So many times in adoption, all the focus is on the adopting parents.
People share their infertility stories or their faith commitment on social media and with friends and families. Women experiencing an unexpected pregnancy are seen as simply the way for the adopting parents to get their baby. It’s hard to get in the way of their excitement and joy, but no one need ever feel put down or be ignored for choosing to place their child for adoption. No matter how young or old you are, as an expectant mom, you have rights.
These rights include:
Be treated with respect and honesty.
Have an advocate for support before, during, and after the adoption placement.
Ask questions and receive answers about all steps of the process.
Review and understand all legal paperwork before you sign it.
Receive emergency living expenses totaling up to $4,000.
Receive counseling services before, during and after the adoption placement.
Change your mind about placing your child at any point before you sign consents for the adoption.
Choose the family who adopts your child.
Know how the adoptive family has been screened and evaluated.
See, hold, and care for your baby in the hospital.
Rights always come along with responsibilities. These responsibilities include:
Treating others involved in your adoption with respect and honesty.
Let your advocate know your questions, thoughts and feelings before, during, and after the adoption placement.
Request a copy of the legal paperwork before you make a firm commitment to adoption.
Use the emergency living expenses as intended.
Use counseling services to help process your grief and provide a way to move forward.
Be honest if you are not planning on moving forward with an adoption plan.
Think about what type of family would be best for your child.
Ask what screening measures were done by the adoptive family to insure not just a safe home but one where adoption is celebrated.
Being available for your child when they have questions about their identity.
No single list is all inclusive. Maybe the best way to think about rights and responsibilities is to remember the Golden Rule—that is to treat others as you want to be treated.
What happens if you have a secret? A secret that is so terrifying you know you can’t possibly share it with anyone? What if your secret literally has life or death consequences to any decision you make about that secret, and you just can’t imagine how to make any choice? If you put yourself in that place, it’s likely that all you can feel is fear. That fear is so deep it is paralyzing you.
For some women and girls, this fear and this secret are the realities of an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy. Whether the pregnancy is the result of what some would call carelessness and irresponsibility or the result of something tragic like rape, the emotional fall out can be devastating. To reveal the pregnancy may result in further trauma. What kind of trauma? Maybe the fear and likelihood of being kicked out of her home is a reason to keep the secret. Maybe the trauma is the fear and likelihood of being physically abused for “getting knocked up”. Pregnancy is not always met with joy and happiness.
If pregnancy is not always met with joy and happiness, especially if the pregnancy is kept a secret, the arrival of the baby just heightens the fear. Now instead of protecting only herself, the scared new mother must protect that baby. She must find a resolution to her dilemma.
Sadly, the “solution” she sometimes finds happens to tragically make the evening news. There are stories of babies found in dumpsters, in creeks, and in snowbanks. These babies do not survive. There is no ‘happily ever after’ for these children. And yet, can you imagine the guilt and shame the mother carries? While we all might want to point fingers and demonize her, not many of us have been in her place.
Thankfully, dumpsters and snowbanks do not have to be the solution. The Indiana Legislature and Governor Holcomb have authorized the use of “Baby Boxes” which expands the Indiana Safe Haven laws. Under Safe Haven laws, women are able to leave their babies in fire stations, police stations, and hospitals without fear of being prosecuted for neglect. If the fire station is equipped with a “Baby Box”, the baby can be placed completely anonymously and remain warm and safe until rescue personnel arrive.
Currently there are only two official “Baby Boxes” in Indiana. Hopefully the new 2018 legislation will encourage the placement of more boxes throughout the state. In the meantime—here’s to courage and compassion. Courage to find a fire station or police station to take care of the baby and protect the secret. Courage to allow a child to live. And compassion to allow the baby’s mother to heal and be loved for the courage she has shown.
If you find yourself in a unplanned pregnancy, we understand! You can always call or text someone from the Adoption Support Center to discuss your options. We are available 24 hours a day! Call: 317-255-5916 Text: 317-560-4523 If you or someone you know needs immediate emergency help, fire stations, police stations and hospitals are trained to be a Safe Haven for your newborn when you just don’t know what else to do. To reach the 24-hour Safe Haven Emergency Hotline, please call 866-99-BABY1
To read more about the Safe Haven Baby Boxes, click here.
Monica Kelsey and the town of Woodburn, Indiana, dedicated the first Safe Haven Baby Box of its kind on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, at the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department. The box, which is temperature controlled and has a padded inside, is electronically monitored and sounds an alarm to the fire station whenever the door is opened.
If you're an expectant mother looking for support, we are here to help. Call or text(317)-255-5916.