Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

Birth Parent Experiences in Adoption

June 28, 2023 Creating a Family Season 17 Episode 26
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Birth Parent Experiences in Adoption
Show Notes Transcript

Everyone connected to adoption needs to listen to this show. We talk about a new research report on how birth parents experience adoption. The results will surprise you! Our guest are the two main authors: Ryan Hanlon is the Executive Director of The National Council for Adoption, the national adoption organization providing resources and education for all people and organizations in the adoption world and advocating for sound adoption policies; and Laura Bruder is the Executive Director of Brave Love, an organization dedicated to changing the perception of adoption by acknowledging birth moms for their brave decision.

In this episode, we cover:
The Birth Parent Experiences report is based on the responses of 1,160 birth mothers and 239 birth fathers.

  • Were these all domestic infant adoption rather than adoptions from foster care?
  • Birth mothers who placed their child for adoption in 2010 or later were much more likely to report satisfaction with their decision than birth mothers who placed their child before or during the 1970s. Birth mothers’ levels of satisfaction with their adoption decision increased each decade since the 1970s.
  • The vast majority of birth mothers report experiencing stigma associated with their status as a birth parent. In fact, the percentage of birth mothers who experience some level of stigma about their decision to place their child for adoption has risen 20% since 1970.
  • What is the demographic of the birth moms and dads who completed the survey? (age, race, education, number of adoption placements
  • How has birth parent involvement in the adoption process changed?
  • What factors were important to expectant moms and dads when choosing adoptive parents?
  • What were the main concerns that birth moms had after placement? 
  • Looking back, do birth parents believe they made the right decision?
  • What type of services and support do birth parents want and need post-placement? 
  • 78% of birth moms have contact with their child, and about 74% of birth fathers do. We don’t know if these are open adoptions or if the “child” is now an adult. Are they satisfied with this contact?
  • Are they satisfied with their decision to place a child for adoption? What factors influenced their level of satisfaction?
  • The research found that birth parents’ receipt of accurate information was significantly associated with adoption satisfaction for both birth mothers and birth fathers. What do you mean by accurate information?
  • What percentage of birth parents reported that they were actively involved in choosing the adoptive parents, and did that influence their overall satisfaction with their decision?
  • Three variables (receipt of accurate information, non-coerced decision-making, current contact with the child) were found to be the most strongly associated with levels of adoption satisfaction.
  • Stigma of being a birth parent.
  • Has stigma increased since the 1970s?
  • Does stigma differ by race of the birth parent?
  • Interesting that stigma increased from the 1970s to now for healthcare workers.

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Please pardon any errors, this is an automated transcript.
Dawn Davenport  0:00  
Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I'm the host of this show, as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a Today we'll be talking about a new report that was just published by the National Council for Adoption, on birth, parent experiences and adoption. We will be talking with the two lead authors of this report. First, Ryan Hanlon. He is the Executive Director of the National Council for Adoption. They are the National Adoption organization providing resources and education for all people and organizations in the adoption world, as well as advocating for sound adoption practices. We will also be speaking with Laura Bruder. She is the executive director of Brave Love, an organization dedicated to changing the perception of adoption, by acknowledging birth moms for their brave decision. Welcome, Ryan and Laura, to Creating a Family.

Speaker 2  1:00  
Thank you. Thanks for having me. Okay, guys,

Dawn Davenport  1:03  
I love this report. I absolutely love the research. It was so well designed, it was it was fascinating reading for I cannot recommend enough to anyone who is listening if you are touched by adoption in any way. Whether you be an adoptive parent, a birth parent or an adoptee or an adoption professional, this is should be must read. And it is It was fascinating. I was so glad you had done it. And I was also like, Gosh, why haven't we done this type of stuff before? And then I thought, no, no, let me just be thankful that we're having it. Now.

Speaker 3  1:38  
Laura and I were saying the same thing. You know, this, and we the same as you were just so grateful to have this information that we're especially grateful to the many birth parents who responded to you they shared with us. And that was a generous of them to share about their experiences, good and bad. And so we're grateful to learn from them. Can we hope that the lessons that are captured here, the experiences, the information can be used to improve practices in the future,

Dawn Davenport  2:05  
and you had so many I it was, the real strength of this report is the number of people who responded and shared their honest opinions. And of those who were able to include in the report, if I read this correctly, you had 1160 birth mothers, and 239 birth fathers, you had more who responded, but you weren't able to use all of their data might have been incomplete for whatever reason, which was just good from a research perspective. And Ryan, that's something that you bring to NCFA is the strong research background, which speaks to my heart.

