Monday, July 6, 2015

Research: Decision making styles that could lead to a disrupted match

(I just found this in my draft folder-- not sure why it never published!)       
   One of the things that we really admire about our agency is that they will not match until halfway through the second trimester (or, more preferably, not until the third trimester) to make sure that the Emom has really had time to process her decision and is certain (as much as is possible to be certain) that she is comfortable with the plan she is making. Today, I received an email from an adoption listserve about a lawyer trying to find a match for a young woman who is due early March. This is the first week of July. It would be physically impossible for her to have known about her pregnancy for more than a few days. It took me awhile to put my finger on why this made me so deeply uncomfortable, but then it hit me. My research (including my dissertation) focuses largely on the decision to abort when faced with an unintended pregnancy. One of the areas that I have paid specific attention to is the women who come to regret this decision. An article that I have referenced frequently in both my writings and my lectures is one that I will admit is quite dated (nearly 30 years old), but has valuable information about the features of decision making that lead to abortion regret. After going back over this, I realized that many of the situations that I have looked at and said "I'm not comfortable with that" have features that are mentioned in this article. Now, of course the decision to abort and the decision to place for adoption are completely separate. But, wouldn't it make sense that the same type of decision making that could lead to someone regretting an abortion could also lead to someone changing their mind about the decision to place for adoption (or, worse, regret the adoption)? With that in mind, I am going to review the 4 decision making styles that can lead to regret.

Problem 1: The Spontaneous Approach

This first one was the problem with the situation today. The spontaneous approach is characterized by making the decision extremely quickly without thinking about it very much before. It is kind of like a default "this is what I have to do, I have no other good options, I might as well get on with it." The person doesn't take the time to fully weigh all of the implications of the decision. Similarly, she doesn't thoroughly think through what some of the alternatives would be. As a result of not taking time to weigh the details of all available options and resources, women using this decision making framework often enter into the situation with conflicting feelings. The idea that this decision making style could lead to an Emom changing her mind about the adoption has been proposed by a couple of different sources, with a summary of the concern given by Family Education:
...a woman still in her first trimester may be going through many emotional issues, may be under a lot of pressure from the birthfather and others, and the baby may not seem entirely “real” to her yet. Later, after she feels the baby kick and move around, she'll have a better sense of the reality of the situation.

Problem 2: The Rational Analytic Approach
This one is tricky, because it is partially present in every adoption situation. The rational analytic approach is the idea that the sole motivator of the decision is the practical elements, things like finances, school, and career trajectory. Obviously, these issues are always (or at least almost always) going to play a role. But the hallmark of this problematic approach is that she is only focusing on the practical without allowing herself to process the emotional elements of the decision. This is one of the reasons that it is important for agencies talk about the fact that adoption is hard for the biomom (as discussed here). She isn't going to feel like an amazing, selfless, family-creating superhero angel right away or all the time. She will grieve. She will feel attached to the little someone that she watches go home with another mom. Acknowledging that those feelings will exist is a vitally important part of pre-adoption counseling. If she is saying "It doesn't matter how much I want to keep this baby, I just can't afford it, so I'm not letting myself get emotionally involved," that is a pretty big red flag. Of course there will be those practical elements present in her decision, but they can't be 100% of the decision.

Problem 3:  The Denying & Procrastination Approach
This one often happens in conjunction with one of the two mentioned above. Because she has made the decision quickly, or made it only focusing on the practical elements, she denies her internal conflicts and puts off resolving them. In Landy's original framework, it wasn't until after termination that these women allowed themselves to start beginning to work on their internal conflicts. By that point, it was too late. In applying that to adoption, it would likely look like one of two outcomes: either she will live her entire life regretting the adoption, or she will allow herself to think about her conflicts immediately after birth an decide not to sign TPR.

Problem 4: The No Decision Making Approach
Finally, there is the decision that would be the most obviously problematic: someone is deciding for her. She still lives at home and her parents are forcing her. Her partner is saying that he will leave her if she has the baby. It would be nice to think that this doesn't happen with adoption anymore with the care that many agencies take in pre-adoption counseling, but sadly it does. Just a couple of years ago on an episode of one of those adoption documentary TV shows that were popular for awhile, a teenage girl was literally being forced by her parents to place the baby for adoption. There were multiple scenes throughout her pregnancy of her crying and saying that she didn't want to do it, but she wasn't being given a choice. With the other three situations, there is a concern that this is a match that will (and maybe should) fall through-- that she will choose to parent. With this one, going through with the match would just be unethical. There should be prayers that she will find her strength and be able to keep her child, not a willingness to take advantage of th unfathomable heartbreak that she is being forced into.

        So, there is my attempt to apply what we know about abortion regret to potential red flags in an adoption match. Red flags that she will likely change her mind. Red flags that she truly wants to parent. Red flags that she is being coerced. Red flags that she will live with regret. Red flags that I can't bring myself to ignore.

Landy, U. (1986). Abortion counselling-- A new component of medical care. Clinics in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 13, 33-41.

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