Adoption. It’s not a comfortable word for a lot of us.
In Australia, its history brings up sad and cruel practices, often betraying mothers and children, and leaving both on a life-long mission to find their stolen family.
But the grim past can’t be our excuse to ignore the sad and cruel present: that every year in Australia, thousands of children are born without the support of a permanent and loving family, deprived of their right to develop and thrive.
And while society puts it head in the sand over these complex challenges, countless mothers are being locked out of making a choice: to give their babies a life, and the stability and permanency they can’t provide themselves.
Here at Babes, supporting those mothers who are given the option of adoption is only a tiny part of what we do – but it is the most emotionally-charged, the most intense, and can ultimately be incredibly rewarding for all those involved.
Since we began in 2009, we have supported one mother through to her baby’s adoption placement, and we currently have two more women going through the adoption process.
(We’ve also had two referrals for pregnant women that were looking for adoption options, but then decided to parent – which was great news, and we worked hard to ensure both women were confident in their decisions, and supported at every stage!)
It’s a stark contrast to the heartbreaking number of children living without a permanent family - approximately 46,000 children in out-of-home-care, and more than 30,000 having lived away from their birth families for two years or more.
Often, these kids are moved from family to family multiple times, even as infants – a practice that undermines everything we know about best developmental conditions for children, especially those who have experienced trauma.
Like Adopt Change, Babes supports capacity-building for families to ensure that vulnerable children are able to remain within their birth family wherever possible.
But sometimes, it's just not - and can you imagine how tough life must be for a pregnant mother, to consider giving up her baby?
Unsafe living arrangements, addictions, mental health issues – it takes a brave woman to acknowledge the demons in her world, and that nine months and a baby are unlikely to transform her situation.
Forcing a pregnant mother in this situation to give up her baby would be unthinkable. (And we never pressure any woman to continue her pregnancy, either.)
But for the women who already feel a connection to their growing little human, empowering her to give life, and to make an ultimate act of love for her baby, can be healing.
Ensuring her baby has a stable and loved future with an adoptive family can be a positive first step in changing the birth mother's own journey, too.
That’s not to say it’s a fairytale – we know the road to adoption involves many heart-wrenching decisions, and tears flow freely along the way.
The situation isn’t helped by the long, bureaucratic and complicated process for adoption, which often means birth mothers wait weeks or even months after the birth to know their child is finally placed with permanent adoptive parents.
Ultimately, Babes wants to see mothers’ decision around their babies and adoption be supported, for the best outcome for the child.
Through our work during pregnancy and post-adoption, we’re determined that it can be the best outcome for the mother, too.
It’s time for Australian leaders, and our whole society, to acknowledge the crisis in out-of-home-care.
We are failing thousands upon thousands in the next generation, and we need to work towards building a system for adoption that ensures the best possible life for the baby, and the mother.