Speaker 3  2:44  
Done in you know, some of what we also did, Laura and I partnered with external researchers on this report. So we brought them in, they have expertise that we don't have, and they were able to three focus groups that we did with birthmothers, they co facilitated those, we weren't a part of that. And they got the transcripts coded the data. And then we were able to include that information here, they were able to do the really heavy lifting in terms of the mathematical statistical analysis, include that here. And Laura and I were both really committed to ensuring that we went through the oversight with an IRB, institutional review board, so that the university that we partnered with would have had oversight of this research project. That's an ethical choice that we made to ensure that we were following good processes. And we want others to have confidence that when we're interacting with birth parents, we're doing so appropriately, and that the steps we took in terms of our research was done in accordance with the standards that are set forth by these universities. For the researchers, the same standards were applied here.

Dawn Davenport  3:47  
Excellent. Laura, how did you and I say you, this is the portal you? How did you find the birth parents and get them to fill out the survey?

Speaker 2  3:57  
Yeah, great question. Well, over the last 11 years, that brave loves been around, we have over time, kind of created a community of birth parents and particular birth moms that have gotten involved with Brave love in one way or the other, whether sharing your story or attending an event or whatnot. And so we blasted the flyer out for both the focus groups as well as the survey. And then NCSA did that as well. And I think that was what was so exciting from the get go right? And you can agree or disagree, but from the get go, there was an overwhelming response. And you mentioned that and just like the strength of this study is the number of parents who participated but we saw that almost immediately, just with the increase from the focus group.

Speaker 3  4:57  
Yeah, we had hundreds of birth moms responding exam, yes, we're open to doing a focus group. And our research team was, you know, they were a little overwhelmed actually randomly sample amongst those many 100 that expressed interest just to bring people in. And then, you know, from there huge response when the survey went forth. As Laura said, we reached out to their partners, we reached out to the adoption agencies and attorneys that work with NCFA, we asked them to share it with the clients they've worked with in the past. And we're really grateful for the large sample size that we have. And for the thoughtfulness in the responses that parents provided to us,

Dawn Davenport  5:37  
it shone through it creating a family we do in fact, we're in the midst of a randomized control trial. Right now we're getting ready to start another randomized control trial. We're actually we're in the midst of two that are currently happening. And we're getting ready to start and all of these are randomized, and we have them some quasi experimental. So to put it mildly, I mean, of course, you were praying for us, please let there be a high sample size, because we're gonna put all this effort and money into it. And we won't be able to show anything unless we have enough people. So when I saw the amount of people, you amount of birth parents, I was like, Man, I am impressed because that's what you want. Now, Laura, were most of these birth parents through domestic infant adoption, rather than adoptions from foster care? And did you make a distinction? Was that an important distinction for you?

Speaker 2  6:25  
It was an important distinction. So they were all domestic infant adoption, rather than adoptions from foster care. And that was intentional from the get go, because we know that they're unique experiences for birth parents, when it comes to domestic infant adoption and unique experiences for birth parents, biological parents, when it comes to foster care to adoption. So that was intentional.

Dawn Davenport  6:51  
Yeah, I wonder that when I was reading the intro, because we work in both fields, in both areas, and I suspected that you're, I see why you did it. Because birth parents whose children are in foster care, there is less or there is no choice. One of the more interesting findings that I wanted to start with, and then we're going to just kind of work through a lot of the different findings. But what I wanted to start with, was that birth mothers who placed their children for adoption, either after including 2010, and later, were much more likely to report being satisfied with their decision than in birth mothers who placed their child between like 1970, say, and 2010 or even before 1970. And that birth, mother's level of satisfaction with their adoption decision. It looked like by the chart that increased every decade since 1970. I thought that was fascinating. I can hypothesize some reasons. But I think that may be a little dangerous, since I'm not the expert here.

Speaker 3  7:53  
Done. You're exactly right. That is what our research found, we broke it up by time period. And so for birth parents who responded that they had done the reduction placement in the 1970s or earlier, that was the first time period that we looked at the 80s, the 90s 2000s. And then from 2010, and onward. So we had a total of five different time periods that we looked at the birth moms, because of a smaller sample size for birth fathers, we only broken up into two periods. But you're exactly right, each time period got a higher and higher satisfaction level. You know, unfortunately, when we look at this, the birth mothers who placed in the 1970s earlier, the majority were not satisfied with their adoption decision. The majority would say that they weren't satisfied, strongly dissatisfied or not satisfied, or had a more neutral stance. But then later, every preceding decade, it got better and better. And there's a statistically significant difference in the 2000s and onward, when we're comparing it to the 1970s. And so really, for the last 30 plus years, the majority of birth mothers are satisfied with their adoption decision, which doesn't mean that the job's done here, there's still some others who would say they're not satisfied with their decision. And of course, that's not what any of us would want. And then to your point, and Lauren, I can talk to you more about this. There are reasons, you know, we were interested in this as well. And so we looked at what some of those variables are bivariate correlations, you know, just, you know, one other factor, how does that relate to satisfaction? And then we looked at multivariate factors and how they would impact satisfaction level as well.

