Let’s Discuss Mitigation – Pre Surrender

This week we will talk about Mitigation and Management of Collateral Damage.

Monday and Tuesday will be Mitigation. Wednesday and Thursday will cover Management. Friday will be pot luck.

Before we begin, let us define mitigation. See below definition from dictionary.com


1. the act of mitigating, or lessening the force or intensity of something unpleasant, as wrath, pain, grief, or extreme circumstances

2. the act of making a condition or consequence less severe: the mitigation of a punishment.

3. the process of becoming milder, gentler, or less severe.

4.a mitigating circumstance, event, or consequence.

Thinking about mitigation in the context of an expectant mother considering surrendering her chlid, unborn or born, to adoption, what can we do to lessen the possible impact of collateral damage?

The most obvious response you may have is for her to parent. Do not surrender and you do not set loose the plague of adoption trauma locusts. I would agree. Family preservation avoids this. However, since there will be mothers who will choose surrender, what counsel would you give them in advance to lessen possible collateral damage? What should a therapist or social worker share with the mother to mitigate the wound of adoption surrender post placement?

Let me give you a few commonly heard suggestions to get you thinking:

Informed Consent

  • – Expand the “informed” to include more than just the inability to revoke. Offer (require?) resources that include talking to adoptees, exploring parenting options, understanding PTSD that some mothers experience
  • – Explain that adoptive parents are no better than biological parents over the lifetime. They divorce, struggle with substances abuse, even abuse and murder children — just like biological parents do. They are not a supreme being rather human and fallible just like biological parents.


This old post of mine, White Flag Realities, might also be useful.

Okay, your turn.

What more might we offer to mothers considering surrendering their child to adoption to help them understand possible side effects of adoption on both her and her child?

6 Thoughts.

  1. These are good ideas. However, if adoption agencies did what you suggest, i.e. alerting mothers to the coming trauma, many would not relinquish and that would ruin their business model. I don’t believe they will do anything to prevent that. They are in the business of securing babies for adoption and would cost them the income of major bucks. Forgive me for my negativity on this. I will try to come up with things I believe would help mother after surrender and comment later or email you.

    • Denise – Your point is noted but I am going to respectfully disagree on the grounds that it feels defeatist to me. It is as if you are saying “things will never change so why bother”. It is admitting you lost the war before you even entered the battle. I want to believe, I need to believe, things can change. Social workers who sell babies on the open market are not the only individuals that come into contact with expectant mothers. We can aim to educate the others as well as the mothers. I also would like to believe that we have evolved – somewhat since the 60s when you surrendered or the 80s when I did. I want to believe that the # of adoptees now working in the social service field helps. Even if ONE social worker believes differently and she counsels a mother properly, we saved that mother, her child and all generations of that family from adoption trauma. Additionally, organizations like Backline are making strides in options counseling. My point or points? I have to believe we can make change and I refuse to accept that we cannot. Doing so leaves too many mothers vulnerable to the horror that we have lived. They deserve better (just as we did)

      • Point taken, Suz. Just because we have a long way to go doesn’t mean we should give up. Reliving the memories threw me into a funk and I will strive to be more helpful and positive in future comments.

  2. Suz, I agree, things are changing in some agencies and with some social workers and others, and it is a good thing to educate as many people as possible about the downside of surrendering a child for adoption, and about ethical pre-adoption counseling. We should not give up before we begin. if we change one mind, that is a victory.

    Since so many adoptions today are open, it is vital for surrendering mothers to know that open adoption “contracts” are virtually not enforceable, even in states that claim some sort of legal standing for such agreements. In reality, if there is a problem in the open adoption, they mother may have to pay a lawyer, go to court, and even then get nothing because once the adoption is final the adoptive parents are the only legal parents of the child, and the mother who surrendered has no real legal standing, open adoption or not. Open adoption moms are dependent on “the kindness of strangers” to keep whatever agreement they made before the adoption. They need to know this going in, not be misinformed and lied to as so many have been.

    Also mothers in open adoptions need to clearly see that it is not co-parenting, and that repeated visits and goodbyes to their child in the adoptive home may become very painful over time, both for themselves, and if they continue beyond the time when the child knows who they are, for the child as well. Open adoptions can work, but they are difficult, and in some ways like an arranged marriage where people with very different lifestyles, expectations, and degrees of power are thrown together with only the child in common and expected to make it work.All too often it does not, however rosy things seem at the beginning. Long term, just as in closed adoptions, there is no guarantee that as an adult, the child will be interested in the birthfamily or want a relationship with the mother or others. Not all adoptees are eager to reunite, and eventual “one big happy family”should not be presented to pregnant moms as a reason to surrender.

    No mother should ever be guilted into raising a child she really does not want or is incapable of raising decently, so tales of “ALL” adoptees suffering a primal wound or desperately needing their birthmother are not really honest of fair. On the opposite side, no mother should be guilted into surrendering with tales of perfect adoptive parents or the much better life her child is guaranteed as an adoptee. Adoption guarantees a different life, which could be better and could be worse. Each case is different. If the mother wants to raise her child, and her problems are truly temporary like embarrassed parents, still in school, lack of immediate resources for child care or place to live, temporary financial problems, fixing those things should be a priority before surrender is ever discussed, and the parents of the mother and father of the baby and his parents should be included in the planning. “NO adoptions that are not really necessary” should be the watchword of everyone counseling pregnant women.

    If the mothers and in some cases entire bio family have problems that are long term and severe, like serious mental illness, long-term addiction, violence in the home and abuse, adoption may be the lesser evil and should be pursued, but always with honesty and openness and a discussion of the real consequences of surrender.

  3. Pingback: Let's Talk Mitigation : Extended First Family | Writing My Wrongs

  4. Pingback: Let's Talk Management of Collateral Damage | Writing My Wrongs

Comments are closed.