“I am still in awe of the courage and strength of birthparents who make the choice to place their baby for adoption.”
When it comes to sharing her feelings about birthmothers and the tough decisions they make, Katie Chavira doesn’t hold anything back.
Katie was the Birthparent Intake Counselor and Supervisor for the Birthparent Intake department at the now-closed Independent Adoption Center.
Over the last 12 years she met with expectant mothers considering adoption to explain their rights and options, including open adoption.
1. What’s the profile of a typical woman who sees you?
Our average age of a birthmom is 24 years old and a college student. However, we do work with women all throughout the United States of all different ages, socio-economic backgrounds and walks of life.
2. What’s her biggest concern?
A birthmom has a lot of concerns and fears when deciding to place. A common concern women have is will the child grow up knowing who their birthparents are and will the child be upset with them for placing them for adoption. Also, will the adoptive parents keep their promise of staying in touch with me and how will they speak about me to my child?
3. How much does she know about open adoption?
IAC works with women from all different paths in life so their accessibility to information is different. Through the years I have talked to birthmoms for the first time who know a vast amount of information on open adoption and have done their own research.
I also have talked to women who have never heard of open adoption and are beyond shocked to learn that these types of adoptions really do exist. Either way our main goal in the beginning phases is to educate the potential birthmom on open adoption, her legal rights and the process.
4. What’s the first thing you tell her?
When a woman calls in for the first time she has mustered so much courage and strength to just dial our number. I always start my conversations out with thanking her for calling and asking her how she is doing.
I want to make sure I understand where she is at, what questions she may have, and reassure her that we will support any path she decides to pursue. Before we end the conversation, I let her know I am proud of her for taking the time to learn about open adoption as it is not an easy step to make.
5. How do you help her decide whether adoption is right for her?
I really do not help her in deciding if adoption is the right choice for her necessarily. That is a choice she needs to make all on her own.
What I do offer is my support, knowledge of open adoption, encouragement and support services from IAC to help her in making her choice. If she decides that she wants to research options to parent or terminate the adoption, we will help her with appropriate referral sources.
6. How involved is her family, the baby’s father, or others in the process?
Every woman’s support network is different. We have seen a birthmom have the most wonderful support from her family, friends and birthfather that cheer her on every step of the way. We have also worked with birthmothers with the exact opposite situation.
She may be alone in this journey without anyone by her side during this very challenging time. IAC offers support through counseling sessions, a buddy system to connect her with an alumni birthmother, and an online forum for her to chat with other IAC birthmothers and accessibility to talk to a counselor at anytime.
7. What’s the biggest mistake that expectant mothers make when exploring open adoption?
The biggest mistake is that these amazing women do not give themselves enough credit. I have talked to women over the years that beat themselves up for exploring open adoption and think it is the irresponsible thing to do. In actuality, the complete opposite is true.
Making an adoption plan is a parenting choice; it can be the most selfless and loving decision a woman makes her entire life. It takes time for a woman to see that, but the goal is for her to realize her inner strength through this process, and hopefully continue into her future with a renewed sense of self-esteem and belief in herself.
8. What percentage of expectant parents end up changing their minds before placement, and what are the main reasons for their change of heart?
IAC maintains a remarkably low reclaim rate of approximately 4 percent. This can be attributed to our focus on providing comprehensive options counseling and grief counseling throughout the entire process, in addition to lifetime support.
Moreover, in the more than 30 years we have been providing fully open adoptions, birthmothers continue to report that it was the opportunity to maintain an ongoing relationship with their child that gave them the peace of mind to go through with the placement.
The main reason typically are because a woman’s support system has changed or she has thought long and hard that overall placing is just not the right choice for her.
9. What’s the secret of a successful placement?
The secret to a successful placement would be for a birthmom to really embrace this choice not only with her heart but also with her mind; to be open to talking about her role as she moves into placing and how she can always feel a sense of confidence and pride of her choice.
The more a birthmom is able weave the identity of being a birthmom into her identity, the more she can have a sense of security and optimism in imagining the part she will play in her child’s life as he or she grows up.
10. What’s the one thing that expectant mothers considering adoption need to know?
The one thing potential birthmothers need to know is that placing a child for adoption is the most selfless, loving and brave choice they may ever make in their life and they need to be proud of that.
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