Dawn Davenport  9:33  
Yeah, there's two ways to look at it originally, I thought, Well, does that mean that birth mothers, as they age become increasingly dissatisfied with their decision, but that's not what your research indicated? Because you're able to to compare some variables. So what are Laura's some of the variables as to what you found that correlated with birth mothers that were strongly satisfied or satisfied with their decision?

Speaker 2  9:58  
Right, right. Well, When it comes to satisfaction, and after we did all of those comparisons, the factors that contributed the most to greater satisfaction for birth parents were receiving accurate information and making a decision that was free of coercion. And those were the strongest indicators. And Ryan, you can probably chime in on that more.

Dawn Davenport  10:26  
Well, first of all, what? And Ryan? Maybe you can answer this? I think it

Speaker 2  10:30  
was information. Are you wondering what, what's accurate

Dawn Davenport  10:33  
information that with adoptive parents accurate information is all the information that's available? You know, when the child so I was thinking, and what would be inaccurate information that would not be unethical. So, anyway, Ryan, how did you define accurate information

Speaker 3  10:46  
we didn't. So for both of those variables, making a three non course decision and the receipt of accurate information, we ask that in terms of the birth parents perception or their experiences, they're reflecting back on that, do they believe they received accurate information about adoption? And that could be you know, what's involved with adoption? What are their rights? Do they have a right to make an adoption plan to choose the adoptive parents? Do they have a right to determine the level of openness that they want? After adoption? Were they given accurate information about who the parents are, what the situation would be for their child? And you know that that's another thing that we can look at over time to see what differences might be present? Certainly, we know anecdotally, from hearing from many professionals that the practices in this regard have changed over time. But the same is true for making a free non course decision. This is the birth parents perception of that. So how much do they think they were pressured or coerced to choose adoption, as opposed to being able to make that of their own free record after the situation they found themselves in. And as Laura said, this was different for birth mothers and birth fathers. But for birth mothers, those two factors, the receipt of accurate information, making a free non course decision, were very significant in impacting adoption satisfaction. So we we did what's called the regression analysis, which is the more sophisticated mathematical method of really looking at multiple variables in relation to that dependent variable, the adoption satisfaction. And we looked at the impact, the model we created actually had a third variable, and that was whether or not the parent had connection with the child, they were maintaining contact with their child after adoption, because that in the bivariate correlations also looked like a very strong factor that actually fell out of the model was not significant. When we're accounting for the other two,

Dawn Davenport  12:45  
which totally surprised me. Right, I did not expect

Speaker 3  12:48  
it. As well, I thought that was going to be extremely important. I figured the other two that were but that's what fell out in the model for birth mothers. And it was really that making it free non coerce decision that came across with the largest magnitude or the most powerful in terms of its impact on adoption satisfaction. And so with something like regression, we wouldn't say it's causal, we wouldn't say that's what caused that adoption satisfaction, what we would say can be used as a predictor. So if a birth mother today were to be able to say she made a three non course decision, that would be a strong predictor that she's going to be satisfied with her decision for adoption in the future,

Dawn Davenport  13:33  
which is something that all of us involved and the world of adoption, need to be striving for. Right should be our goal. Hi, guys, this is Dawn. As you can tell, I am loving this conversation. This is right up my alley. I hope you're enjoying it too. And if you are, I think you would enjoy some of the free courses that we have in our Online Education Center. Our partners the jockey Bing Family Foundation, sponsor these courses, so we're able to offer them to you for no charge. You can check them out at Bitly slash JB F support, that's bi T dot L y slash JBf support. Another finding that doesn't surprise me but is certainly sad is the vast majority of birth mothers reported experiencing stigma associated with their status as a birth parent or having made the decision to place a child in fact the percentage of birth mothers who experience some level of stigma about their decision has risen 20% since 1970. So it's inversely related to the satisfaction number the stigma is going up.

Unknown Speaker  14:46  
Did you say that surprised you know, it didn't surprise you?

Dawn Davenport  14:49  
i Well, no, I don't know that it surprised I was made me sad. It did not surprise me that there was stigma. I guess it didn't surprise me now that I'm thinking about it as to back in the day. A, it was only honorable thing to do if you found yourself pregnant without a husband. And now you have so many more options that I suppose that we would expect stigma to increase. So now that you're saying it that way, but it is interesting that even though stigma is increasing, so is satisfaction with the decision. That surprised me. I mean, in that sense, yeah. So Laura, out of curiosity did surprise you use it stigma had increased?

Speaker 2  15:26  
A literally had the same response, as you were, I was like, yes, but no.

Dawn Davenport  15:32  
Great minds think alike. Laura. Right. Exactly.

