal influences. I volunteered to role this 19 year old woman who just found out she was pregnant. I had to sit in front of the group and wear this silly straw hat. Each group member was asked to take on an influential role, such as a family member, peer, mentor, religious affiliate, etc, and tell me what they think I should do, in terms of parenting a child. Every time someone through out their opinion, the trainer placed a ribbon on the hat, which fell over my eyes. At the end of it all, I couldn't see, and knew exactly what it symbolized. Those ribbons, or influences, were completely clouding my own personal thoughts on my pregnancy, and made it very hard to think about what I should do for myself and my baby. It shows us that these women have so many different opinions and emotions thrown at them from all of their influences that their heads are spinning and they don't have a clue which is the correct path for them.

We talked about adolescents and pregnancy, birth fathers, non-directive, non-coercive counseling, and how to access community resources. As an options counselor, it is your goal to give them factual, unbiased information, which empowers the client to make the right decision for
the client. When you are in that role, you should never influence the person to go one way or another. As a social worker, we really need to check our biases, assumptions and beliefs at the door. Start where the client is.