I am Sheila and I am a birth mother. I want you to know that my daughter was conceived in love within a beautiful relationship…
Birth mother Latoya Sinclair shares her thoughts on her son and being a birth parent in the adoption community.
Listen to Aline, Latoya, Mariah, Melissa, and Scott share their stories about making a plan for their child with the support of Spence-Chapin. Spence-Chapin provides free, confidential, and unbiased options counseling for pregnant women & biological parents.
Aline's Story: Birth Parent Perspectives - Watch Aline talk about the comfort she received from her Interim Care Provider.
Latoya's Story: Birth Parent Perspectives - Watch Latoya talk about finding post-adoption support from Spence-Chapin.
Mariah's Story: Birth Parent Perspectives - Watch Mariah talk about why she chose open adoption.
Melissa's Story: Birth Parent Perspectives - Watch Melissa tell her story about how Spence-Chapin helped her through a difficult time.
Scott's Story - Watch Scott tell his family's story about how Spence-Chapin helped them find hope.
Call us 24/7 at 1-800-321-LOVE. Contact the writer Lucy Shaw at email@example.com.
Read Latoya's story here or watch Latoya describe what would have been different if she'd made an adoption plan with Spence-Chapin, below.
Latoya Sinclair is a birth parent who placed her son for adoption without the help of Spence-Chapin. Five years later, she found Spence-Chapin's support group and has become an advocate for other birth mothers. She wanted to share her story publicly and to help other women in her situation get the support and respect they deserve. In 2005, at 15 years old, Latoya became pregnant. “I was on the track team, just an average teen.” She remembers her cousin having dreams about fish, which in Caribbean culture means someone is pregnant. She didn’t think it could be her, but her cousin convinced her to stop at the hospital while they were on the way to the supermarket. When the doctor told her she was 2 weeks pregnant, “I kind of had a blank moment,” she describes. “I didn’t really have a reaction until the next day.”
Latoya recalls telling the biological father, “He was older than I was and had other relationships. So I thought it was something more than it was.” He wanted Latoya to have an abortion. At the time, it would have cost her 700 dollars. But when the time came to do it, he denied the baby was his and refused to help. “He just left me in the dark, by myself,” Latoya says.
Latoya lived with her aunt and uncle at the time and they did not want Latoya to raise a child in their house, with her being so young and the biological father being much older. Latoya’s aunt took her to see the family obstetrician and sought her advice. The doctor mentioned that she was seeing a couple who were unable to get pregnant and wanted to adopt. Latoya’s aunt arranged for a brief meeting with the couple. In the meeting, Latoya asked if she would be able to have an open adoption and see her child, and the couple said no. Latoya decided she did not want them to adopt her baby.
Latoya’s pregnancy was a very lonely time. None of the adults in her life understood what she was going through or how to help her. She began to withdraw at home and focus her attention and energy on being an excellent student. “I would go to the doctor by myself and see everyone with their boyfriends or husbands and get very sad,” recalls Latoya tearing up a little.
Due to the age difference with the biological father, Latoya had to testify in a trial against the biological father, for statutory rape. At the end of her pregnancy Latoya decided to go back to planning with the couple she met through her doctor because she felt that she had no other choice. She didn’t know she could turn to a licensed adoption agency to help her understand her rights and options in this critical time.
After a difficult 23-hour labor, Latoya delivered her son. She was disappointed that she wasn’t the first person to hold him and felt a range of emotions while in the hospital. She was happy to have bonded with her baby in hospital, and the adoptive parents would visit often.
The year after the placement was very difficult for Latoya. “People expect you to just go on with your life,” she said, “like you didn’t just have a human being inside you.” She started her Junior year of high school without the emotional support she needed. She was depressed but her family just kept telling her to “be strong”.
While the adoptive parents did not agree to on-going contact with Latoya, they did end up sending a photo and letter through the doctor a year after he was born. Receiving this photo increased Latoya’s desire to connect with the adoptive parents and remain in contact with her son. But this has been difficult for Latoya to do on her own, not knowing how to navigate and strengthen a relationship that was never clear to her when it started. Her son is now 9, and she has seen pictures and videos of him and exchanges a few text messages with his adoptive parents once or twice a year.
Latoya’s story is still unfolding. She has finished college and has a career in government helping others that she enjoys. She continues to strive for the relationship she deserves with her son and his adoptive family.
Endnote: As an adoption agency, we at Spence-Chapin are here to support women like Latoya and promote their voices as part of the adoption discourse. If Spence-Chapin had been involved when Latoya was pregnant, she would have received options counseling, been counseled on her rights to open adoption, and provided with an attorney at no cost. She would also have been able to choose families that wanted open adoption. Unfortunately, Latoya only found Spence-Chapin five years after she placed her son for adoption and did not have the support of an adoption professional when needed it most. But we are inspired by her strength and commitment to share her story and be a role model for others.
