Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents
Each year in the United States, approximately 14,000 women and a growing number of men make an agonizing parenting decision that they hope will provide their children with the best possible future: They place their babies for adoption. At the same time, policy-makers across this country each year propose and implement measures meant to improve adoption, often based on their perceptions of what these parents want and need. Historically and through the present day, however, adoption-related laws, policies and practices have been made without the benefit of solid research that might answer the most basic, underlying questions: What are the characteristics of mothers and fathers who relinquish their infants for adoption? Why do they choose this path? And how can their needs and rights best be served and protected?
Due largely to the secretive nature of adoption's past, the state of knowledge about infant adoptions in the 21st century is deficient, at best. There is no broad, concrete body of work on who these women and men typically are, what forces shape their decisions, or how adoption impacts the rest of their lives. We do not even know precisely how many babies are placed for adoption in this country annually. Indeed, though domestic infant adoption is what most people think of when they hear the word "adoption," it is the least common type in the U.S. today (after adoption from foster care, from abroad, and by step-parents), and it is the type we know the least about.
This study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute represents the most thorough, intensive and sophisticated effort to date to understand contemporary infant adoption, particularly as it relates to the least-understood and most-stigmatized participants in the process - the women and men usually termed "birthparents." The findings and recommendations in this paper are based on a year-long examination and analysis of decades' worth of research, literature, interviews and experiences relating to the topic. Pursuant to its mission of improving adoption for everyone it encompasses, the Institute's primary objective was to learn as much as possible about these women and men in order to determine how laws, policies and professional practices affect them; what essential rights they should be afforded; and what reforms are needed to optimize their well-being.
Reprinted with the permission of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. © 2007 Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. All rights reserved.
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