Adoption is a Mysterious Word

by Michael Hill

Adoption STAR Associate Director Michael Hill talks about the importance of adoption education for healthcare/helping professionals.

During a series of outreach meetings I held in the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great nurses, social workers, physicians, and counselors. All of them were eager to learn more about Adoption STAR and about adoption in general, including (but not limited to) the specifics of adoption practice, adoption law, options counseling and making referrals (among other things). Formal adoption education as a part of a healthcare/helping professional’s academic training is definitely the exception, not the norm. As a result, Adoption STAR in-services, “lunch and learns,” or similar training opportunities are typically welcome (and deeply appreciate) by participants.

In any event, there was one social worker in particular that really stands out for me when I reflect back on the aforementioned string of summer meetings. The social worker was employed at a clinic that’s a stone’s throw from a large, urban-based high school. As a result, she saw a lot of teens (although she made it clear that she had adult clients on her caseload as well – but teens certainly represented the majority of clients she provided counseling and mental health services for).

One of the very first things this social worker said to me as we started our meeting was this: “I find that adoption is a very mysterious word.” The statement is a simply one, but undeniably true. When you’re “green” and not fully educated on what adoption truly is/means, it’s a horribly mysterious and seemingly confusing process for all parties involved, whether you’re an expectant parent that’s considering adoption and looking to learn more about it OR you’re a prospective adoptive parent who’s just starting to consider what adoption-related path to parenthood you’re going to take.

However, the confusion isn’t just specific to expectant parents and birth parents. It’s a confusing and mysterious process for healthcare and helping professionals, too. Imagine how uncomfortable it must feel for a doctor or a social worker to have dealings with a patient who expresses an interest in placing a child for adoption only to feel as though all they’re equipped to say is “well, here’s a brochure you can take home and read,” and that’s about it.

By working with Adoption STAR to set up a training or in-service, healthcare and helping professionals can be certain they’re getting the information they need to more sensitively, intelligently, and accurately talk with their patients about adoption. While we can’t expect folks to become adoption experts after one training, we certainly can give them the tools they need to have a more meaningful, insightful conversation with their clients about adoption…one that goes far beyond the all too typical, “here’s a pamphlet for you to read.”