Why should I consider adoption?
This is a very personal choice and there are many reasons people have considered making an adoption plan for their child. Many say it’s because they aren’t ready or able to fully parent a child at this time, but want to choose a loving family and stay connected to their child. Others say they cannot provide the special care their child will need and want to find them a family who can. Others feel they will lose their parental rights, and would rather choose an adoptive family and maintain contact with their child.
What are the benefits of open adoption?
Open adoption is an ongoing relationship between the adoptive family and the birth family. You can decide what this relationship looks like – it may include visits, letters, emails, photos, and phone calls. Birth parents who have chosen open adoption say they couldn’t imagine it any other way. They say that being able to choose and meet the adoptive family and maintain contact is the main reason they chose adoption. They say that being able to see their child grow up in a happy, loving family is what gives them peace of mind. In addition, they say they are happy their child will understand and know their birth parents and their birth story.
How can Spence-Chapin help me with this decision?
You have the right to confidential counseling before making your decision. Every woman or couple we work with is offered FREE options counseling and is assigned their own social worker who is an experienced professional. They will advocate for you in making the decision that feels most right to you. The social worker will answer all your questions and connect you to resources, including health insurance, prenatal care, etc. We can help you fully consider all of your options and advise you on all aspects of making an adoption plan, including open adoption and your legal rights. We respect your decisions and you will never be pressured by us to make an adoption plan.
Why should I trust Spence-Chapin?
At Spence-Chapin, we take a lot of care in supporting and advocating for you. We are a non-profit organization with over 100 years of experience finding loving families for children who need them and we are here to support you throughout your journey. We believe in free, unbiased and confidential support for women and couples making this decision, which is why we have separate and robust processes for working with biological parents and adoptive parents. Our social workers are available for free, unbiased, confidential options counseling in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Those we work with say they appreciate our support and did not feel pressured. In fact, the majority of expectant and biological parents who meet with Spence-Chapin find the resources and support to parent.
What if I want to keep my decision confidential?
Spence-Chapin will respect your right to confidentiality in making this decision. We take your privacy and safety very seriously. If you choose closed adoption and do not want contact after an adoption, Spence-Chapin will respect your rights as well.
What types of people are looking to adopt?
Spence-Chapin has all types of prospective adoptive parents waiting to adopt. They vary in age, background, family structure, religion, race, etc. Some are big families, some are small. Some live in the city, some live in the suburbs. They all are eager to adopt and provide a loving family to a child. You will be able to meet and connect with the people you select. Adoptive parents registered with Spence-Chapin have been screened by our social workers and prepared for open adoption.
Can I hear from other people you’ve worked with?
Yes, hear biological parent perspectives on our youtube page.
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All of us, birth moms, first moms, those of us pushed to relinquish, or those having more choice but nevertheless feeling there was no other way out, those in closed, semi-closed, or open adoptions, those in reunion, those who aren’t or can’t be — we know we are mothers. We know we have been unbearably strong. We may need to whisper it first to ourselves, but then we can proclaim it to the universe and know we are heard. Just don’t take anyone or time itself for granted.
As a social worker in the International Department at Spence-Chapin, I’ve been enlightened by so many aspects of adoption: the way hearts of adoptive parents can break, heal, stretch, and grow; the tenacious resiliency of children; and the conflicted governments who don’t always recognize the fate they hold in their hands. But, I had not, amazingly, ever met birth parents in the process of placing their child in adoption. When Leslie Nobel, my colleague from the Birth Parent Department, asked me to be a Russian translator for a couple who were making an adoption plan for their son, I agreed with great distress. I was very willing to assist the family, but my first generation immigrant Russian had been rusting away in a corner while I moved ahead with my life. I didn’t even know how to say “adoption” and had to immediately call my mother for help: “adocharyt” (to make one a daughter, docha means daughter) or “asinovyt” (to make one a son; sin means son).
Meeting Vlad and Maria was a surprising experience. They are extremely attractive and look like they could be a pair of figure skaters. In the United States on a work visa when Maria gave birth, they had intended to parent their child. I learned that the country in which they reside could not possibly address their son’s special needs, and he would be exposed to a difficult and unfulfilling life. They visited with their baby, cried often at the loss of not being able to raise him, but knew that adoption was the right choice. I sat through several meetings with them, tripping my way over the language that was once my mother tongue. I’ve often wondered, about the birth parents of our kids born overseas. The adoption process cloaks the identities of birth parents, gives us snippets of information from which we can only create scenarios; Due simply to circumstances of timing and geography, I got to know this couple. Although it’s not entirely fair, I couldn’t help imagining Maria and Vlad’s story layered onto the stories of all the children I have helped to place. This quiet, unassuming couple became the large voice of silent international birth parents. As we spoke, I witnessed many of the same emotions as I do with adoptees and adoptive parents — regret, loss, confusion, relief and hope.
