September 26th, 2007
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A question was recently posed on the forums:

Should expectant parents be required by law to have counseling before and or after they relinquish their rights?

The results of the poll currently stand at 9 yeses, 5 nos and one other. The discussion that followed provided some interesting commentary on the ins and outs as to why requiring it, by law, may or may not help expectant parents or the system of adoption as a whole.

I, personally, said yes but acknowledged the problems that you can run into when requiring such a thing by law.

Your less than ethical agencies will simply want to provide counseling from “in house” to help them save money. I am of the firm belief that counseling needs to come from an impartial third party, not affiliated with the agency or the potential adoptive family(ies). The problem with that comes with funding of such a thing, especially when you factor in my belief that the adoptive family should not be paying for expectant parent expenses. So, even though I know, in my heart and mind, that expectant parents could benefit, TREMENDOUSLY, from such a thing, I don’t know how to properly employ the idea.


Others agreed that the actual employment of such an idea creates many more questions and a myriad of problems. One mother worded her reply on government involvement and responsibility so well that it would be a shame not to quote a big chunk right here.

It’s not the law that needs to be fixed. It’s not government that needs to step in. It’s those of us who have gone through adoptions (on all sides of the triad) who need to work with the adoption agencies and adoption attorneys and healthcare providers and social workers and tell our stories and show them why those changes must be made. Then participate in making those changes.

It’s not the government’s job. It’s ours.

Of course, you also run into a problem on this end. Agencies don’t want to work with birth parents who take issue with the way things are being run in today’s adoption system or, most specifically, with the agency through which they placed. It doesn’t bode well to have birth parents hanging around that speak negatively about adoption, whether abstractly or specifically. Agencies are more prone to work with birth parents who are happy with the results of their child’s adoption and with the process through which they went through at that agency. Those of us who take issue with the way our cases were handled by the agency often find doors slammed in our faces. I know. I’ve been there, done that.

As that particular mother commented and I agree with, I’m not quite sure that the changes that need to be made can be done without the government stepping in on some level. At the very least, reform activists (which include birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents) need to keep working on their current issues. The main task at hand, which I’m sure many will agree with, is continuing to open adoptee access to their birth records. I am of the opinion, though it may be seen as somewhat idealistic as of yet, that once the ground really gets quaking through the country on that specific issue, the after shocks of further reform can’t be too far behind. Once people sit up and take notice of one issue, others are sure to follow.

Until then, while many agencies may not want to work with those of us who are more outspoken, I do believe that we (all!) can continue to speak out and educate expectant parents considering adoption as to their rights and what relinquishment truly entails on an emotional level. Blogging publicly about birth parent issues wasn’t widespread when I placed in 2003. Nowadays? Expectant parents can Google any number of terms on adoption and find any number of sites, positive and negative and neutral, about the actual life of a birth parent. The more birth parents continue to share their voices, the more chance we have of educating those who are looking to follow in our footsteps. The more we lead them to sound legal and ethical advice, the more they have a chance of being fully informed if they choose to sign over their rights.

That mother had a point. While I don’t think many agencies want the help of those of us who are pushing for greater reform, it is our duty to tell others: you do have rights! If an agency or an attorney or a family or YOUR family is telling you that you don’t need counseling prior to or after an adoption, they are wrong! You have that right! There are many of us who would have benefited from knowing about that right and using it to our advantage. Don’t be one of those who says, “If only someone had told me.” GET UNBIASED, THIRD PARTY COUNSELING. If the agency won’t provide it for you, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere.

And thus ends today’s public service announcement for future generations of expectant parents considering placement! What’s your opinion on the topic? Be sure to check out the thread on the forums for further discussion on the matter!

For more, read:

1. Why my Therapist Was So Hard to Find.

2. Finding a Decent Therapist Parts One and Two.

3. My Therapist: An Appropriate Love Story – Parts One and Two.

Photo Credit.

14 Responses to “Should Counseling Be Mandatory To Place?”

  1. Sandra; good, good point. Maybe we should be pushing that idea with stronger force? I’m going to mull it over for awhile and possibly revisit that specific thought. Thanks! :)

  2. “GET UNBIASED, THIRD PARTY COUNSELING. If the agency won’t provide it for you, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere.”

