You can read the transcript below, or listen to it by clicking here.
Speaker 2: Blog Talk Radio.
Jennifer J.: Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski, and I am a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates’ premier talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990, and we specialize in both domestic and international adoption. We provide pregnancy and adoption services throughout all of Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw. Anywhere in Michigan you can find a connection to Adoption Associates. Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support, and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, but it is our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitment is this radio show, to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families, and the adoption community, so we are very glad that you’re listening in today. If you’d like to call in during the show with questions or comments, we would welcome that at 347-850-1100. Again, we’d love to hear from you. You could dial 347-850-1100.
I am very excited today to be speaking with Paula Springer. Paula is the director of the Eastern Michigan offices of Adoption Associates, and Paula has been with Adoption Associates now for over 22 years, so we’re super excited to talk with her. Paula, are you with us?
Paula Springer: I am, Jennifer, and thank you so much for having me today.
Jennifer J.: Good morning. Thank you for being with us. In addition to your supervisory work with Adoption Associates, you also work directly with birth parents, and today we’re going to be talking about what birth parents are looking for when selecting adoptive parents for their baby, but before we talk about that, I was hoping you could share with our listeners what this experience is like for a birth mother.
Paula Springer: Sure. Birth mothers who contact the agency have typically found out that they are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and looking for answers, looking for help making a plan for their baby and trying to figure out what is the best future for their baby. Some may be facing criticism in their lives for the pregnancy, some rejection from family or friends or the birth father, and they are looking to the agency to help her learn about adoption and make up a good plan for the baby, and in looking at adoption, hoping to find a family who will be open and accepting to the placement of that particular baby.
Jennifer J.: Okay, so what is it that she’s looking for, the birth mother?
Paula Springer: Well, birth mothers come from all walks of life, all different situations. You really can’t typify a birth mother. Age, race, background, mental health history, substance abuse, her own personal health issues, birth father situations, education level, and so she is looking to find a family who will be perfect for her baby. She wants to know that this family will love her baby unconditionally, and build with a connection with her and honor her in her place as birth mother to this baby, so she needs our help finding that perfect family for the baby which reassures her that the baby has got a great home and future.
Jennifer J.: So it sounds like you’re talking also from adoptive family perspective about their ability to accept that the birth mother may be coming from a place of difficulty and stress, and maybe not what everyone views all the time as ideal circumstances.
Paula Springer: Sure. I mean, we do have some situations where they are just typical birth moms who make a wonderful plan and attend to all the needs of the babies, but there are birth mothers who are in situations where maybe she didn’t even know she was pregnant and may have experienced substance abuse, personal stress, may have mental health issues in her background. She also may have those issues ongoing in her own life due to either not knowing she was pregnant or being in difficult circumstances to begin with that surround the circumstances of her pregnancy. We’re talking about an unplanned pregnancy, so whatever those circumstances might be in her life, she was not intending on getting pregnant and bringing a new life into this world.
So families need to understand that, that she is trying to provide a great future for her baby. So we want to look at that future and her desire to provide the best for her baby, but there may be situations where we’re coming from difficult things in her life, difficult experiences, maybe a lack of prenatal care, maybe substance abuse history, things like that, that are a part of that history, but yeah, she still is moving forward with making a good plan for her baby’s future by choosing adoption.
Jennifer J.: Absolutely. So what role does openness play in her decision?
Paula Springer: Well, that openness can be anything in a continuum. It describes the opportunity for birth parents and adoptive families to have some contact during the pregnancy, around the time of the birth, and after delivery, and so openness provides the reassurance to a birth mom that she knows she has done a good job in planning for her baby. Choosing adoption doesn’t mean she’s expected to forget the baby, but she needs to move forward with her life knowing she made the best plan for her baby, and that openness can provide that, that reassurance that she knows her child is doing well, is bonding with the family, is a part of that family, and doing well. So getting pictures and letters, maybe have texting communications, sometimes email, and some adoptions include visits. All these pieces can help her move forward with her healing process with that reassurance that she knows her baby is in the best place and she’s chosen that for her baby.
Jennifer J.: Yeah. That’s really good information. Can you tell us more about what you’re hearing from birth parents regarding substance exposure?
