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The Ever Changing World of Adoption

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child hand in a parent's hand

a blog by Ellen Glazer,

I’ve been working in the field of adoption for over 30 years so you’d think I’d understand how it works by now! Truth is that although there are some aspects of adoption that are pretty clear and straightforward, adoption is a confusing, ever changing (but ultimately wonderful) path to parenthood. This is the first in a series of blogs that I am writing for the FertilityAuthority about adoption. My focus today is on how adoptive parents and birthparents are “matched.”

“We’re matched!” has become a familiar heading in my email inbox. Couples (and singles) waiting to adopt, are eager to share their joy and excitement when they learn they’ve been matched with a birthmother. But what does this mean and how does it happen?

Being matched with a birthmother means that there is a pregnant woman who, in making a parenting plan for her unborn child, has chosen an individual or couple to be the parents (or parent). She may have made that choice as early as in her fourth or fifth month of pregnancy or she may be days or hours away from delivery. Sometimes birthmothers choose families in the hours or days following birth. Today’s discussion will focus on the advantages of an early match vs a late one—and on those in the middle.

An early match—when the birthmother is early in her second trimester—has certain advantages. If a birthmother chooses a family early, it usually means that she is getting prenatal care and is focused, from the start, on the baby’s well being and on his/her future. It usually means that she takes finding the right family very seriously and feels a commitment to them. All good. However, there is a down side to early matches: there is more time for things to go wrong. These include late pregnancy losses, a baby born severely premature and most significant, a birthmother’s change of heart. The woman who is so committed to her baby’s well being and future may be the same one who realizes—at the end of the pregnancy or at delivery—that she cannot part from the child and that when she really thinks about it, she is capable of parenting the child.

A late match—at delivery or immediately after—has it’s own set of advantages and its downside. The advantages include the fact that in some instances (when the baby has been born) the birthparents have already surrendered their parental rights. Gone the worries that they will have a last minute change of heart. The other huge advantage to a late match is that there is much greater assurance that the baby is healthy. He/she has either been born or is full term.

So what are the downsides of a late match? There is less time to review medical information (although there may be more of it) and surely less time to ponder the decision. I’ve found that the people who have late matches are often those who have the ability to take a “leap of faith”—they say “yes” without asking a lot of questions. Recently I had a couple learn about a baby at about 9 p. m in the evening and by the following morning they had travelled almost across the U.S. to adopt her. Late matches are not for the wary or faint of heart.

What is the in the “middle” and is the middle better? In my experience most matches occur in the last month of pregnancy and this timing seems to work well for adoptive parents—there is enough time to ask some questions, review medical information and begin to prepare for the arrival of a baby. At the same time, however, there is not too much time to wait and wonder and fear that it won’t happen. Downsides to a match that occurs a few weeks before birth? None that I can think of other than the chance that always exists of a fall through around the time of birth.


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