Speaker 2  15:35  
It did make me sad, you know, but then once I began to think about it a little bit more, I think it's also Ryan can attest to this, because we've said it multiple times. We just wish we had asked more questions about stigma. And so you know, research leads to research. So I'm just gonna say,

Speaker 3  15:58  
Done, one of the things that Laura and I did was we got this data, and we were surprised. So we started looking at stigma by you know, other categories, it can this be explained by race? Are there significant differences? Are there differences by time period, and as you mentioned, that's where we see the frequency of birth mothers who say that there was no source of stigma, you know, had changed. And you know, for your listeners, we asked the source of the stigma. So we and then we listed a number of different categories, was it the parents, other relatives, friends of their birth, parents, etc. And we asked a number of different categories, and saying, Were these sources of stigma and they could choose more than one. So in many did, actually, the majority chose more than one source of stigma. And it's the number who said, there were no sources of stigma. That's what changed over time. And that, for me, was a surprise. As we've talked about it, we have some theories as to why that might be. And Laura, why don't you tell her about you took this data back to a team of birth mothers that you work with, and US them about this?

Speaker 2  17:03  
Yeah. You know, we have an advisory council of birth moms that brave love, and we shared some of the preliminary findings. And they weren't shocked by this stigma piece. One particular birth, mom said, and this isn't an exact quote, but as birth parents have gained the education, the society hasn't. And so society is behind, and therefore the shame and the stigmas and the stereotypes that still surround that decision. It still exists. And that was even reflected by some of the comments that were made by the participants from our focus groups. You know, when Bruce on said, I just feel like, I don't have anyone in my corner.

Dawn Davenport  17:54  
I read that. Yeah, it doesn't that just made you want to reach out and say, No, you have, somebody can be right for, you just have to.

Speaker 2  18:02  
Right, right, or even even women that shared, you know, they were confident in the decision that they made. But it wasn't something they could talk about, you know, with those around them with a friend, a close friend. And so one of those themes from that focus group was just like how important it was to have someone that could trust and rely on

Dawn Davenport  18:24  
somebody with a lived experience. So that was that you also they talked about that in the focus groups, too, about the support groups, just being around others who have lived your experience? We know that's important, regardless of what your life experiences for adoptive parents for adoptees. Hey, so of course, it makes sense that peer group support would be Ryan, I am curious, did you find and I this is in the report, and I don't I don't have the report open? Did you find that there was a difference in stigma, depending on the race of the birth parent?

Speaker 3  18:59  
You know, it wasn't an overwhelming finding. In this regard. We looked at again by those different categories. And there were some differences. But nothing that was very revealing a few categories that I did break out and show differences by race where stigma from other relatives, stigma from healthcare workers, and stigma from religious clergy or religious leaders. So those appear to be different for at least one of the different groups when we separate by race. So at least one of those would look very different than the others when we did that analysis, but it didn't help explain what we were looking at in terms of stigma. In fact, in some ways, it raised a lot more questions. It appears that for women who identified as white that they were more likely to not experience stigma, so they were the largest category and we experienced no stigma. But then they often for those who didn't select that looked like they were selecting, you know, multiple sources of stigma elsewhere, so they were often The highest in other categories for the other individuals who respond to that question. So as Laura said, for us, it raises a lot more questions than I think we have answers for regarding stigma. But even the focus groups really spoke to this really meaningfully about the belief that others are really judgmental of their decision. It's understanding what's motivating their decision, and that things were really clear in the focus groups, were they they were saying, we know that we are the reasons we were doing this, but we think other people are judging us, and they're making assumptions that are wrong, but they don't have a good means to communicate that.

Dawn Davenport  20:41  
Yeah. Well, and something that jumped out to me, and I'm sure to both of you as well, is that the stigma increased from the 1970s, to now for health care workers. And, boy, if that's not an area for advocacy, I don't know, what is that did surprise me. I don't know why that is either. Laura, do you have ideas? why that might be?

Speaker 2  21:04  
Honestly, I don't know. But I can theorize, you know, that kind of like what you were referencing earlier now that the other options? You know, single parenting is less stigmatized today than it was 50 years ago. You know, and even just the social acceptability of abortion. But I, as you said, I think I think it obviously highlights a huge need for continued education to the healthcare medical community.

Dawn Davenport  21:38  
Yeah, I would certainly think so. I do think that was something that left me. But I totally understand what you're saying is that after you've done surveys, I've been in this situation, fact, we're kind of in it. Now. We look back and we go, Gosh, why didn't we ask this, this? And this? And part of the reason is that, you know, people won't take really long survey. So you're trying to keep the numbers down. Exactly. So then you go Darn, if I had only asked right, anyway, let me pause this fascinating discussion right now to tell you about creating a family's interactive training support group curriculum for foster adoptive and kinship families. This training or curriculum is, in my opinion, something I am just so proud of, I think it is excellent. It is expert based in trauma informed, as with most of the resources for creating a family, it is also video based and interactive. It can be done in person or online. And there's a library of 25 curriculum for you to choose from on topics that are directly relevant to foster adoptive and kinship families. So if you're involved in training, kinship, families, or foster or adoptive families, or if you are running support groups, please check it out at parent support That is parent support All right, so let's talk about some of the demographics. Going back to the beginning, the two things I desperately wanted to talk about, I had to jump out immediately talk bars,

Speaker 2  23:12  
it's really fun. It's really fun to talk to someone that's, like, got fresh eyes on this, like Ryan and I have been talking about for a while. And it's fun to talk to an outsider, is it energized by the information and just the opportunity to improve? So yeah.

