If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you are likely also facing a complex mix of emotions: uncertainty, fear, confusion, and maybe even depression. This could be a very difficult time in your life, but there is help available to you — and it is designed specifically to meet your needs.
It’s called adoption counseling, and it can be the lifeline you need as you sort through your feelings and make decisions that are right for you and your baby. Here, learn more about adoption counseling, why every potential birth parent should consider it and where you can find these services.
What is adoption counseling?
Adoption counseling, sometimes also called pregnancy counseling, is designed to help expectant mothers explore their options and learn more about the possibility of adoption. These services are available to every potential birth mother, free of charge and with no obligation to continue with an adoption plan.
Adoption counseling offers a number of benefits to women at every stage of the adoption process, from the initial request for adoption information through delivery and post-placement support. Your adoption counselor will provide the support and guidance you need every step of the way.
Why should I seek adoption counseling?
You are facing one of the most difficult decisions a woman can make. You may be wondering where to turn for help or worrying whether you are making the right choice. Alternatively, you might feel confident in your adoption decision and feel ready to begin the process.
Either way, adoption counseling services are highly recommended. However you are feeling about your adoption options, adoption counseling offers significant practical and emotional benefits. Here are just a few reasons to consider contacting an adoption counselor:
- You can learn more about all of your options, not just adoption. Adoption counselors do not want to match pregnant women with adoptive families if they are not certain that the adoption will be successful. This means that your counselor will help you evaluate all of your options, as well as your own wants and needs, to determine whether adoption is truly the best choice for you.
- You will have help navigating the adoption process. If you do choose to proceed with an adoption plan, your counselor or social worker can help you make important decisions for your baby throughout the process and coordinate the services you need. They will be with you every step of the way as you create your adoption plan, find an adoptive family, and go through the legal process of placing your baby for adoption.
- You will have an advocate who understands your individual needs. Adoption counselors have worked with many birth mothers from all different backgrounds, and they know that every woman needs varying types and amounts of emotional support. Your counselor can provide individualized support based on your unique needs.
- You will be able to process difficult feelings in your own way. Every prospective birth mother experiences moments of doubt, pain and grief. Your adoption counselor can help you understand these feelings and, when you are ready, heal in a healthy way.
- You will have guidance as you build a relationship with the adoptive family. Whether you want an open, semi-open or closed adoption, your counselor can help you build the relationship you want to have with the adoptive family. She can facilitate contact, help you get to know each other, and keep you in contact with your child for years to come.
- You may receive help addressing additional needs or concerns. Women who choose adoption have many different reasons for doing so. If you are considering adoption because of an underlying issue, such as a lack of familial support, financial or housing instability, an abusive relationship or substance abuse, your counselor can help you find additional resources to help address some of these problems.
- You can remain anonymous until you are ready to make an adoption plan. If you want more information about your adoption options, you can contact an adoption counselor to request this information without providing identifying information.
- You are always in control of your adoption plan. You can talk with your counselor regularly through every step of the process, or only check in occasionally as you need support. You can also change or discontinue your adoption plan at any time. It’s up to you to decide exactly what services you need, what type of adoption experience you want to have, and what type of relationship you want to have with your adoption counselor.
Where to Find Adoption Counseling
When you are ready to reach out to an adoption counselor, either to explore your options or to begin the adoption process, you may wonder who can provide adoption counseling. Adoption counselors may be social workers, psychologists, licensed counselors, pastoral counselors or family therapists who have chosen to focus on adoption.
The best places to find experienced adoption counselors are often adoption agencies, which hire qualified social workers who have years of experience working with birth parents, as well as a working understanding of the adoption process.
Most agencies include counseling and support services in their package of free services to prospective birth parents. However, not all counseling and support services are created equally. It is important to carefully choose an adoption agency that can provide the services you need. Look for an agency that provides unlimited free adoption counseling and 24/7 access to a licensed social worker.
Adoption attorneys are not qualified to provide counseling and support services. If you choose to work with an attorney to complete an independent adoption, these services will need to be outsourced to an additional professional. However, most independent counselors do not have the same experience and knowledge of working with birth parents as adoption agency social workers.
While you may not feel like you need adoption counseling now, it is highly recommended that you work with a professional who offers these services. Emotions are difficult to predict, and you may face unforeseen challenges later in the adoption process. You are entitled to free adoption counseling, and even if you never end up using your professional’s support services, it can be extremely beneficial to have them available to you.
As you search for adoption counseling services, look for a counselor who:
- Understands adoption and the psychological impact of adoption on birth parents
- Has experience working with birth parents and pregnant women considering adoption
- Has access to many adoption resources and other adoption professionals, including adoption attorneys
- Is certified and has received adoption and birth parent training
- Is available to offer 24/7 support
Most of all, it is important to find a counselor that makes you feel comfortable and supported. The right adoption counselor can provide all of the support, services and education you need to make an adoption decision you feel good about.