Baylor Adoption Expert Says Birth Mothers Need Increased Support During, Following Adoption Process

Baylor Adoption Expert Says Birth Mothers Need Increased Support During, Following Adoption Process

June 7, 20182 min read

Dr. Elissa Madden's latest social work research centers on the experience of birth mothers who decide to place their children for adoption.

Madden and her research team found that time impacts the level of satisfaction (or lack thereof) these women feel regarding their decision -- and that impact isn't always positive.

While many birth mothers reported satisfaction with their decision, the newest findings show that the more time that has passed since the birth mothers placed their child, the less overall satisfaction some birth mothers felt. Some prior research suggests birth mothers’ grief and adjustment attenuates with the passage of time. However, the researchers note “the findings of this analysis highlight the importance of not confusing birth mother’s satisfaction with her decision and the feelings of loss that she may feel about the placement.”

A birth mother may feel she made the right decision regarding placement and yet still experience ongoing feelings of loss and grief even years later, Madden said.

Madden's multiple studies of birth mothers' experiences have shown that there's a need for more resources for these women.

“Adoption professionals must be especially attuned to the needs and concerns of expectant mothers who seek their counsel, as many lack a full understanding of their options,” Madden said.

Madden and her team suggest:

• Annual “grief and loss” training for adoption professionals

• State and federal policies ensuring birth mothers have access to ongoing post-relinquishment support services

• Free grief support groups for all birth mothers

• Adoption of national standards to ensure that expectant mothers and prospective adoptive parents receive standardized information detailing the benefits of ongoing post-adoption contact

• Stipends for expectant mothers to hire independent legal counsel to represent the mothers at the relinquishment and during sensitive discussion regarding post-adoption contact

Elissa Madden, Ph.D., associate professor, joined the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work in August 2016. Her primary research interest is in child welfare, with a particular focus on ways to promote permanency for children in foster care. Dr. Madden is a former child welfare conservatorship worker with Child Protective Services in Texas. She is a licensed social worker and has extensive experience working with children & families.


Connect with:
  • Elissa Madden
    Elissa Madden Associate Professor

    Research: child welfare, foster care, adoption (public & private), child & family mental health, service learning in social work education

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