Often when we post on social media, we receive comments challenging what we do, and in particular, these challenges are often positioned as an argument against what we do, or a call-to-arms for us to change our focus to family preservation. However, we know that two things can be true at the same time: family preservation is important, and caring for people who placed a child for adoption is also important. These are not opposing viewpoints for us, and this is why:
The Difference Between Expectant Mothers and Birthmothers
Too often, the term birthparent is conflated with expectant parent, however these are not interchangeable terms. Put simply, an expectant mother is a pregnant person. It doesn’t matter what outcome she intends for her pregnancy: she is an expectant mother. Often, if she is pregnant and considering adoption, people may erroneously begin to refer to her as a birthparent while she is pregnant, but that is not correct. A birthmother is a person who has given birth, and after that birth has placed her child for adoption. She isn’t a birthparent while she is pregnant. She isn’t a birthparent if she is pregnant and has decided to place her child for adoption. She becomes a birthparent only after placement of that child has occurred.
When we say we work with birthparents, we mean that we only work with women who have given birth and placed their child. We only work with people who are post-placement.
We Occupy a Unique Space in the Adoption Landscape
Twenty-one years ago, our founders recognized the need for neutral post-placement care for birthparents. Today, On Your Feet Foundation is recognized as the leader in comprehensive post-placement support for birthparents, a demographic that has historically been under-served within the adoption community. In the adoption landscape, we are a neutral third-party, providing birthparents with case management, adoption-competent therapy, therapeutic retreats, education and counseling grants, adoption education and a strong, vibrant community in which to heal and thrive. We are not an agency; we do not facilitate adoptions, or help that process in any way.
We Do Not Counsel Expectant Parents
We are firmly committed to our neutral position in the adoption landscape. We do not counsel expectant parents and if approached by an expectant parent, we refer them to carefully vetted agencies/organizations who offer unbiased, supportive options counseling. It is imperative to our staff and mission that our services are not used as an incentive to place for any expectant parent and that we do not influence any expectant parent in their choice. We are not a perk being offered to currently expectant women. We exist only to help women who have already made that choice – regardless of how it was made, and when, and why. Our clients are birthparents who find us years – sometimes decades – after placement.
Neutrality is Critical to Facilitate Healing
Adoption is traumatic, both for adoptees and birthparents, and that trauma stays with both groups for a lifetime. For women experiencing a crisis pregnancy, the counselors, medical professionals, and adoption professionals they encounter during their pregnancy will always be tied to that trauma. Even adoption agencies that put considerable effort into providing post-placement care for birthparents often find that their birthparents will not access that care, because their agency is linked to their pregnancy and adoption experience.
Healing requires a neutral, non-judgmental, support space. If we had any contact at all with women while they were pregnant, we would lose the neutrality birthparents need to access healing. Because we are secular, non-agency affiliated, and have no contact with expectant parents, we are able to maintain the neutrality birthparents require to access our services.
What We Do
On Your Feet Foundation offers the most comprehensive set of birthparent support and services in existence. At the core of what we do is case management, offering birthparent-directed, bespoke solutions designed to best support every client's unique needs. We exist because there are women who relinquished over the past 60 years who need help today, and without us, have no help at all. Even if adoption ended today – even if the efforts of family preservation groups effectively ended adoption as we know it today – those women who placed in the past still deserve the care and support they need to heal, for as long as they need it.
We’ve been providing care and support to birthparents (fathers, too) for over 20 years. When we started, there was nothing like us in existence, and today, we are still the only organization offering comprehensive case-management and support to birthparents.
For 21 years we have sat on the other side of adoption, and we have seen momentous shifts and changes in that landscape, including, more recently, groups forming whose missions are dedicated to family preservation. Those groups do not sit in opposition with us, because our mission is very focused on providing help and support to anyone who, at any time and for any reason, did place. Family preservation groups are focused on expectant parents - women who are pregnant right now - while we work with women who were pregnant and subsequently placed their child for adoption. This isn’t an either/or situation: both of these separate populations of women deserve exemplary care, attention, and support.
For us, our best-case scenario will be when our services are no longer needed by anyone, ever. Even if adoption ended today, we would still have birthparents from the past 60 years who need a safe, neutral, secular organization to provide them the help they deserve, and we intend to be here for as long as they need us, providing them with the care and support that they need to heal.