Dawn Davenport  23:37  
A friend of mine who is a researcher at a university, she said, when you get the results, and it's like, it's like opening Christmas presents, she said that this is a reason that keeps me going. She said, and you're and then the you know, the publisher perish. She goes, it's really not. It's how exciting it is. When you start seeing the data and you start analyzing and you go, well, I'll be in so anyway, I always remember.

Speaker 2  24:03  
I'll tell you this between Ryan and I, he is much more of the research nerd than I am. But he has taught me so much. So now it's like rubbing off on me where I'm like, Okay, this is interesting.

Dawn Davenport  24:18  
This is more than just numbers. Yeah, right. Right. Right. Okay. So what are the demographics of the birth moms and dads who completed the survey, just generally the age, race, education level now, and number of adoption placements? And I don't know who to ask that question to that. Ryan, should we start with you?

Speaker 3  24:37  
Why don't we just say how old they were at the time of survey response, and how long it's been since their adoption. Mothers, they were about 40 years old at the time of taking the survey and an event approximately 15 years, you know, on average since their placement, birth fathers they were in the average of 31 years, so significantly younger. And it had only been seven and a half years since their placement. And so that's, you know, just describing the age at time of taking the survey, but we asked them how old they were when they did the adoptive placement. They're both around 26 years old, a birth, mom's median age was a little bit older than that. And the median age is a little bit younger, but they're around 26 years old. And we asked a ton of demographic questions. So if your listeners are interested, disability status, military service, LGBTQ identification, religion, we asked a ton of questions you asked about education, Dawn, the demography here is pretty vary. And so there's not a simple way to describe either birth mothers or birth fathers, the majority have some college or greater in terms of their highest level of education 24% there, you know, about a quarter of birth moms have a bachelor's degree and additional 20%, the highest level was a graduate degree. So we're looking at close to half of birth mothers having a college education or more, it's not as high for birth fathers. And you know, when you compare this to say, Census Bureau data, this is, you know, individuals who are trending, you know, often better than the US population, not by leaps and bounds, but this is not an uneducated, you know, section of our country. This is, you know, a pretty widespread in terms of their educational experiences or achievements. And the same or higher usually than US Census Bureau data would show your other question, and there is something we were really interested in, I have it here, Laura might want to stick to this more to in terms of what she's heard from the individuals that she works with, but the number of adoptive placements, they have made nine out of 10, you know, 89%, I've done just one adoptive placement. Now for birth mothers, another 8% have done two and 3% have done three or more placements. So it is not an insignificant number that is, you know, over 10% have done more than one placement. You know, as a birth mother, for birth fathers, it actually was a little bit higher than that, in terms of the numbers that have done more than one placement. Again, it's a smaller sample size that we have. But it was 81% that said that they've only been involved with one adoptive placement.

Dawn Davenport  27:23  
And the majority of your respondents were white. That's right. And is that reflective that the majority of women making adoption placements are white, are is that reflective of how you were able to distribute the survey. So we would be

Speaker 3  27:39  
careful to to talk about like our sampling methods, and then the limitations in our ability to generalize to a wider population. We talked earlier about the fact that this does have a large sample size. But we want to be mindful that this didn't come from like census level data and where we drilled, randomly selected. But this is also consistent with what we see in the field where the majority of placements are expected mothers who are considering adoption and making placements are white. And so our data doesn't really skew from that too much. For birth fathers, I think we showed a lot wider range in terms of race and ethnicity. And it's it's hard to know, because there's been so few studies done birth fathers, our sample sizes is obviously much smaller and birth fathers compared to birth mothers, but it's one of the largest sample size purchase out there. Exactly. Research body. And so the conclusion that I would come to you as we just need to keep doing, you know, more and better research to continue to understand this, but I don't think your question, I think it's normal for an adoption agency, very similar results for their clientele. And then of course, different parts of the country are going to have different populations that they're more likely to serve. And so depending on a particular adoption agency or adoption attorney, they're gonna have a population that's representative of the area they live.

