July 21, 1999






Buckner ministry has responded
to changed attitudes, needs

___By Toby Druin
___Buckner News Service
___Nearly one million teenage girls will get pregnant this year. Half will get abortions. Almost half, 45 to 47 percent, will decide to parent their children--or let their parents or another relative do it. The remaining 3,000 to 5,000 will decide on a plan of adoption for their children.
___Buckner clinical director of domestic adoption, Adela Jones, is zealous--even evangelistic--about adoption, and she is eager to build a fire of enthusiasm for it.
___"Our agency is strongly pro-life, but I see little effort by Baptists to promote adoption as an alternative to abortion. For the sake of the children and our own future, that must change. Baptists should be carrying the adoption banner."
___All adoptions handled by Buckner are open; that is, the woman who gives birth to the baby, and the father, if he is willing, know the couple who is adopting their child. The birth parents, the adoptive parents and grandparents on both sides are brought into the counseling process.
___"Closed adoptions are really an abnormality, an anomaly, now," said Jones, "and really the history of adoption has been for it to be open. Moses' mother was his wet nurse. Hannah gave up Samuel but visited him each year. Both of those mothers are revered. They looked at what was best for their child and made a personal sacrifice on their behalf. That same thing defines birth mothers today who choose what is best for their children."
___Through much of history, Jones noted, adoption largely was carried out by family members or, in their absence, members of a community. Often if a family could not care for a child, a relative took the role, or another family in the community did it. In either case, the child knew who his parents were.
___Closed adoptions, where the identity of the birth parents is kept a secret, came into vogue following the Civil War when the number of parentless children had greatly increased.
___Some children were put on "orphan trains" and taken west. The trains would stop in communities along the tracks and the children would be "put up" on a platform for inspection. It resembled the pre-Civil War slave trade, and was the origin of the term "put up" for adoption, said Jones. It also was the beginning of non-relative adoption.
___In the l920s and '30s, adoption became more formalized, and non-relative adoptions became common. Maternity homes thrived, sometimes housing as many as 300 women. Buckner operated maternity homes in Dallas and San Antonio.
___"Most of the girls were in their teens, and the situation was viewed with shame," said Jones.
___ "It seemed in the best interest of the child and adoptive parents to keep everything secret. Birth certificates for the children commonly had 'Illegitimate' stamped on them in red."
___That attitude began to change in the l970s. With greater use of birth control, the legalization of abortion, and the acceptance of out-of-wedlock parenting, there were fewer babies and more people wanting them.
___By the mid-l980s, there were 40 couples seeking to adopt for every white infant available.
___"So adoption had to change," said Jones. "All of the reasons for secrecy had to change. Girls were no longer hidden or made to drop out of school. And if you were the lucky one out of 40 to adopt a child, you were proud of it. All the social stigma faded or disappeared."
___Few referrals come to Buckner from Baptists, she noted. Most--85 to 90 percent of inquiries--come from responses to Yellow Pages ads.
___Jones said she feels the service offered by Buckner is unique in Texas because the staff, all of who are licensed social workers, brings a special call to their task. The staff includes women with more than 20 years of adoption experience, as well as some staff members who are members of the adoption triad.
___"They are in this field because of their special interest in it. It adds a special dimension to what we do, along with the fact that all of us are Christians. People need to know that everything anyone needs to cope with an unplanned pregnancy can be found here, including sensitivity and empathy."
___The process usually begins with a phone call from the girl or her parent, and the most common initial inquiry is, "I don't know what to do." They are sent a packet of information and an interview is set up. If they are in the Dallas area, they are asked to come to the Adoption and Maternity Services office at 4830 Samuell in east Dallas. If they are not in the area, a Buckner worker will meet them where they are.
___"We never hear from the majority of them after the initial contact," said Jones, "maybe because adoption is so unacceptable to most of them. It's the 'in' thing to have a baby these days; it's the 'poodle skirt' of the '90s among teenage girls--'Everyone has one, and I want one.'"
___But if the girl and her parents want to work with Buckner, an agreement is entered into for counseling.
___The counseling program depends on how much time is left before the birth. Individual and group counseling are offered to the client, the father and to their families. All counseling, which is done in Dallas, is free. Buckner pays travel expenses for the client if she cannot afford them, or the counselor will go to her. Buckner has two full time counselors and one who works part time. All are licensed.
