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The Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents, pg 5

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How Birthparents Cope

You have probably found a number of positive ways to cope with your situation. You may attend support group meetings and conferences, go to counseling, search for your child, and communicate with other birthparents. The sections below discuss each of these. A list of resources is provided at the end of this article.

Support Group Meetings/Conferences

Some national birth parent support organizations have local chapters. One well-known organization is Concerned United Birthparents (CUB). Other birth parent support groups are not part of a network and are independent, local organizations. Two examples are Birthmothers of Minors (B.M.O.M.S.) in New York City, and Birthparents in the Open in Santa Cruz, California. Other groups are sponsored by adoption agencies, such as the Barker Foundation in Cabin John, Maryland, and the Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan in Milwaukee.

No matter how they are organized, birth parent support groups generally have the same purpose in mind: to offer comfort, sympathy, and an opportunity to talk with others and exchange information. For many, a support group is one of the few places where everyone understands the birth parent's point of view and people express their feelings openly. It is an environment in which you can tell your stories and hear about other people's experiences. Said one birthmother after she attended her first support group meeting, "I never knew there were other women walking around with my same guilt and rage. For the first time in over 20 years, I didn't feel so utterly alone!"

Some of the national birth parent support groups hold regional and national conferences. These meetings offer the opportunity to get support and information from a larger group of people. While some focus on political or policy issues, others cover a wide range of topics designed to enhance the quality of life for birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. A birth father attending a conference of the Council of Equal Rights in Adoption in New York City said, "It's a chance to mingle with many more birthparents than the core group of 10 or so that show up at my local support group meeting. You hear speakers with a national reputation, and you're sitting in a large hotel ballroom filled with birthparents and adoptees. There's still not enough birth fathers there, but it's a start."

A birthmother in California named Curry Wolfe started another organization with a very specific purpose in mind. Even though she had found her adult child and had been a member of birth parent support groups, she wanted to connect with other women who lived in the same maternity home that she lived in while she was pregnant. When she did that, she experienced even further healing. She started Birthparent Connection because she wanted to help other women heal, too.

A birth father now in Florida started the only national organization specifically designed to help birth fathers. Jon Ryan started the National Organization for Birthfathers and Adoption Reform (NOBAR), which predominantly provides support and advocacy to birth fathers concerning their legal rights. Says Ryan, "Birth fathers have most of the same feelings as birthmothers about adoption. Many are angry and unhappy being separated from their children. . . . In my contacts with birth fathers I've found them to be the total opposite of the stereotype of the uncaring, neglectful guy who is relieved not to have to support a child he fathered." NOBAR helps fathers in a number of situations, encouraging them to get good counseling during their partner's pregnancy, to be involved in the placement decision if adoption is their choice, and to get legal counsel to prevent the placement of a child they want to raise.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)

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