Sarah Reiter is Providence Place’s Adoption Outreach Coordinator. When she talks about her job, her brown eyes shine and her shoulder-length hair swings as she emphasizes a point she’s making. At 24, she may seem young for the responsibility she has, but it’s clear she’s able to talk easily with troubled young women her age or younger.
Sarah has an important task at hand. More than representing Providence Place and its people, she goes all over Texas and New Mexico to talk to people about adoption and the adoption services at Providence Place.
Recently, she was in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she visited a Pregnancy Resource Center as part of a goal to support and prepare agencies with training and materials about adoption.
“It’s really important to us to educate professionals who may know about adoption but are uncertain how to have a conversation about it and the different resources and services available,” she said. “Besides, there are so many misconceptions about adoption and part of my job is to clarify.”
Certainly, people have many opinions about adoption. Some people hear good, bad, scary or crazy adoption stories. Stories they saw in a movie, heard on the radio, read in the news, were told by a friend. The good news is the overwhelming majority of adoptions are positive.
“The media are not helping my case,” said Sarah. “More than sharing negative adoption stories, they also use negative language. Even in one of my favorite TV shows, the main character recently said, ‘She gave her baby up for adoption,’ which doesn’t accurately describe the birth parents’ decision-making process nor that they considered adoption a responsible choice. Instead wording like ‘She chose adoption for her baby’ or ‘she placed her child’ is more reflective of the process,” –that’s a brave and generous decision by the mother for her baby.
Using positive adoption language is vital. If professionals don’t know the best way to talk to birth parents, they may feel judged and decide against adoption as an option. Young women come for help but they are also terrified and stressed. They need to feel comfortable and not scorned for considering adoption.
“I think it’s important to be prepared when you have this conversation,” said Sarah. “You need to know enough about adoption to correct any wrong information a young mother might have and address her fears. For example, a birth mother may think that after her child is placed she won’t have any support to overcome her loss. It’s not true. At Providence Place, we can provide up to six weeks of transition support and counseling support is for a lifetime.”
Sarah says it’s important to be honest. “Do not downplay how difficult adoption can be or don’t say that we understand how hard it is,” she said. “Instead, support her. Adoption is not an easy or feel-good option.”
Sarah also recommends staying within your comfort zone. Providence Place has been having conversations about adoption since 1895 and Sarah will try to answer any questions or concerns.
Next week, she’ll be in another town, visiting other agencies. She’s going to be listening a lot and sharing ways to describe adoption that validate a birth mother’s decision. If you are curious or even confused about how to have a conversation about adoption, please contact Sarah Reiter at 210-696-2410 ext. 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you answer these adoption questions?