Dawn Davenport  29:04  
Well, and you're talking about private infant adoptions are not picking up women whose aunt is raising their child or their sister or their mother. So that may skew with culture and ethnicity as well. So, you know, I

Speaker 3  29:19  
think you're right, if they did a kinship adoption, though, they would have been eligible to complete our survey, but that is a private relinquishment. So we were the Ontario relinquishment as the eligibility here, right situation where the child was involved in the child welfare system and had parental rights terminated.

Dawn Davenport  29:39  
And even without that, are they the grandmother doesn't adopt the child. She just raises a child. She's providing some type of right. And I think that varies by race as well.

Speaker 3  29:50  
And so in that situation, if it hadn't been legally finalized, right, that family would not have been considered eligible for the survey. Yes.

Dawn Davenport  30:01  
Let me stop right here and ask I know you are listening to this podcast. But are you a follower or subscriber to this podcast? If not, please, whatever platform you're listening to this, please go there clicking, creating a family and click on that subscribe or follow. But when you do, we have over 15 years, almost 16 years of archived shows, once you subscribe, you can just scroll to your heart's content, and the titles will reflect what the content is. And most of them are evergreen. And I think you will truly enjoy him. So please subscribe now. Alright, so one of the things I wanted to ask about is birth parent involvement in the adoption process. Laura, how do you see that has changed? Let's not go back all the way to the 1970s. But, you know, in the last 20 years, have you seen that there has been a shift towards what birth parents are encouraged to be involved in?

Speaker 2  31:05  
Sure. You know, based on our research and what we've just talked about, we know that birth parents are more satisfied with their adoption. If they were provided accurate information, and they made their own decision, they were not coerced into choosing adoption. And so I think what's changed is the empowerment piece, in that women expectant mothers, they're in the driver's seat in regards to what they want during that decision making process. So from choosing a family to saying kind of what kind of openness they want, and then said, agency, you know, shows in profile books of families that are also wanting that level of openness, you know, or even allowing her to kind of create that personalized adoption plan, in which she can even say what she wants her hospital experience to look like, you know, that's what I've witnessed in terms of birth, parent involvement, and kind of what's changed is accepting parents are in the driver's seat, they get more choice and have more say, and I think too, we've kind of alluded to this and the role that birth fathers played to is significant and important. And we know that I mean, I think it's beautiful, how we saw participants in the survey range in age from eight teen team to 83 years old for birth mothers.

Dawn Davenport  32:48  
That is an age range is a gap. Yeah, you know,

Speaker 2  32:51  
the time that they took the survey, and then for birth fathers, I think up to like 77 years old, and I think it remind us that their voice matters, and have something to say and making sure that we give space to listen. So, um, can I answer your question?

Dawn Davenport  33:09  
Sure. No, we absolutely did.

Unknown Speaker  33:11  
Ryan, do you have anything to add to that?

Speaker 3  33:13  
Well, you know, in terms of some of the questions we asked Don, for your listeners, we asked them about, you know, who are the individuals who are providing support for your decision? What's important for you in choosing parents? What are the concerns that you had prior to your placement? We were really trying to better understand that decision making process. Yeah, we asked them to reflect on their decision and placing for adoption, similar to adoption satisfaction, we just ask them to reflect on on that question, and ask if they believe they made a good decision. So we're trying to look at that decision making from a number of different lens. And we really wanted to have a better understanding of what that experience was like making that decision. And we wanted adoption professionals, prospective adoptive parents to really be able to better understand what that experience is like, for birth mothers in particular, who are expressing a lot of concerns that they have prior to replacement. And yet they're moving forward with these decisions anyway.

Dawn Davenport  34:14  
So let's talk about satisfaction with their decision, because that is a very interesting topic. And I think your results are interesting. So, Ryan, I'll direct this one to you. One of the questions you asked was of them to reflect on their adoption decision and the satisfaction. Can you talk some about what you found with that with that question?

Speaker 3  34:36  
Yeah, absolutely done. You're right. So earlier, we talked about adoption satisfaction, very similar to that. But we wanted to make sure this was a separate question. We asked both parents to reflect on their adoption decision and ask them to rate how while they agree with the statement that adoption was the right decision for them so they strongly disagree agree, it can be neutral. They could strongly agree or agree. So they had five choices on a Likert scale in terms of what they could choose there. And the majority of birth mothers and birth fathers said that they agreed or strongly disagree. That was the right decision for them no longer. You know, that question and the question about satisfaction very differently. We have something more abstract we asked, Do you believe adoption can work in the best interest of adoptive parents? Do you believe adoption can work in the best interest of birth parents? Do you believe adoption can work in the best interest of children? Three separate questions we asked there as well, again, the majority of birth parents would say yes to all three of those questions. It's not the same for all three groups. And you know, unfortunately, from birth parents perspectives, they are going to come up the lowest there, but it's still the majority of birth parents who would say this can work in everyone's best interest.

