May 24, 2011

Fostering Unwed Mothers Who Have an Adoption Plan




     While living in Atlanta, Georgia, our family decided to use our “fourth bedroom” to unwed mothers planning to release their children for adoption. This is the story of one pregnant-out-of-wedlock foster child.

     The trees were fleshing out with their springtime greens when Beth joined our household for a short time.

     We—my husband, our daughter, our son, and myself— lived in a megalopolis suburb, surviving on a “shoestring” budget while my husband attended seminary. We were fortunate in renting a house with a fourth bedroom, which the landlord gave us permission to rent. But to what use could this room be put?

     In the past, I’d been involved in adoption casework. It was rewarding dealing with the adoption triad: the unwed mother, the adoptive parents and the newborn baby. It required a balancing act to come to the best resolution of the problems of all three sides of the adoption situation.

     During the time I was an adoption counselor, my husband and I were having our own adoption experience with a different agency. We were personally overjoyed at the arrival of our daughter, Sandy.

     With this background, it occurred to me that we were in an ideal position to foster parent an unwed mother planning to release her newborn for adoption.

     After researching the metro adoption agencies, we discovered this was, indeed, a very real option. The adoption agency paid room, board, expenses, and medical bills for unwed mothers who’d made their decision for adoption while pregnant. (If the mother changed her mind, she was required to reimburse the agency for any and all expenses.) It also paid us a stipend for caring for the mother.

     We gathered our family for a discussion. Sandy said “Go for it!” My easy-going biological son voiced no comment either way. So we “went for it.”

     And Beth arrived shortly thereafter.

     Since Beth decided to be open and honest rather than using a cover story, her situation soon became known. Community reactions to our bringing an unwed mother into our home varied. Those who knew us well weren’t surprised at our decision, and a few people were very supportive. What startled us most were the very extreme negative reactions. Many of these were concerns about the effects this foster care situation would have on our children. After all, did we not have two impressionable teenagers? And hadn’t we already evicted one resident of the fourth bedroom because of the tenant’s negative influence on our vulnerable youth? Yet, here we were—going out of our way to bring into our home the problems presented by a girl “pregnant out of wedlock.” Was this not a contradiction?

     Maybe so. On deep consideration, however, no.

     We’ve always tried to teach our children healthy and positive attitudes and convictions. Conviction of belief, however, can best be caught through action.

     We as a family do not support abortion as a means of birth control. This is our conviction. Providing refuge for a woman who chooses “adoption as an option” became a follow-through action for us.

     This by no means indicates that we condone the behavior leading to an undesired pregnancy. It does mean we accept the fact of man’s humanity and the reality that women do become pregnant out of wedlock, and thus they have to deal with a pregnancy. It means we can offer help to one such woman. It also means we demonstrate compassion to our children. They see us choosing life over death.

     Our oldest child, Sandy, is adopted. At the time of her adoption, at less than a month old, we realized she’d someday have to come to terms with her background in order to fully accept herself. At this time, as a young teenager, Sandy was (or would soon become) aware the issues surrounding her birth: illegitimacy, unwanted pregnancy, behavior not approved of in our home. Of necessity, her adoption will raise many questions, doubts, and uncertainties for her:

  • Why was she “given up?”
  • Did her bio-mother love her?
  • What problems did her bio-mother wrestle with in making the decision for Sandy’s adoption?
  • What about her bio-father?
  • What about her nationality, her looks?

     Having a young woman “in trouble” temporarily share our home could offer Sandy insight into the deep joy and agony involved in the major decision “for life.” Our foster daughter would be struggling with the same choices Sandy’s bio-mother did: abortion or birth; self-parenting or adoption. Further, by being a part of a working adoptive home, Sandy might even assist Beth in her decision-making process. In depth discussions between Beth and Sandy could offer each valuable insights into decisions past and present. Each could experience through the other the joy and the agony of the decision making process.

     The joy and the agony.

     Joy. Coming from the miracle of a new life; the knowledge that another childless couple can become a more complete family, knowing the new life is wanted. Joy in the love shown in the “giving up.” Joy in the confidence that new life will have opportunities not possible with Beth.

    Agony. Coming from the difficult, wrenching choices of birth over abortion, adoption over self-parenting. The agony of feeling life grow, of the miracle of birth, always with the knowledge that the separation will come, must come, a separation that will unalterably cut off any future contact with part of oneself. And the ultimate agony of never knowing whether the choice being made is the right choice.

     The opportunity to experience and share in this joy and agony gives Sandy a unique way to come to terms with her own adoption that hours of explanation , reassurance and reasoning can never accomplish. It allows her to take part in a decision like that which brought her to us, one that she had no choice in. It offers a confidence that yes, her bio-mother made the decision in love and struggle.

     And Beth: what special benefit can she gain from becoming a part of our family during her time of pain?

     In our home we have a family created by adoption and biology. Beth has the opportunity to observe for herself the differences that exist between the two situations, what special and unique problems are present in each situation. Thus, from this singular situation, she can determine for herself whether adoption might actually work. We can offer her a compassionate counseling situation whereby she is able to explore and examine each option available to her without reprisal. Through all this her confidence in her choice will be upheld, because in knowing what she wants for her child and herself, she can recognize the distance her goals and her capabilities. She will learn that she must not waiver, but must let her child go in love.

     Beth will also have the opportunity to regroup and examine the path that led her to the situation in which she finds herself. Perhaps she will learn how to avoid the trap of untimely pregnancy in the future, because she will take the time to know what it was that made her vulnerable this time. She can learn how to protect herself from a repeat pregnancy.

     We, too, will benefit. In the future, we’ll be in a church pastorate situation. The insight gained through the in depth counseling sessions, the comforting through pain and the rejoicing in joy will enrich our understanding of the human condition. We gain a deeper understanding of Sandy’s bio-mother, and this will help us cope with Sandy and in counseling other adoptees and families with adopted children.

     The negative reactions come from a well-founded concern for our family. Upon examining the issues, we feel we can take a risk, because we feel that the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects. The door is open for a much deeper understanding and enrichment for all our lives.

     We are glad that Beth is able to share this time of her life with us!



Click below for readings on adoption:


1 Comment »

  1. I think 20/20 should read this story and fo an interview with you & your family !

    Comment by Grace (&Fred) — May 11, 2014 @ 4:06 am | Reply

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