Evan B. Donaldson Report on First Parent Rights

Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process

Kudos to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and to author Susan Smith, for undertaking this important study. The importance of its release during National Adoption Awareness Month should not be missed - with Adam Pertman's media contacts and understanding of the politics of adoption, I believe this report will reach those who need to see it most - the legislators. And when they do, they will see this:

According to this report, parents who choose adoption for their infants do not have their rights and needs sufficiently addressed in U.S. law and practice - largely because of basic misconceptions about who these women and men are - and they invariably fare better when they have ongoing information about and/or contact with the children they place into new families.
The report, which can be downloaded here, makes seven recommendations that should be met to safeguard the rights of first parents:

  • Establish legally enforceable post-adoption contact agreements in all states and permit adults who were adopted to regain access to their own records.

    • Require all adoption practitioners to provide a document of birthparents' rights and responsibilities, which should be signed by the clients and the professionals near the beginning of their work together.

    • Require at least two counseling sessions with a qualified professional for all women who are placing children for adoption, during which they are fully informed about their options, including parenting and various types of adoption, as well as about the resources available to them.

    • Modify state laws on the timing of relinquishment and revocation so that parents have several weeks after childbirth before an adoption decision becomes irrevocable. Ideally, this would include a minimum of one week after birth before a relinquishment can be signed and then a substantial revocation period.

    • Require more aggressive protection of birthfathers' rights by mandating their identification by birthmothers whenever possible, and by personally notifying all possible fathers of adoption proceedings. In states where putative father registries exist, they should be widely advertised, and a failure to register should not be used as an automatic reason for not notifying or involving men. A national registry would help to alleviate some of this system's inherent problems.

    • Address the critical gap in knowledge about birthparents' needs and preferences through research on questions including:

      What are the characteristics of women (and men when they are involved) who choose adoption for their children today and what are their perspectives in relation to the choices they make - i.e., abortion, parenting or adoption?

      How do they decide on a specific type of adoption, if that is the road they choose, and what laws, practices and policies can best meet their needs and desires?

      What is the emotional and psychological impact of adoption loss for birthparents, and what practices facilitate grief resolution and healthy long-term adjustment for them?

      What practices are needed to support all of a child's parents in working out their relationships after placement, including open adoption arrangements?

  • Develop a broader array of post-adoption services to serve birthparents, including counseling or mediation services to facilitate open-adoption arrangements.
  • I sincerely hope this report signals a new attitude toward first parent rights in adoption practice and in the law. Thank you, Evan B. Donaldson, for your work on behalf of first parents and your commitment to ethical adoption.

    Editing to add links to the story

    I've found the AP story by David Cray here:
    Washington Post
    New York Times
    Boston Globe
    Yahoo! News

    There's also a story on MSNBC featuring Jenna of The Chronicles of Munchkinland:
    MSNBC

    Comments

    Roberta said…
    This is a heartening first step that has been a very long time coming.

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