The adoption community is ever-growing in Arkansas. There are so many individuals and families who can benefit from the adoption process. Although the journey may seem long and daunting from the outside, learning more about the opportunities and benefits of adoption can help you feel more at peace with your next step. As an expectant parent who has just started to consider adoption, you may be asking yourself some questions. Rather than letting fear or insecurities about your future govern your choices, learn what options are available to you for adoption in Arkansas. Here are the seven answers to questions you have about adoption in Arkansas.
What is adoption in Arkansas?
Adoption is an arrangement that has been around longer than we can imagine. We may have read about it in history books, seen it in movies, and may have encountered a number of people in our lives that have been personally affected by adoption in some sense. In this context, an adoption occurs when a biological parent places their infant or child with a family or individual who legally accepts all responsibilities for that child’s needs. This legal arrangement binds a family together in a way that can and should be treated as if that child was physically born to that family. When a biological mother chooses to place a child for adoption, she could be sacrificing her own motherhood for the health and well-being of her child’s future. There are many reasons why someone may choose to place their child for adoption. Regardless, adoption is typically a tragic experience in some way. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be something that makes every individual involved stronger and happier.
There are many different types, approaches, and arrangements for adoption that different people consider. For some mothers, adoption isn’t even considered until after a child is born. For others, the moment pregnancy is learned of, adoption is on the table. Hopeful adoptive parents may be approaching an adoption journey out of issues with infertility, or simply because they’d like to expand their growing family through alternative means. Adoption is also a complex dynamic for the adoptee himself or herself. Some adoptees are placed at birth, others have gone through the foster system, and some even travel halfway across the world to find his or her forever family. These different circumstances are just a glimpse of the different approaches to adoption people take.
What is the language of adoption in Arkansas?
As you begin to consider your place in the adoption community, you’ll notice yourself running into words and phrases that you may be unfamiliar with. You could be asking yourself, “What is the difference between an expectant parent and a birth parent?” or “What is the correct way to refer to the act of adoption?” As you learn more and ask questions, you’ll become more familiar with the language of adoption and understand why it is so important.
Being a community born of loss, unplanned pregnancies, relocation, and—at times—tragedy, it is important to strive for sensitivity in communication. The words we use to refer to others and their circumstances can communicate our understanding of their position. This form of empathy within the community is what helps unite like-minded people who may be going through one of the biggest trials in their lives. As with other states, Arkansas has the same adoption language; here are a few key words and phrases that someone who is considering adoption should become familiar with:
- Expectant Parent: An expectant parent is a woman or man who is or whose partner is pregnant with a child that is being considered for adoption. Until the child has been legally placed, an expectant parent should be referred to just as any other expecting individual who may not be considering adoption. An adoption is not finalized until after the birth and legal placement of the child. Until that moment, the biological parent(s) of that child has/have every parental right anyone else would have in a non-adoption situation. They also have the right to change their minds if they do decide to keep their child rather than placing him or her.
- Birth Parent: A birth parent is the biological parent of a child who was placed for adoption. This title is reserved for biological parents post-placement. Birth mother, birth mom, birth father, and birth dad are also commonly used to refer to a biological parent. Despite any legal arrangements, a man or woman who is involved with the adoptive placement of his or her biological child is still considered a parent, a mother, or a father. These titles never go away.
- Adoptive Parent: An adoptive parent is a person who has adopted a child from a biological parent. Before placement, an adoptive parent is referred to as a hopeful adoptive parent. Similar to the sensitivities regarding the language of referring to an expectant or birth parent, acknowledging the difference between an adoptive parent and a hopeful adoptive parent identifies where in the adoption process an individual, couple, or family stands.
- Adoptee: An adoptee is a person who was placed for adoption and is now legally considered the child of a parent or parents other than his or her own biological parents. Adoptees will often say that they “were adopted” rather than they “are adopted” when retelling their adoption story. This may help the adoptee separate the event of adoption from his or her personal identity.
- Adoption Triad: The adoption triad refers to the group of individuals and families that make up a single adoption arrangement. Like a triangle, the adoption triad has three connecting points: the expectant or biological parent, the hopeful adoptive or adoptive parent, and the adoptee. All of these groups are connected to and can support one another throughout the adoptee’s life.
When should I start considering my options?