    If both sides took this advice, expectant and potential adoptive parents, it seems agencies would have to get with the program sooner rather than later. It sure seems a good rallying cry.

  3. Sunbonnet Sue says:

    forcing folks into counseling will not work. nothing you do can force them to listen, and that’s really what it’s all about. a lot of folks think they already know. when something is mandated, it creates an entire industry around monitoring and punishing in an effort to generate compliance. compliance is voluntary. it is impossible to formulate an ethical agreement with an unethical person/entity. (such as an adoption agency) Telling a person they need to get third party counseling, and getting them to agree that they need it are two very different things.

  4. Sue; at the same time, some mothers and fathers are not being told ANYTHING about grief and loss with the current system. SOMETHING needs to change.

  5. Sunbonnet Sue says:

    lots of things need to change. there are many people working for change. but actually achieving it is harder. and slower. it took a long time for things to become the way they are now. it will take time to improve them too. some of the changes have been bad, not good. it’s not just that things need to change. they need to *improve*.

  6. Sue; That’s an awfully negative attitude to have, don’t you think? That it takes forever? Realistically, you may have a point. Change does, in fact, take time. But pointing that out WITHOUT ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO KEEP GOING doesn’t fuel the fire, does it? It doesn’t push people to keep pushing, does it? If we all hold that attitude, a rather defeated attitude, no one will ever strive to accomplish anything. However, the more we talk about the changes that need to be made, the more people are encouraged that others are in agreement and the more chance that those changes will be made. I don’t think I once stated that I didn’t believe the changes reformists are calling for as a lack of improvement. If you don’t see informing expectant mothers and fathers about grief and loss as an improvement over the current system, well, then you need to look a little deeper into what so many are still experiencing. Or, rather, not experiencing.

  7. roni says:

    I most definately believe in UNBIASED counceling!
    The process of giving up your child for adoption seems TOO EASY to me. And I don’t mean emotionally or anything of that sort. For instance, in my situation, the PAPs picked the agency, I made an appt. got my forms to fill out and all was said and done. I think there should be mandatory sessions throughout the pregnancy.
    I only saw my adoption councellor 3 times. First, my initial appt. early on in pregnancy. Here she told about the process and gave me all my forms. The second, I took my 8yr old to talk with her about adoption. And the third time was to take the bio-father, so he knew about the process. Did I have any counceling, NO! My councellor is an adoptive parent herself, could this be a reason why she didn’t enforce more counceling on me? I’d hate to think that.
    I had NO CLUE, NO CLUE what I was really doing. I was told by co-workers I was in a win-win situation, how wonderful of a gift I was giving, we’ve all heard it…I HAD NO CLUE!!! I feel I “brainwashed” myself. Maybe unbiased counceling could have made all the difference.
    I was told of support groups afterwards. Maybe, attending one of these support groups during pregnancy would be beneficial too.
    I was ignorant and did not do my own education too. EDUCATE, EDUCATE EDUCATE so, important for such a HUGE decision!!

  8. Sunbonnet Sue says:

    that is one way of looking at it Jenna, but not what I meant. I do not feel defeated or negative, certainly wouldn’t want anyone else to feel that way either.

    Your statements are somewhat confusing tho, is my attitude negative, or is there a realistic and valid point to my statements? can’t tell which way you’re concluding from your reply.

    I wasn’t even disagreeing with you. If you, as a birthmom, wish to impose mandatory counseling onto future birthmoms, feel free to push for that.

  9. Deb Donatti says:

    I have always believed taking money out of the situation would be a vast improvement, unbiased counseling would be a help as well.
    As for adding in the government? Perhaps to make more uniform adoption laws, and to provide way more resources to expectant parents. Mothers should not feel pressure to place because they can’t afford groceries or whatever they need.
    I also think if it were made easier to adopt children in foster care, that more families would go that route. It seems weird to me that a family can wait up to 2 years to seek a TPR on a abusive parent (affording them tons of time and opps to have their child returned), yet we allow a mother to sign her newborn over and in many places that is immediately irrevokable?
    Foster children, who often have a record of abuses that had them removed, should not have to wait as long for TPR, but new mothers who voluntarily place should be afforded more time to reconsider.
    Counseling (unbiased) should be easy to find and free for considering moms, and definitely NOT paid for by prospective adopting parents (or adoption agencies).

