November 17, 2016 3:02 pm
Updated: December 8, 2017 6:20 pm

Adoption Awareness: advocate says stigma still exists

WATCH ABOVE: Adoption can take years and while parents can wait years to adopt a newborn, there are older children who turn 18 and may never find a family. Laurel Gregory reports.

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November is Adoption Awareness month. Global News sat down Erika Moore, a social worker with the Alberta-based agency Adoption Options. Moore says currently 160 adoptive parents are waiting to be matched with babies who need a permanent home. A private licensed agency placement costs approximately $15,000 and the average wait period for a match is three to four years.

Laurel Gregory: November is Adoption Awareness Month. What do you want to raise awareness about?

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Erika Moore: I think just the option of openness in adoption. I’m often surprised how few people understand what open adoption is and that it is a viable option for someone looking for a permanent, positive plan for their child. My hope is that Adoption Awareness Month will bring that understanding.

LG: What would the range be, in how open it is and how connected they are?

EM: I think that’s really specific to the individuals and for those people to dictate for themselves what feels right for them… I would say an average open adoption would involve regular contact throughout the year on an ongoing basis. Maybe three to four times or seasonally throughout the year. However, there’s a wide range on either end of that spectrum where there might be much more regular contact or much less and that’s really dictated by the birth family as well as the adoptive family and what everyone is comfortable with.

READ MORE: Calgary birth mom in open adoption hopes for reunion later in life 

LG: Do you think (the wait period) deters some people?

EM: It very well might. Those wait times have increased in years gone by as adoption placements have diminished over recent years. For people making an adoption plan for an unplanned pregnancy, those numbers are declining whereas the list remains about the same, so those numbers are no longer cohesive.

LG: Is that a positive thing?

EM: No, I would say it’s the opposite. It’s always our hope that our birth parent clientele – men and women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancy – are aware fully of all of their options. And it’s my worry that’s not always the case. So more and more people choose other options in pregnancy. Abortion rates are quite high. Teen and single parenting rates are quite high and I think naturally over time, adoption numbers have decreased as a result.

READ MORE: Alberta family’s adoption journey: trials, tribulations and ‘a whole lot of joy’ 

LG: What does the average birth mother look like?

EM: I would say that there is no average birth mother. We work with women from every walk of life, every age demographic. We’ve had birth parents as young as 12 years old and as old as into their late 40s. Quite a wide range in terms of age and places in their life. University students, teenagers, people who are already parenting other children and are placing a third or fourth child in adoption.

LG: Is there a stigma about birth mothers seeking this help?

EM: Unfortunately, I do believe that there is still a negative stigma associated with adoption. I think that has a lot to do with the historic closed system and misunderstandings about how adoption truly works today and the fact that it’s a loving and positive choice made by men and women who want the very best for their child. Rather than that historic notion of “giving up,” it’s the placement with love for the best interest of their child.

LG: What kind of supports are offered to the birth mother following the birth?

EM: Adoption Options offers ongoing, life-long support as long as that individual needs it in whatever capacity she may need it. So we offer support groups… as well as individual support, one on one, and peer mentorship if that’s something that would be of benefit.

WATCH: 3 birth moms and 2 parents: how open adoption worked for an Alberta family 

LG: In your time here, what have been some of the rewarding moments?

EM: The gift and privilege of watching families form through open adoption is a regular and outstanding highlight of my role here. Seeing people work so beautifully together and with that child’s best interest at heart is always magical to watch and a definite highlight for me. Further to that, seeing birth parents make a choice of autonomy, strength and love – one they can feel really good about and move forward in their lives, feeling supported, proud of their decision and having that ongoing connection with their child – is a really special thing.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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