Informed decision making
Updated: 01 July 2013
When parents choose not to parent their child themselves, they face a difficult decision in determining their child's future. If they choose adoption, it is essential that they are well-informed to be able to give a valid consent to adoption. The social work role is to provide objective information to enable consideration of all of the factors affecting the decision to be made, and all of the implications.
Conditions enabling an informed decision
To make an informed decision to relinquish a child for adoption, the person deciding will:
- have all of the relevant information
- have a proper comprehension of the information and its implications for the future
- be competent to make the decision
- be free from pressure or coercion.
Barriers to making an informed decision and give informed consent
- fluency in and understanding of the English language
- the use of over-technical language (jargon) by information providers
- the ability to read and write
- emotional state
- being influenced by the apparent authority of the professionals involved
- physical disability such as blindness or deafness
- intellectual disability
- age (too young to be a competent decision maker)
- the influence of friends and family.
What does a birthparent need to understand and accept to be ready to place a child for adoption?
- permanent termination of parental rights with no legal guarantee that contact with the child will be maintained
- forever giving up their role as a parent, and accepting that the adoptive parents will possibly raise the child differently from how they might have done themselves
- recognising that the child will attach to another family, and understanding that the child will feel closer to them than to its birth families and their relatives
- accepting that by relinquishing their roles as parents they are also probably forgoing their role as a future grandparent, and that any other children they may have may never be involved with this child
- understanding that while adoption may solve some immediate problems, it will involve permanent losses, and consequent grief, but that they will suffer that grief because they believe it is the best decision for the child
- understanding and accepting that children are not interchangeable or replaceable, and that even though they may have another child one day, that child will not be the same as this child, even if it is a full sibling
- believing that they have worth as human beings, and worth in the child’s life
- accepting that the child will suffer losses as well as gains, but believing that benefits will outweigh the losses
- accepting that they cannot know or be expected to know the outcome of the decision or know for certain that the decision will be the best one for the child or for them - they can only make what appears to be the best choice based on what they know at the time
- understanding and honouring that relinquishing parenting rights does not relieve birthparents of certain responsibilities to the life they helped to create
- feeling both apprehensive about the difficult time ahead and confident about the rightness of the plan
- being willing to tell other people about the adoption plan (Melina & Roszia, 1993).
Assist the birthparentsmother through consideration of these issues, the rights and responsibilities and the needs of the people affected by their decision (primarily the child), and their own families.
Melina, L.R. & Roszia, S.K. (1993). The Open Adoption Experience. New York, USA: Harper Collins Publishers.