As an expectant or biological mother, it is never too late to make an adoption plan. Whether you are a few weeks along, a few months along, delivering any day, or already a mother, you can always consider adoption an option for your child. Women who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy can benefit from speaking with an options counselor. The Gladney Center for Adoption is a well-known and trusted adoption agency that focuses on helping expectant mothers understand their options and take the next step in the direction they choose—whether that is adoption, abortion, or parenting.
Where do I start?
The good news is, you’ve already made the first step. The online adoption community is full of resources, people, and options for learning more about the adoption process. As you start to consider your next step, make sure you turn to reliable, unbiased resources for the most accurate information. An unplanned pregnancy presents three major, but different, options. As you start to consider those options, reach out to a counselor, adoption agency, or an accredited online resources to learn all that you can about what others have experienced in your position. No one can make the final decision for you, but leaning on the experiences of others and making an educated, well-thought-out decision can help you to feel peace as you move forward. Adoption agencies can be a trusted go-to for expectant mothers who have not yet made a decision about a child’s future. A good adoption agency should offer unbiased, sincere guidance in making the next step.
Who makes up the adoption community?
The adoption community is made up of more than just the members of the adoption triad. Friends, family, professionals, and more can help to support those involved in the adoption process.
Family, friends, and neighbors of those going through the adoption process can be a great resource of support. As they become informed about the process and the things you are experiencing, they should better know how to offer a helping hand. For an expectant mother, that may look like rides to a doctor’s appointments and agencies, financial help with pregnancy-expenses, or general emotional support throughout pregnancy. For a hopeful and adoptive parent, that support may look like offers to babysit during adoption-related appointments, fundraising, or an invitation to provide a meal throughout the more difficult parts of the process. These closer support-figures in an adoptive parent’s life can join the village of individuals who will help support an adoptee.
Adoption professionals include caseworkers, counselors, doctors, and social workers. Together, these members of the adoption community will support you through the adoption process by providing services, advice, and guidance. When using an adoption agency, a caseworker and/or social worker should work directly with you and/or your family to help make the right decisions for your own adoption journey. Likewise, counselors and other medical professionals can help you feel assured that the process is progressing in a positive direction. Your physical, mental, and emotional health is often put to the test as you pursue adoption. The all-around health of the adoptee should also be a priority before, during, and after the process is completed.
Why is the process so complex?
Every person who approaches the adoption process comes with a specific set of needs and wants for the future. A young, teenage girl who is facing an unplanned pregnancy and put in a position where she must independently support herself will have different needs than a woman in her thirties who doesn’t feel she can parent a child with her current family and work situations. A hopeful adoptive couple on a budget who have struggled with infertility for a decade will approach the process differently than a large family who feels the need to invite another member into the family through international adoption. And finally, an adoptee who is placed at birth will have a different adoption experience than a child who was temporarily placed with a handful of different families in his or her childhood. The process is complex because it must cater to everyone’s unique needs.
An adoption agency can be a great resource for anyone who finds themselves staring at a gigantic question mark as they begin the adoption process. These professionals can help you fill out the appropriate paperwork, connect you with the right counselors, and check off all the boxes you need to feel you have put in every effort and received every benefit this process can offer. One of the first things an adoption agency should work with you on is an adoption plan that will outline your needs, the resources available to you, a list of expectations, and a timeline for the immediate and distant future.
How do I move forward?
Now that you’ve learned the basics of the adoption process, the language, your available resources, and a little about the commitment you are about to make, it is time to take the next step. The process of adoption in Arkansas is made simple through your choice of a number of adoption agencies. Once you have evaluated your eligibility through Arkansas’ adoption requirements, you can then reach out to your local adoption agency for local resources. Whether you choose to pursue adoption privately or through an agency, there should be plenty of resources for you to choose from within the state.
Your adoption journey is unique and personal. No one has experienced your journey the way you have—but that doesn’t mean you are alone. You are a part of a community of women, men, couples, families, or children who have faced some type of hardship that has led them to adoption. Embrace that community. Remember that you can stand tall, arm and arm with those who love you and will eagerly support you through this process. Have courage as you take the first step. Do not be discouraged at your first or second or even third stumble down the road. Your biggest trial and life may have led you to this moment, but there is a chance to look back on it with peace knowing you made the best decision for your future, your child’s future, and your family’s future. Adoption in Arkansas can be a wonderful option for expectant parents, birth parents, hopeful adoptive parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. Learn more about your options today.