___"We work with the client for the remainder of her pregnancy," said Jones. "In the beginning, we deal with the shock and her sense of being overwhelmed by her situation. We will explore any option except abortion--single parenting, marriage, etc. Our focus is on adoption, but if and when she decides on adoption, it needs to be because she has looked at the options, and believes adoption is in the best interest of her child."
___Jones said Buckner encourages a "hard look" at all the options. The client is shown what is involved in single parenting, including budgeting and arranging for childcare. The staff often takes a client shopping to check the cost of diapers, formula and other needs.
___A girl often is encouraged by friends to keep her baby. Jones cited the case of one 15-year-old who was pregnant and considering her options. Her friends at school urged her to keep the baby rather than place it for adoption. They passed a jar around labeled "Save Ann's (not her real name) Baby." The show of support was appealing, but the girl realized during Christmas vacation that it wouldn't last and how hard it would be once school was out and her friends were gone.
___All adoptions handled by Buckner are open; that is, the woman who gives birth to the baby, and the father, if he is willing, know the couple who is adopting their child. The birth parents, the adoptive parents and grandparents on both sides are brought into the counseling process.
___"Closed adoptions are really an abnormality, an anomaly, now," said Jones, "and really the history of adoption has been for it to be open. Moses' mother was his wet nurse. Hannah gave up Samuel but visited him each year. Both of those mothers are revered. They looked at what was best for their child and made a personal sacrifice on their behalf. That same thing defines birth mothers today who choose what is best for their children."
___Through much of history, Jones noted, adoption largely was carried out by family members or, in their absence, members of a community. Often if a family could not care for a child, a relative took the role, or another family in the community did it. In either case, the child knew who his parents were.
___Closed adoptions, where the identity of the birth parents is kept a secret, came into vogue following the Civil War when the number of parentless children had greatly increased. Some children were put on "orphan trains" and taken west. The trains would stop in communities along the tracks and the children would be "put up" on a platform for inspection. It resembled the pre-Civil War slave trade, and was the origin of the term "put up" for adoption, said Jones. It also was the beginning of non-relative adoption.
___In the l920s and '30s, adoption became more formalized, and non-relative adoptions became common. Maternity homes thrived, sometimes housing as many as 300 women. Buckner operated maternity homes in Dallas and San Antonio.
___"Most of the girls were in their teens, and the situation was viewed with shame," said Jones. "It seemed in the best interest of the child and adoptive parents to keep everything secret. Birth certificates for the children commonly had 'Illegitimate' stamped on them in red."
___That attitude began to change in the l970s. With greater use of birth control, the legalization of abortion, and the acceptance of out-of-wedlock parenting, there were fewer babies and more people wanting them. By the mid-l980s, there were 40 couples seeking to adopt for every white infant available.
___"So adoption had to change," said Jones. "All of the reasons for secrecy had to change. Girls were no longer hidden or made to drop out of school. And if you were the lucky one out of 40 to adopt a child, you were proud of it. All the social stigma faded or disappeared."
___Faded away, too, with more experience with open adoptions were the fears surrounding the philosophy:
___ If the birth mother knows where the child is, she will come get it. "That doesn't happen," said Jones.
___ What about cases where parents have regained control of a baby? "In those cases, the adoptions were done sloppily and some without following legal procedures," Jones said.
___ It's confusing to the child. "I say that a child doesn't know what a 'real' mom is for several years," said Jones. "They don't understand biology. The child's 'mom' is the one who is being 'mom.' In the l990s, 50 percent of parents who adopt are both working. No one worries about caregiver confusion in those cases."
___ The birth mother will interfere with parenting. "That happens only if you allow it," says Jones. "Adoptive parents set the boundaries, the parameters for relationships."
___"On the other hand," she said, "you have a child loved by both sets of parents, and he grows up as the benefactor of that love. I defy anyone to show that is harmful.
___"The essence of open adoptions is that the child has access and ready answers to the questions they will have in the future."
___One of the biggest needs of the program, Jones said, is for housing for women with unplanned pregnancies. Much of the stigma is gone, but many of the women who become clients of Buckner for various reasons need a place to stay until the child is born.
___The goal is for one or more residences, each housing four to six women. "The goal is to raise funds and have it in operation by this summer. We expect it to cost $70,000 a year to operate."
___Buckner now will help a client with rent and utility payments, but a maternity home would solve many of the problems associated with the process.
___"It would be an additional ministry to the women," said Jones. "And ministry is what this agency is all about."



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