Paula Springer: Sure. One of the things that we do when we work with birth parents is learning more about their history and background. We do that through a conversation, but also having them complete some forms, and history and background, health and background forms, getting prenatal records so that we can learn more about her background and provide that to a family. In some circumstances that does include substance abuse, and like I said, sometimes it was substance abuse that occurred prior to the knowledge of a pregnancy and may stop when a birth mother discovers she’s pregnant. And sometimes it might continue through the whole pregnancy, so again you’re going to have a variation in terms of amount, type of substance, and the kind of exposure.
Sometimes people hear “substance abuse” and they think, “Oh, it’s the street drugs, it’s the cocaine,” all the very significant scary things, but we really look at the substance abuse on a continuum too. There can be little, some prior to the knowledge of the pregnancy, some continuing through the pregnancy, or there can be significant, and it’s not just those scary street drugs we’re talking about. People need to think and look at and consider all options. We might have prescription drug use. We might have marijuana and only marijuana use. Not so much the harder, cocaine or seriously addictive drugs, although those do occur. Sometimes these kinds of more opiate use or prescription drugs that birth mothers are taking for a particular condition or circumstance. Sometimes the antidepressants or antianxiety medications that are necessary in terms of her own wellbeing and mental health issues.
We find that a percentage may be kind of unofficially somewhere around 30% have some form of substance abuse, but I think it is especially important to know that this is a continuum, and that adoptive families are looking at what’s right for them based on this continuum and where that circumstance might fall for them, substance abuse. And maybe being open to in the process, learning more about substance abuse during pregnancy. You know, “Are there effects? What might they be? Are these situations that I might deal with myself and the family? How might they handle this?” Because the broader a family is in accepting different differences in birth mothers’ history and situations, the more opportunities that family will have to have their profile shown and for birth mothers to determine, “Is this the right family for my baby?”
Jennifer J.: Absolutely. What about race? What are you hearing or experiencing regarding that?
Paula Springer: Sure. Yeah. We work with clients who come from all different walks of life, all different backgrounds, and that includes racial situations, and so sometimes birth parents are looking for a family of the same race for their baby and we may be able to provide that or may not, and often we’ll have families who are adopting trans-racially. When birth parents are looking at that circumstance, they want to make sure that this family is fully open to loving this child, this particular child in these circumstances, that there is diversity accepted in the family, and often diversity present in the family. Sometimes families who have children of other races, extended family members of other races, but the understanding that birth parents need to have is that this child will be loved unconditionally by this family regardless of race. So families need to think that through in their process, but also make that clear in their profile. If this is a family who is open to adopting trans-racially or a child of any race, that’s clear in your profile, how this child is going to fit into your family regardless of race.
Jennifer J.: I think that’s a really important point that you make, because you’re right, being open to it but then demonstrating or stating that in a way that others know it maybe is a different matter.
Paula Springer: Right, and like I mentioned, having family members that may be other adopted children, but it also may be extended friends or family so that the family is clearly presenting their acceptance to a child, whatever the circumstances are, and again I think that’s something that families need to look at and educate themselves as they move through the adoption process. You know, how do I build my family? Who makes up my family, and how do we love each other and are accepting of each other in terms of race and background? And then present that on the profile.
Jennifer J.: Obviously this is through the viewpoint of the birth mother and their wanting the security, as you stated, and the reassurance that this child is being raised in an environment that not only is loving and accepting of who they are as an individual, but their culture and their heritage as well.
Paula Springer: Right, right.
Jennifer J.: So that’s really important information. You’ve talked a little bit about openness, race, substance use, and then additionally some of the stressful life circumstances that may exist for our birth mother. Outside the these factors, what it is that birth mothers are saying to you about selecting adoptive parents and what this process is like for them?
Paula Springer: Sure. Really, birth mothers want a family who will love this child, and so they want a loving family who will love this child unconditionally but who also is accepting of her situation because, of course, birth parents’ background, history, this is the child’s heritage. So I think part of loving this child unconditionally is also loving and accepting the birth parents. We talk a lot about birth mothers, but also what we know about birth father, so that they’re accepting of the situation. Again, race, substance abuse, health and background, mental health issues, all these components, education, make up a birth mother’s history, so we want to know that the family is accepting of that situation, non-judgmental. A family who certainly can have values and standards, but non-judgmental of birth parents. A family who’s open to these kinds of situations we’ve been talking about, which might include substance abuse, might include mental illness, complicated pregnancy situations, complicated birth father issues, non-judgmental and accepting, and this family who will provide the best for the future of their baby.
