On October 17, 2000 the U.S. Congress, under Public Law 103-310, amended the Public Health Services Act to authorize specific activities pertaining to Infant Adoption Awareness (title XII, Subtitle A). The legislation requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to award grants to adoption organizations to develop and implement programs to train the designated staff of eligible health centers in providing adoption information and referral to pregnant women on an equal basis with all other courses of action included in nondirective counseling for pregnant women. The term "eligible health centers" means public and nonprofit private entities that provide health services to pregnant women. The legislation also requires the Secretary to establish a set of best-practice guidelines to which the DHHS-funded training programs will adhere in providing training to staff of eligible health centers.
In response to these legislative requirements, the Department of Health and Human Services has developed the following "best-practice" guidelines to be followed by recipients of cooperative agreements in developing curriculum and providing training to implement the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program (IAATP). This "best-practice" guideline is critical for attaining the primary IAATP goal- enhancing the ability of health center personnel to provide adoption information and referral on an equal basis with all other courses of action included in nondirective counseling for pregnant women.
Consistent with the intent of the legislation, these guidelines were developed in consultation with 29 experts in the fields of adoption, child welfare, health services, medicine, law, and adoption counseling, as well as adoptive parents.
Guidelines Specific to the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program
- The training will impart up-to-date and accurate information about adoption, including the various types of adoptions (e.g., closed adoptions and adoptions involving varying levels of "openness" with respect to the amount of contact or information exchanged between adoptive parents and birth parents).
- The training will be consistent with applicable State law, imparting information on the legal issues pertaining to adoption, including the rights of the birth mother and father.
- The training will impart information to the trainees about the Multiethnic Placement Act/Interethnic Placement Act (MEPA/IEP), particularly as it relates to the circumstances under which a birth parent may or may not choose adoptive parents for the child.
- The training will impart information to the trainees about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and particularly will explain that organizations that work with birth parents on adoption will ascertain as soon as possible whether a child is or will be subject to ICWA prior to proceeding with the adoption process.
- The training will impart information about how family members and the birth mother's community may impact her pregnancy decision process.
- The training will impart information about the role of the birth father in the pregnancy decision.
- The training will impart information about various adoption services available within the community and how to assess the quality of those services and their appropriateness for a particular woman.
- The training will impart information on adolescent development and the differences between counseling adolescents at varying ages and counseling older women.
- The training will impart information about the psychological and emotional reactions such as shame, grief, loss, guilt, and depression that the birth mother is likely to experience throughout the decision-making process as she considers various pregnancy options, as well as the emotions the birth father is likely to experience.
- Trainees will increase their awareness of their attitudes and biases pertaining to adoption so that they are able to present the adoption option in an objective, non-biased manner.
- Trainees will increase their sensitivity, understanding and skills regarding the influences that both a birth mother and birth father may experience from family, peers, and community.
- Trainees will improve their basic counseling skills, including cultural competence, listening, building rapport, recognizing someone in crisis, being empathetic and treating clients with respect.
- Training participants who will counsel pregnant women will be skilled in non-directive counseling to ensure that adoption information, and information about other pregnancy options, is presented objectively, without bias or judgment.
- Consistent with State and Federal law, trainees will increase their knowledge of adoption and adoption procedures so that they are able to present accurate and up-to-date information during counseling consistent with State and Federal law.
- Training participants will increase their knowledge of available adoption-related referral resources and how to assess the quality and/or appropriateness of these resources.
- Trainees who will counsel pregnant women will have basic case management skills, including the ability to assess service needs and make appropriate referrals.
- The training curriculum will include interactive exercises that promote skills development, such as role-playing and discussions of potential responses to various scenarios.
- The training curriculum will include exercises, such as attitude awareness activities, that promote awareness of personal biases, prejudices, and negative attitudes and how they impact the provision of adoption information, as well as information on other pregnancy options.
- The training curriculum will include a component in which birth parents, adoptive parents, and/or adult adoptees present their experiences with adoption.
- The training curriculum will include resource materials that trainees can take with them to refer to when they are providing counseling on pregnancy options and to disseminate to the women they are counseling.
- The training should involve no more than 2 (6-hour) days.
- The training should be conducted by experienced trainers.
- The training should include presentations and opportunities for interaction with professionals from both the health field and the adoption field.