Dawn Davenport  35:56  
Yeah. And I thought that was really interesting. Laura, I think this will be of great interest to our audience. What factors were important to expectant moms and dads, when making the choice of adoptive parents, we get this question, what are they looking for? We worry a little that means that the parents want to try to mold themselves into whatever that thing is, and we strongly encourage against that. That goes back to the whole accurate information at the beginning, but what were the expectant moms and dads? Well, at this point, birth parents because they've already made the decision. What were they looking for when they chose a family?

Speaker 2  36:36  
Yeah, you know, multiple factors, of course, but over half indicated adoptive parents views on openness and adoption. And Ryan, correct me if I'm wrong, but that was number one for both birth mothers, and fathers. And then number two, for birth mothers, political, social and religious views, followed by number of children

Dawn Davenport  37:11  
in the home. But didn't number of children mean that they wanted to see a child in the home? Or they wanted it to be a childless home at the time? Or do you know,

Speaker 3  37:18  
we didn't ask? Yeah, so we listed a whole bunch of factors. And we said, you know, which ones are important in choosing parents, and we gave them an option to fill in the blank or other two. That was something they selected. For me down. This came a little bit as a surprise, right? It's much more important, the number of children in the home compared to something like the parents age or their parents rates

Dawn Davenport  37:42  
really surprised me

Speaker 3  37:44  
as far fewer birth mothers indicated that that was an important factor for that. What surprised me the most, though, was what Laura indicated, the second most important factor they indicated was the adoptive parents political, social and religious views. And we didn't dive into asking more information with the survey, but that was to them something that's very important. Almost half of birth mother said that's an important factor in choosing the parents.

Dawn Davenport  38:09  
Yeah, I wanted to know, okay, is it more of their political beliefs? Are there more their religion, or I wanted to be critical? Believe me, I'm not

Speaker 3  38:21  
gonna sit, you know, you're gonna get back the results, like we were saying, and then you're like, we should have asked, separate and we should forget 100 more questions.

Dawn Davenport  38:29  
Trust me, I, we are in that exact position. We're looking at our results from one of the randomized control trials we're running. And we're going why didn't we ask it? Or for us is why did we ask it a different way? Because we could see some of the fallacies and now in the way that the question was asking her like, Oh, darn, ask a few more. And then yeah, anyway, one of the findings that struck me is pregnant was the main concerns that this was birth moms had after placement. And the primary concerns that they expressed were, that they would miss their child that when, of course, that would make sense. And then followed by concern of not knowing what would happen in their child's life, which tugs at you. And then the last of the ones that you've primary, once you found were that my child will be angry with me in the future. So I mean, that's, yeah, it makes sense. It makes sense. But, you know, one of the things I loved about this is, I think that when I speak from those of us in the adoption world, I think that we need to not humanize so much, but just to help people recognize the diversity and who, who birth parents are. And I guess in some ways, when I read that you go, of course, that's what you'd be worried about. And yeah, and of

Speaker 2  39:46  
course, then that's why over half indicated like an important factor in choosing adoptive parents is okay, what are their views on openness? You know, because their concern is missing their child and not knowing what What happened to their child? You know?

Dawn Davenport  40:02  
Yeah, and that's that is one of the areas that in creating a family is adoption support and training and education organization. And one of the areas that we recognize we need to do a better job, although we certainly attempt to do the best job we can in this, but there is area for growth and that is instilling in adoptive parents. Because after the adoption, the adoptive parents have the power, and birth parents realize that. And there is nothing that breaks my heart more than when. And I understand there are good reasons that somebody may choose to not honor the agreement they made. However, it needs to be exceptional when you do that. And instilling that, in helping adoptive parents recognize that they've got to be there for the long, you just don't cut and run because they annoy you. Or because they aren't like you or because for any of the myriad of reasons that we hear people say, anyway, that's a soapbox, and I'll get off.

Speaker 3  41:08  
Donna wrong. Just on that section, we listed the number of different potential concerns that, you know, birth mother might have that she's thinking through her placement. And but then they were able to rate the magnitude of those concerns, you know, from no concern, minor concern, moderate concern to a major concern. And what struck us was Laura and I were, you know, analyzing this, you compare birth mothers to birth father's birth, mothers are much more likely to describe many of these as major concerns right here. As for fathers, it's often much more moderate in terms of their concern level. And then when you look at the highest frequency for major concern, it's all the ones that are related to the child's birth, parents are concerned about their children, and you know, their relationship with their child is a big part of that they're concerned about that that is something that they're thinking about as they're making this process. Yes, for example, they're far less concerned about disappointing their friends or family, not that it's inconsequential to them, and clearly is according to the data, all of these are important to them. But they're not as worried about disappointing the child's other birth parents, they're really concerned about the relationship with their child and the impact on your child.

Speaker 2  42:20  
And that's why the stigma piece stinks so much. Because people misunderstand birth, parents think that they're neglecting their child or abandoning their child or not being responsible enough. And as we all know, it's not the case.

