The Changing Climate of Adoption in Alberta

Our placements this year are lower than they have ever been.  This is not a phenomenon unique to Adoption Options, but is a trend being felt throughout the community of adoption in Alberta, where a steady decline in the number of adoption placements per year has been felt considerably over the past many years.

And why is this? 

As abortion rates climb and the percentages of young men and women making parenting plans increase, adoption figures are dropping.  What was once THE choice to make when faced with an unplanned pregnancy has now become all but obsolete.  

Coinciding with this increase in parenting and abortion rates, comes another reason, in my opinion, for why adoption has come to be the least considered, and least desired option.  I am of the firm belief that negativity and perpetuated misconceptions about adoption have a direct impact.

I like to believe we have come a long way in terms of increasing knowledge and education about current adoption practice in our province.  I like to think that when people think “birthmother”, the words “courage” “love” “maturity” and “strength” come to their minds, and when someone thinks “adoption” they also think “hope”, “love”, “family” and “choice”. 

However, I was reminded just this week about how far as a society we still have to go in actually considering adoption with this mindset.  This reminder came in the way of a radio broadcast on adoption I overheard while driving, and instead of the usual top 40 hits, I found myself listening to caller after caller ringing in to share their personal horror stories of adoption.  Stories from the “closed system,” where birth parents and adoptees were separated at birth, and everyone, including adoptive parents, were kept in the dark.   These callers, whether connected directly to adoption or not, shared stories of search and reunions gone wrong.  Of friends of friends who had a botched adoption experience.  There were callers who were adoptees themselves who resist seeking out their birth family for fear they are “drug addicts”, or “don’t care”.  The theme was this:  adoption equals negative.  Adoption is bad.

In listening to these many stories, I was left to wonder…where is the representation from those who live successful, positive, and fulfilling open adoptions year after year, every single day?  With literally THOUSANDS of open adoption success stories experienced in our province alone, where are the voices to combat these stories of an outdated, outlawed system of practice? Where were the callers to speak up about how it works today??  

This radio segment is just an example of the continued unbalanced perspective and reputation that adoption has in our society today.  When the representation is predominantly negative, and so few people even know about the open system, how does a prospective birthparent feel positive, sure, and supported in their choice for adoption?  When statements like “give up her baby” continue to be used so commonly, how does a prospective birthmother connect with an adoption plan when she considers herself a person who does not “give up”, but fights, loves, and longs for the best positive outcome for she and her child.  When the reality of open adoption is not commonly known, how can a woman, couple, or family be informed in their options? 

While I would not claim that adoption is the right choice for everyone facing the incredibly difficult decisions accompanying a pregnancy in complicated circumstances, I do believe that it is in everyone’s best interest to be informed about the reality of ALL their choices.  While the media continues to perpetuate stories from a system long ago abolished and does not replace that image with current or up to date information, it is no wonder that so few prospective birth families consider adoption a realistic and positive option.  It is incredibly difficult to stand up against that type of societal pressure, and feel strong in the face of adversity.

THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN.  This is where we ALL play a role…

Share your stories.  Talk about how your families were formed, or how you plan to form your family.  Share with your loved ones, your acquaintances, and even interested strangers what you have learned – that there exists an adoption system of choice, trust, honesty, and contact; one that is not dictated by lifelong loss and separation, but rather courage and hope.   Educate your children about their adoption stories.  It is their voices that ring with truth and have the most power to inform and change the world’s view of their origins.  Use the words highlighted above – love, courage, strength – when speaking about birthparents.  I have never met one who doesn’t embody these qualities.  I’ll bet you haven’t either.

With our collective voice we can inform and empower, and we can provide choice and options where otherwise there exists few.  When positive voices outweigh the negative, maybe we will see a shift in our society where women and men feel supported, understood, and celebrated in a decision that is without a doubt based in, and made with, absolute LOVE.

“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far reaching effects” - - Dalai Lama

Erika Moore
Social Worker, Adoption Options