Sometimes a family is selected because they might remind a birth parent of her family or they might remind a birth parent of the family she always wanted, and so providing that kind of life and the personal connection that happens. Birth parents want to feel that personal connection because as they move forward, they want to feel good about this child, not that they’ve placed their baby in the arms of a stranger or just kind of walk away. They want to know that they have a wonderful connection that may be carried on through the pictures and letters, phone conversations, visits, whatever, and so they’re looking for that family who they feel they can make the connection with and provides the best for the future of the baby.
Jennifer J.: Awesome. Awesome. In 22 years of adoption work, I’m sure you’ve seen many different relationships that developed between birth families and adoptive families, but could you share with us what you’ve experienced through your work in adoption that has made an impact on you?
Paula Springer: Sure. You know, that opportunity for birth parents and families to make that connection, and sometimes in cases where a birth mom has had a difficult situation or maybe think no one is going to love this baby or, “Is my baby ever going to have a home or family?” so there may be some of these difficult situations. Selecting a family and making that connection, that’s a very meaningful part of the work that we do. Of course, it’s wonderful for birth moms, families, and babies, but it also is very meaningful to the professionals who work in these situations. You know, going through that process of getting to know her. Sometimes families who feel called to do this, always feel that maybe God called them to adoption, and they are accepting of the child that God presents to them through the world of adoption and can see God’s plan in this world of adoption, I mean, that can be very special too, particularly when there are difficult situations that might occur. That’s really been very meaningful, to see that connection happen.
Jennifer J.: Yeah. I like that. I think that’s very important. In your experience, what do birth parents most want adoptive parents and this child to understand?
Paula Springer: To understand about their adoption situation. They want the child to know that the child is loved and accepted unconditionally by both birth parents and adoptive parents. Both parties unconditionally and totally love this baby and want the best for the future of the baby. They want the child to know that adoption was the best plan for this baby, and being able to share in that plan together helps the child develop a positive sense about their own adoption and their own self-image, the place in the family, both in the birth family and the adoptive family, and come from that source of strength about adoption.
Jennifer J.: I think that too, Paula, you talked about the personal connection and the relationship there that develops between the adoptive family and the birth family, and that’s such a great reminder to all of us, I think, that are involved in adoption, because we talk about adoptive parents and we talk about birth parents, and these words and labels that we all kind of carry in our lives. And that reminder of the personal connection and the value that is had there I think is so important as well as all the information that you’ve given us. It’s been something that we wanted to hear about from the birth mothers’ perspective, what they were looking for and what’s important to them. We are approaching the end of the show and I’m wondering if there’s anything else that maybe we didn’t touch on that you felt we should have.
Paula Springer: I think that families need to be themselves, and that’s what’s presented in profiles which birth mothers look at to make to selection, but families also need to continuously look at who you are and the best kind of family that you can provide. You know, are you open to some of these more unusual or difficult situations? And making it clear what your circumstances are, and if you are, how that comes across in your profile so that birth mother feel that sense of caring, that personal connection. It’s the little things that often families are selected for and that birth parents are looking for, so presenting that, that real person, who you are, and then looking closely at yourself as a family to see, “Where can we best provide for a child, and child can we best provide for?”
And I think constantly kind of reevaluating that too, learning more about it, doing personal reading or education, talking to people who have adopted through other circumstances, attending meetings. Adoption Associates provides these waiting families meetings. Attending these meetings to learn more, maybe about some of the situations that people never thought about before and kind of positioning yourself as a family best ready to provide a good home for the future of any baby, is more likely to have a family find success in the world of adoption.
Jennifer J.: Thank you so much, Paula, for today and for this wonderful information. I want our listeners to remember that we’re live every Tuesday at 11:00 Eastern Standard time. If you’re looking to connect with Adoption Associates, you can do so at 800-677-2367 or on the web at adoptionassociates.net. Thanks, Paula, for today. We appreciate it.
Paula Springer: I’m very happy to do that. Educating people about adoption is part of my passion, and so thank you for having me, Jennifer.
Jennifer J.: We appreciate it. Thank you again. Join us next week, everyone, when we’re hearing from a young woman who will talk about agency support and the importance and role that that played in her life during her adoption planning. Hopefully we’ll be in touch with all you next week live, Tuesday at 11:00. For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. Have a great day, everyone. Bye, bye.