Dawn Davenport  42:38  
Yeah, no. And I thought this was just this is neither here nor there in many ways as to what we're talking about. But I did think it was interesting, that of the people who responded to your survey of the birth parents who responded to your survey, 78% of the birth moms have some form of contact with their child and almost 74% of the birth father's. So we also don't know what the age of the children are. I mean, surely these could be adults. And so that would not surprise me but nor but the 78 Nowadays wouldn't surprise me at all for me, but that tells you that it was of top mind when they were making the decision and their biggest concern afterwards. This show as well as all the resources at creating a family couldn't happen without the support of our partners and one such partner is hopscotch adoptions. They have been a partner of creating a family for a long time and we can't tell you how much we appreciate their support. Hopscotch adoption, is a Hague accredited international adoption agency placing children from Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana, Guiana, Morocco, Pakistan, Serbia and Ukraine. They specialize in the placement of kiddos with Down Syndrome and other special needs. And they also do a lot of kinship adoptions. They place kids throughout the US and offer home study services and post adoption services to residents of North Carolina and New York. What guys, this was just a terrific research report. Is there anything else? I'll start with you, Laura? And now I'll go to Ryan, anything else, Laura, that you findings, you want people to know, that we haven't talked about? Because it's a it's not super long read, but it is a very in depth read. So we can't cover it all. But is there anything that you particularly want to highlight?

Speaker 2  44:30  
Oh, well, there's so much. Like, what stands out the most? I think this research, obviously helps put data behind the anecdotes behind the stories that I've heard and Ryan has well, and I know you, too, Don, but I think we've kind of mentioned it earlier. But again, I think it bears repeating just the spaces need Did for birth parents experiences to be shared, and giving them opportunity to share their story and that can look like lots of different things. But I think from the get go, we were just encouraged by the response and the involvement, and honored that someone would take the time to fill out a very personal intimate survey, and for some could potentially be traumatizing. And so my hope is that our society would begin to recognize and to help normalize, like, the role in place for birth parents and our culture. And normalize doesn't mean you know, like, simplifying or downplaying it, there's complexity involved. And I think just the empathy piece is huge. And so my hope with this study is that, you know, from the get go, we were wanting to better understand birth parents, and their experiences and and, you know, their satisfaction and what factors led to that or lead to dissatisfaction. And so, that's a long winded way of me saying, I think we all do kind of benefit from hearing both current stories, but we need to give space to allow that. And so, yeah, that's kind of my closing thought,

Dawn Davenport  46:21  
Well, Ryan, I set you up for failure, because she just gave us the perfect out. She summed it up and put a bow on that sucker. All right, Brian, now, anything you say is gonna, you know, not be as good. But

Speaker 3  46:38  
for your listeners, we haven't covered the majority of this report. And we encourage them if they're interested to go in and dive in and see what can be helpful for them. One thing we haven't talked about, just because of the lack of time, we asked about post adoption experiences. And the way we asked as we asked, you know, what did you need? And what did you actually receive, and the gap there between what was needed and what was received and sometimes was pretty significant. Other times it was closer to what was it hoped for, but often it was, you know, a big, big gap between what the birth parents said they needed and what they actually were able to get. So for all of us, it's, you know, a call for better post adoption. Exactly, yeah. Laura mentioned this already, that space for birth parents. And part of the reason for that is they talked about during the focus groups that was part of, for them, something that could be very healing for them was to interact with other birth parents saying that they were the only ones you can understand what they have experienced, even their close friends and their family wouldn't really understand what their experience was. And so they look to them. And then, you know, maybe I'll end with Laura and I both thanking our friends at the OPT Institute, they provided a grant to make this research possible. Excellent. It was a no strings attached, we want better information on birth parents, we support you. So we're really grateful to the optics to for inability to do this, and to hire the researchers and produce this research report. So we're grateful for that. And, and we're grateful to creating a family of spread awareness. And that's a part of our mission is that this information gets out and that more people understand. And then as Laura said, we can help normalize the role of birth parents for every adoptee in our country. There are two birth parents, right? There are millions of birth parents in our country, we often don't talk about them and include them the way we do for adoptive parents, or for adoptive.

Dawn Davenport  48:40  
Excellent, thank you both so much. And you are correct. Research doesn't happen without somebody funding it. So I'm glad you put that out there. And it also doesn't happen without dedicated people who are willing to spend and there was a lot of time, there was a lot of time put into this. Everyone, the link is in the show notes, grab it, and just spend some time and I do mean this for adoptive parents as well. This is not just for adoption professionals. And there's good explanations to each of them. So if you hate numbers, don't worry about it. There's still lots of information you can just read about it. Okay. Thank you both so much, Laura and Ryan. I truly appreciate your time. Thank you. Thank you

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