Birth Parents Coping

You have probably found a number of positive ways to cope with your situation. You may attend support group meetings and conferences, go to counseling, search for your child, and communicate with other birth parents. The sections below discuss each of these. A list of resources is provided at the end of this article.

Support Group Meetings/Conferences

Some national birth parent support organizations have local chapters. One well-known organization is Concerned United Birthparents (CUB). Other birth parent support groups are not part of a network and are independent, local organizations. Two examples are Birth Mothers of Minors (B.M.O.M.S.) in New York City, and Birthparents in the Open in Santa Cruz, California. Other groups are sponsored by adoption agencies, such as the Barker Foundation in Cabin John, Maryland, and the Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan in Milwaukee.

No matter how they are organized, birth parent support groups generally have the same purpose in mind: to offer comfort, sympathy, and an opportunity to talk with others and exchange information. For many, a support group is one of the few places where everyone understands the birth parent's point of view and people express their feelings openly. It is an environment in which you can tell your stories and hear about other people's experiences. Said one birth mother after she attended her first support group meeting, "I never knew there were other women walking around with my same guilt and rage. For the first time in over 20 years, I didn't feel so utterly alone!"

Some of the national birth parent support groups hold regional and national conferences. These meetings offer the opportunity to get support and information from a larger group of people. While some focus on political or policy issues, others cover a wide range of topics designed to enhance the quality of life for birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. A birth father attending a conference of the Council of Equal Rights in Adoption in New York City said, "It's a chance to mingle with many more birth parents than the core group of 10 or so that show up at my local support group meeting. You hear speakers with a national reputation, and you're sitting in a large hotel ballroom filled with birth parents and adoptees. There's still not enough birth fathers there, but it's a start."

A birth mother in California named Curry Wolfe started another organization with a very specific purpose in mind. Even though she had found her adult child and had been a member of birth parent support groups, she wanted to connect with other women who lived in the same maternity home that she lived in while she was pregnant. When she did that, she experienced even further healing. She started Birthparent Connection because she wanted to help other women heal, too.

A birth father now in Florida started the only national organization specifically designed to help birth fathers. Jon Ryan started the National Organization for Birthfathers and Adoption Reform (NOBAR), which predominantly provides support and advocacy to birth fathers concerning their legal rights. Says Ryan, "Birth fathers have most of the same feelings as birth mothers about adoption. Many are angry and unhappy being separated from their children. . . . In my contacts with birth fathers I've found them to be the total opposite of the stereotype of the uncaring, neglectful guy who is relieved not to have to support a child he fathered." NOBAR helps fathers in a number of situations, encouraging them to get good counseling during their partner's pregnancy, to be involved in the placement decision if adoption is their choice, and to get legal counsel to prevent the placement of a child they want to raise.

Counseling

You might find individual or group counseling with a counselor who is knowledgeable about adoption issues to be very helpful. An experienced therapist can help you untangle which of your concerns are adoption-related and which are adjustment issues that many people in your stage of life go through. You might work on relationship, self-esteem, or parenting issues, as well as discuss whether to search for your child. The outcome of a search can lead to many different emotions that a therapist can help you sort through.

Searching

Searching is another way that birth parents cope. Some of the issues related to searching were discussed above. Searching can take a number of routes: using support groups; hiring an investigator or search consultant; reading literature; surfing the Internet; contacting agencies or attorneys' offices; or hunting down clues yourself. For more discussion of this, read the NAIC publication "Searching for Birth Relatives."

Conclusion

You should now know that you are not alone and that there are a number of resources available to you.

Written by Debra G. Smith, ACSW, director of the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse,

Resource:  National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.

Learn More:

On-line information services are another tool birth parents can use to communicate with one another. There are general adoption "forums" or "conferences" on these services and specific subsections for birth parent issues. People share stories, information, and resources and become fast friends traveling on the adoption portion of the information superhighway.
 
Communicating

Adoption issues often receive a large amount of media coverage. But more importantly, there are a number of books, newsletters, magazines, and on-line information services that concentrate specifically on birth parent issues. These can be especially helpful and comforting if you live in an area where there is no support group or if you are not able to travel to national or regional conferences.

Until recently, there weren't many books about birth parents issues available in public libraries. Now there are a number of books available written by birth parents about their experiences. There are also some books by journalists or researchers who interviewed birth parents.

The larger, nationally based support groups have published newsletters for a number of years. Recently some new newsletters have become available. At least two are for more recent birth mothers who are maintaining contact with their minor children. Their concerns are somewhat different than those of older women whose children are grown and whose adoptions were confidential.

There are also a number of magazines that focus on adoption. Some have a general focus but have specific articles that are of interest to birth parents. Some are about adoptee–birth parent searches and reunions. So far there are no magazines that exclusively address birth parent issues, but who knows what the future will bring?

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