With November celebrating National Adoption Month, I cannot help but think back to the changes I have witnessed in the 20 years and 399 babies placed with loving families. Our next placement will be a milestone of 400 adoptions. Children are flourishing, several have graduated high school and are going on to college. Some are excelling in sports, others in music and art, and still others in academic pursuits.
Progress not Perfection in Adoption
The most significant change over the years has been how the stigma of adoption has diminished. While some stigma still exists, great strides have been made with adoption being more openly discussed in a positive manner within family and community settings.
As a result, more single parents and same-sex couples can adopt. It is also easier to place children of color. When the agency first started, I would spend days looking for families to adopt African American and multi-racial children. Today, Caucasian families are more willing to adopt and welcome a child of a different race. In addition, more families of color and interracial couples are interested in adopting.
Another change relates to privacy issues. In the early years, closed or semi-open adoptions were the norm. Now, almost all of our adoptions are “open” with birth parents and the adopting families staying connected after placement. Some of these go beyond information exchange or planned updates to include scheduled visits by the birth parents with the child and adoptive family.
COVID and Adoption
While this milestone year has been one of great joy and success, it has also come with some challenges. COVID has impacted us all and will continue to affect adoption into 2021. It has not stopped the need for adoption. However, the Coronavirus has changed some of the events and circumstances that lead to birth parents choosing adoption as the best life for their child. It has also changed the process of adoption.
In March 2020, hospitals began restricting access to the delivery room and the baby. For four months, we struggled to get into hospitals and obtain signatures on documents. In the early days of safety protocols, we had three adoptive fathers who did not see their newborn until the baby was discharged from the hospital into the parking lot. Today, many hospitals still restrict visitation with the birth mother and baby to only one of the adoptive parents.
We have also had to change almost every step of our adoption process, which is heavily dependent on people meeting and making a connection with one another. We have become creative using video calls, public parks, and parking lots. While we can hold some meetings in the office today, we are conscious to follow a strict routine of wiping down surfaces, limiting the number of people, providing hand sanitizer, wearing masks or rubber gloves, as well as spreading out in the conference room.
Despite the struggles of 2020, I am venturing into the new year with hope and gratitude. The world is becoming more embracing and supportive of adoption. There is greater diversity in the types of families able to adopt. Birth parents are finding comfort in the ability to stay connected with the child as they grow. And, the children are becoming remarkable human beings.
About Author E. Parker Herring:
Parker Herring has a deep respect and understanding of family law and the adoption process, through which she adopted two of her children. She is the founder and director of A Child’s Hope, a North Carolina licensed adoption agency located in Raleigh that focuses on helping birth mothers and families looking to adopt and answer questions about adoption. A Child’s Hope has placed nearly 400 children since 2000 and is the only North Carolina domestic adoption agency directed by an attorney. Herring is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist who has practiced for 35 years in the Raleigh area. She is a member of the N.C. Bar Association, Wake County Bar Association, and N.C. Collaborative Lawyers.