Pre-birth Matching = Adoption Coercion

Pre-birth matching of expecting mothers and prospective adoptive parents is pretty commonplace in domestic infant adoption these days.  From an outsider’s perspective, it makes sense if 2 parties are entering into an open adoption agreement that they should get to know each other before committing to a lifelong relationship.  It would also make sense that a mother considering adoption would want to know a little bit about the people who will be raising her child.  Unfortunately, this practice is ripe for unethical behavior and manipulation.

I disagree with pre-birth matching for a few reasons.  First and foremost, a mother can not and should not be forced to make a final decision about adoption until well after the birth of her child.  If that decision can not be made prior to birth, it makes no sense for prospective adoptive parents to put themselves in the position to be heartbroken when a woman decides to parent.  It should be assumed that a mother is going to raise their child until she can sign her consent for adoption without undue stress.  In most circles, the opposite is assumed.  If a woman contacts an agency while pregnant the assumption is that she will be giving her baby up for adoption after the child is born.  If a woman can not make the decision regarding adoption until after her baby is born, why bother with pre-birth matching?

Are Adoptive Parents Engaging In Adoption Coercion?

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt in life.  With regards to pre-birth matching, I try to believe that prospective adoptive parents engage in this practice because it is what the agencies suggest.  At this point, it simply is just how it is done in the U.S. so who are they to argue?  I do believe that the industry as a whole has a different agenda when it comes to pre-birth matching.  The agencies and lawyers know that a mother is more likely to follow through with an adoption if she has a relationship with the adopters but I have tried to believe that hopeful adoptive parents do not engage in the practice because of that.  And then I read something like this, taken from a post on the Adoptive Families Circle forums:

“With my first I waited until after court and had more of a family party.

My last 2 were piratically twins (3.5 months apart) and the expectant/birth mothers were good friends.

I was having a huge shower and knew they both wanted to come, so I invited them prior to birth.

I am glad I did because it really got them excited to see all my friends and family and all the love and support and gifts. They loved seeing all their child would have, the nursery and also seeing all the friends and family, etc.

It would have been really hard had they not actually placed, but I am glad it worked out. Maybe that influenced it, I believe the more time you spend together and share, the more likely they do place. You just never know. I thought if they did not place I would give them the gender specific stuff and keep the other stuff.

On a side note I knew I would get a ton of baby stuff, so I had a hospital bag/recovery basket for them so they would have something to open as well with robe, slippers, and all the stuff my sister said you need after you deliver, etc.

Maybe it is to emotional to do for a first time adoption, but probably fun for a second one.”

This comment was in response to a prospective adoptive mother wondering if she should or should not invite the expectant mother she was matched with to her baby shower.

I have bolded the portion of the comment that I had a visceral reaction to.  What that bolded portion is describing is most definitely coercion.  This woman is describing how, by having the expectant mother present at the baby shower, she was hoping it would put pressure on the mother to follow through with the adoption.  She flat out states that she believed that the more time spent with the expecting mother, the more likely they are to give their child to you.

When I read that comment, it was a punch in the gut.  This is not how adoption is supposed to work.  A woman who is considering adoption should not be subjected to the manipulation and added pressure of worrying about the prospective parents.  To read a statement like this from an adoptive mother was truly an eye opener for me.

I am not sharing this woman’s comment to punish or embarrass her. It is my hope that more expecting mothers and hopeful adoptive parents will start to recognize the subtle manipulation and added level of stress pre-birth matching puts on mothers and refuse to engage in it.  Adoption should not be about convincing a woman to give up their child.  Adoption should be about a woman making the best choice for her child.

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5 comments

  1. everyoneactdead

    I completely agree with you. Thank you for writing this post. The single biggest reason I went through with my son’s adoption was not wanting to hurt the adoptive parents. They had flown 2000 miles shortly after my due date and stayed in my home city for more than a week as I went almost 2 weeks overdue (my bump usually measured small and I discovered my pregnancy very late so I suspect my due date was inaccurate). I knew they owned every baby item possible, clothes, furniture, and had heard all about their preparations. Of course I couldn’t do that to them, I thought. They were sooo much more worthy of my son than I was. The baby gear was a huge reason. I wish I had looked into the costs of keeping him beforehand. I did so afterwards and I cried and cried realizing that the few things I would’ve needed were not out of my financial reach at all. All that pricey shit is unnecessary.

    I would love to see the horrible practices of Dear Birthmother letters and pre birth matching come to an end. There should be a simple expectation that women take care of their babies after birth and recover for a few weeks before they make a decision. Puppies receive that much consideration.

    • leenilee

      Yes, I was told over and over again how terrible a mother would be to let down PAP’s who were dying to raise a child of their own. It’s crazy to me that a mother should even have to consider the feelings of strangers when talking about her decision to raiser her own child. The only lives a mother should be considering are her own, her family, and her child.

  2. Stephanie O'Hanley

    The adoptive parents should not be involved at all. It should be illegal for prospective adoptive parents to even meet a pregnant woman. They should not be allowed to pay for anything related to pregnancy or birth. Any “decision” about adoption needs to be revisited after the birth and without any pressure or influence from other parties. Even if a girl or woman presents herself as “choosing” adoption before a birth, she should be treated as the child’s legal mother after the birth and accorded the same treatment and rights as any other mother since that’s what she is. Adoption is a big deal, losing a family member to adoption is a huge deal and this “decision” should be treated seriously and time needs to be accorded to make sure it’s truly in the best interest of the mother (father too, extended family) and child and not something rushed into. The mother should never feel she owes other people her child because they can’t have children.

    • leenilee

      Absolutely, Stephanie. I read so many articles and blogs about the experience of the “failed adoption” from the perspective of the PAPs and it makes me wonder why PAPs would want to participate in it? I have my theories…

  3. Christy Zarlengo

    Not to forget also that there are birthmoms who scam potential adoptive parents and collect expense money for months with no intention to place the child.

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