This all culminated with the honor of attending the child’s placement, and watching the sometimes awkward and sometimes heart-warming moments between the two families. At feeding time, there was confusion as to who would give the bottle—each mother was trying to accommodate the other. I had to repress tears when the adoptive mom gave Maria a beautiful necklace holding their son’s birthstone. I had to repress laughter as the dads tried calling each others’ cell phones so they could program the numbers. The reception was lousy, and ultimately they both ended up side-by-side at the window, phones high up overhead, trying to connect the two phones that were inches apart. Both wives were cracking up and taking pictures.
Soon, it was time to go and a heavier mood took over. Talk of Skyping and nearest airports changed to everyone admiring the baby, and finally, handing him to his birth parents for goodbyes. There were tears, of course, but there were also smiles. We walked out to the elevator and Vlad and Maria left to grieve in private.
That day, my adoption world both grew and shrank. It grew because I was given the opportunity to have a new and invaluable experience, and shrank because the differences between international and domestic adoption are not so stark as I had believed them to be. Yes, how the adoption happens is different, but in many ways it is just a matter of geography. No matter where in the world a child who needs a family is born, all adoptions have the same players. They form what we in the adoption world call the triad – the birth family, the child, and the adoptive family. I learned that when the birth parent piece is missing from the picture, it is our responsibility to put it back into its rightful place.
Cori Lohser, Spence-Chapin’s Community Advocacy and Outreach Program Manager, discusses Building Connections Across the Pregnancy Spectrum hosted by the Adoption Access Network (AAN) Ok, stop me if you’ve heard this one: “A community health worker, an adoption professional and a Planned Parenthood social worker all walk into a conference room…” This isn’t actually the beginning of a joke, but the scenario at an incredibly successful conference hosted on November 5 by the Adoption Access Network, a project of Spence-Chapin. We welcomed close to 100 participants representing all points along the pregnancy services spectrum, from adoption to abortion to prenatal care to labor and delivery.
Building Connections Across the Pregnancy Spectrum, was envisioned by our Outreach and Advocacy Team as a productive conference for skill-building, conversation and networking for professionals across the country who work with pregnant women and families making decisions about pregnancy and parenting. It was also the first opportunity to highlight the exciting work of our Adoption Access Network to a larger group of professionals.
Planning for the conference began nearly a year ago, and grew out of our sense (shared by Planned Parenthood and the independent clinics that we work closely with through the Network) that individual providers working in the fields of adoption, abortion and parenting rarely get an opportunity to connect and share experiences with their counterparts working in other fields. In the course of our work on the Adoption Access Network, we’ve heard from professionals time and again that they or their staff feel uncertain about the alternate options available to the women they serve. They also feel ill-prepared to counsel patients regarding these options or to offer additional resources and referrals for those who want to explore a particular option more fully.
This in fact was the impetus for Spence-Chapin’s launching the Adoption Access Network close to two years ago. We knew there was a real need for information and training amongst abortion and family planning providers about adoption, as well as a real shortage of pro-choice adoption agencies to which they could feel comfortable making referrals. The work of the Network therefore centers around giving these professionals the tools and resources necessary to effectively integrate the adoption option into their practice. And, it mobilizes other like-minded adoption resources around the country who can partner with their local health centers. The Adoption Access Network has been extraordinarily well-received and gained the attention of policy makers, the media and other stakeholders because it recognizes a simple yet critical fact: the decision to terminate a pregnancy, place for adoption or parent are all reproductive choices; and all choices to which women have the right to unbiased access.
The November conference was a perfect representation of this shared ideal. It was facilitated by Grayson Dempsey, founder of Backline (a hotline for women needing support around pregnancy decisions) and a renowned speaker on options counseling. Participants began by engaging in a values clarification exercise in which they were asked to explore their own beliefs and biases around various pregnancy options. They then went on to discuss an array of topics including the difficult questions posed by clients.There was a fascinating brainstorming session in which participants described their vision of a world in which pregnant and parenting women and families are fully supported.
As one conference attendee put it, “Today acted as a catalyst to get my brain going to creatively integrate the concept of the pregnancy spectrum (in my work with patients). Thank you for taking the time to organize this conference. It was invigorating and educational.”
There was an excellent feature on ABC News on June 25th about how Facebook is impacting the world of adoptive and birth families. As I pointed out in my article in Adoptive Families magazine on the same topic, individuals now have access to each other without the support or preparation that can be so helpful in negotiating these new relationships. While openness is a wonderful opportunity for all members of the adoption triad to know each other and understand their shared path, relationships are never easy and often fraught with emotional landmines. Teenagers are particularly prone to jumping in rather than slowly building these relationships. Parents need to keep communication going about what their kids are feeling and wanting to do in relationship to their birth family.
Amy Silverman, Spence-Chapin's Assistant Director of Birth Parent Services, recommends recent articles by and about birth mothers in Newsweek and The New York Times.