Participants in the Bond Between Us, a support group for women who put their children up for adoption, will not get the awkward silence, the change of topic or the glance away they may encounter elsewhere.
On the fourth Tuesday of the month, they will be able to discuss a topic two Loudoun women, Barbara Beard and Diana Hott, said few resources and books address — the after-effects of placing a child for adoption.
NEARLY THREE YEARS AGO, Beard, a retired adoption coordinator for Loudoun County and a birth mother, approached Hott, a psychotherapist in private practice in Leesburg, about the lack of services in the area for birth parents who decide to "adopt out" their children. The only support group the women knew about was in Maryland, a group that received clients from New England to Florida.
“We did some general searches a birth parent would do and couldn’t find any other resources,” said Hott, who has been in practice for 16 years working with clients on adoption, placement, and grief and loss issues. “We decided to do something to meet this group’s needs.”
Two years ago, Hott and Beard, executive directors, obtained incorporation for Bond Between Us Inc. and took another year to achieve nonprofit status. This year, they established a six-member board and received a small donation to start a support group.
“We wanted it funded, so it’s accessible to everyone,” said Beard, who retired in May after 25 years of service to the county as the Department of Social Services’ foster and adoptive parent coordinator. “My experience with that work really showed me there was a significant impact on the life of the birth parent” and the parent’s family. “Very often, a birth parent is really isolated. Nobody knows what to say, and they get hurtful comments. It’s a lonely kind of experience.”
THE SUPPORT GROUP, which will begin meeting on May 27, will provide birth parents with a place to talk about their experiences with others in similar situations, along with a sense of community and understanding.
“It’s not intended to be therapy. It’s an opportunity to share experiences and gather information from others. It will help people feel less isolated, feel more normal in their feelings,” Beard said. Birth parents who are told they will forget the experience and move on, may consider their feelings “unusual” if they do not, she said. “There is an impression, ‘How could you do that? I could never give up a child.’ In reality, it’s the most selfless love that goes into a decision, done in concern and love for the child.”
Birth parents decide to adopt out their children for a number of reasons, a decision often based on impeding circumstances or other difficulties in offering what the child needs at the time, Beard said.
“The goal is to provide support. It is not to provide psychotherapy,” Hott said. “We’re here primarily to provide a safe environment for people to talk about their experiences and to not feel so quite alone. It’s important for people to talk about what’s happened in the course of their lives, so they can integrate the experiences and not let them be something they get stuck in for the rest of their lives.”
Besides support, Bond Between Us hopes to provide public awareness and identify the needs of birth parents to offer additional resources.
“There’s very little written about this,” Hott said.