  10. KatjaMichelle says:

    I do think pre placement counseling from a third party should be mandatory.
    Do I know how to accomplish this? Nope.
    Do I know that not everyone will take advantage of it? Yep
    Sure there will be plenty of people who will show up to their counseling only because they have to and not take the time to really consider their options. For those people it may have no effect.

    But some will use it some will change their minds OR some will use it and still place but not wonder WHAT IF I’d had counseling.
    And ya know what it should make a-parents happy too to know that their childs birth/first parents chose adoption after unbiased counseling.

  11. erin_d_a says:

    First the bee is getting a tooth, so I’m a little scattered this morning. Forgive incoherency :)

    I think independent third party counseling should be mandatory before TPR is final. Some moms don’t make the decision to place until post birth, so they need to have this counseling before TPR is signed/final.

    I think that adoptive parents should be the ones to pay for this honestly. Adoptive parents need to start to realize how important it will be to their children to hear “we did everything to make sure your adoption was done the best way possible.” We as adoptive parents hold a LOT of the power in this whole thing, because we hold the money. We need to stop claiming children as our own before TPR is done, and realize that while we love these children, they have other families that may just need a little help getting on their feet.

    I think independent counseling will cut the number of adoptions that happen, which of course is why people fear it. They fear not getting their baby. But there are still many women who will get good independent counseling, who will still decide to place for whatever reason. While I may not agree with her decision to place for whatever reason she has, that decision is hers to make. I do think that independent counseling would stop a lot of women who were just feeling overwhelmed with the idea of parenting from placing, and sadly I think that is why a lot of women place.

    Yes parents may choose to avoid the counseling, and at that point I do think the state should get involved, but I’m not quite sure how.

    I do wish that my daughters mother had gotten independent counseling. I think for the most part the counseling she got at the agency was good counseling, but I still wish it could have been better because I want my daughter to know that her adoption was handled in the most ethical way possible.

    There are good agencies out there, and good counselors at those agencies, but still there is always a conflict of interest if the agency doing the counseling is also getting twenty thousand dollars if mom places.

    I agree that open records is the first step toward reform. I think that as that changes, more and more people will start to understand adoptee rights, and it will become a bigger and bigger issue. That is the biggest rallying cry right now. As an adoptive mom I want to see it changed because I want to leave it better for my children, and I want to look at my adopted child and tell her that we are working to make it better for her al lt

  12. JudyK says:

    Mandatory counseling would maybe not ensure, but would make it far more likely that adoptions would be 1: ethical; 2: done only if the adoption was absolutely necessary; 3: give the expectant parent(s) all of their options if they do decide to place (i.e. open vs. closed, etc.).

    I know that mandatory counseling wouldn’t change all minds, but it would reach some, and that seems like a good idea to me.

  13. Chromesthesia says:

    -I think there should be counseling, and records should be open and available.
    I also wish they’d do away with matching before a child is born since there’s a difference between a crisis pregnancy and after the child is born. I’d rather PAPs get matched with PBM once the mother has had time to really examine her decision from every angle. There probably would be less placements though, but there would also be less failed adoptions… Maybe it might help a bit. I am not sure….

  14. Chromesthesia; I haven’t yet begun to sort through the actuality of pre-birth matches. I know something is wrong with the way it currently works but can’t figure out in my mind how to fix it. I’ve been mulling it for awhile! Hmm indeed.

    Judy; Yeah. Ethical seems nice, no?

    Erin; At agencies where counseling (third party, even) is available, I’m sure that some birth parents DO avoid it. I’ve been mulling something about that part of the discussion. It’s forming. Maybe next week? LOL.

    Katja; Sure there will be plenty of people who will show up to their counseling only because they have to and not take the time to really consider their options. For those people it may have no effect.

    But some will use it some will change their minds OR some will use it and still place but not wonder WHAT IF I’d had counseling.
    And ya know what it should make a-parents happy too to know that their childs birth/first parents chose adoption after unbiased counseling.

    Amen. The point of the matter is that, as the system stands right now, expectant parents who become birth parents are not always getting the full story. If they were required to hear the full story, you’d have far less talk about “I didn’t know” and quite possibly easier relationships for adoptive parents in an open setting.

    Deb; Taking the money out of it DOES seem like it would make huge improvements on SO many levels, doesn’t it? Something else to ponder.

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