Placing a child for adoption is a difficult and life-changing decision, one filled with grief and loss and often further burdened with guilt and shame. This is why supporting birthmothers, both before and after the child is born, is one of the primary aspects of the adoption program of Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The program provides counseling for birthmothers as often as a woman needs it, whether it’s right after her child is born, a year or two after or many years later. The program also helps facilitate communication between the birth family and the adoptive family, which allows the birthparent to know of her child’s wellbeing and also to see how her child is benefiting from her choice. It goes a long way in healing her heart.
“Birthparents often say that people expect them to move on and not need counseling after they have placed a child,” says Stephanie Sterling, LCSW, director of the agency’s maternity, adoption and behavioral health services. “We want all parents who make life affirming decisions for their children-whatever that is-to feel supported.
Many women are demonized for considering or following through with adoption, and often by their own families, who say they would prefer that the expectant mother have an abortion than place the child for adoption.
“Women feel lost. They have family members discouraging them, or promising them help with the baby, but when the help is really needed later, it usually isn’t there,” says Sterling. “We help women choose life in the first place. Then we support them in making another life-affirming plan.”
That plan comes with grief and loss, which the women need to address to move forward healthily in life. “It’s important for us to be there to help them work through it,” says Sterling. “Many people in the adoption industry say they are pro-life, but once the woman delivers the baby, the support ends. We continue that support.”