LOUISVILLE, Ky. — While abortion laws in all 50 states now vary since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last Friday, adoption has always been and still is an option for expecting parents.
Julie Erwin, owner of Adoption Assistance, Inc. in Kentucky and the mother of five adopted children, hopes parents will consider adoption as a viable choice. While abortion in the Commonwealth is now illegal, except under some medical circumstances such as high-risk of death for the mother, Erwin told Spectrum News 1, she’s not expecting an uptick in more parents choosing adoption. However, she is planning to increase her agency’s education of the choice so parents are aware of what that choice looks like.
Erwin has been helping Kentucky families adopt for over two decades. In fact, the owner and executive director of Adoption Assistance, a non-profit agency that facilitates adoptions in Kentucky and Tennessee, told Spectrum News 1 her agency has organized 3,800 adoptions in Kentucky since its founding nearly 23 years ago.
“We always like birth mothers to have a choice, and, when they make an adoption plan, we want them to feel in their heart that they found the best family for that child. And that they have peace that they made a good selection for their child,” Erwin explained.
The adoptions of today don’t look like they did decades ago, she told Spectrum News 1.
“You can certainly choose the family that you want to have the child, and if you want to have future contact that is something many adopted families are open to,” she added.
Everyday Adoption Assistance receives a couple “profile books” from families hoping to adopt a child. Profile books are essentially photo books that describe everything about the family and what it would be like for the adopted child to be part of that family.
“So there is no right or wrong, but every book is different, and every woman and man chooses for a different reason,” Erwin explained.
She said expectant parents may choose a family for their child because they like the energy the family gives off, activities they do, such as travel, or that they do or don’t have children.
“So there’s no right or wrong, but every person that is wanting to make an adoption plan tends to look through these books to choose their family. They certainly don’t have to. Some families and women just say pick the longest waiting family. There’s other ones that are very specific about what kind of family they want, and we always honor what they are looking for,” Erwin said.
Erwin said her agency isn’t expecting a huge uptick in adoptions post-Roe v. Wade in Kentucky because women might travel to other states to get an abortion or get access to an abortion pill. However, her agency does plan to do more education with any clinics and organizations that will host her agency. Erwin has done education training previously at hospitals, doctors’ offices, anti-abortion pregnancy centers and Planned Parenthood in Kentucky.
“It’s all about education, and, like I said, [adoption is] not for everyone but for the women who feel like it is the best choice for them, they need to know how to do it and what the laws are and the assistance that we can give,” Erwin said.
Erwin said most adoption agencies also provide counseling and resources for women during and after their pregnancy since giving birth costs money.
“It’s really important that we support the women that are sustaining their pregnancy and allow them to have resources such as prenatal vitamins, and maternity clothes, and doctor’s visits and healthy foods that will impact their baby’s life,” she said.
Erwin said safe housing and transportation to appointments are some resources also provided. In addition, Erwin said her agency also works with mothers after they have given birth to help get them back on their feet.
While Erwin told Spectrum News 1 she doesn’t expect much of a change in parents choosing adoption, now that abortion is illegal in Kentucky, she has seen a rise in mothers and fathers choosing adoption given the rising cost of living this year, from inflation to higher gas prices.
Adoption is primarily regulated by state laws, and these laws vary from state to state, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service under the U.S. Administration for Children and Families,
According to Kentucky law, there is a 72-hour waiting period after the birth of the child before an adoption is granted or the consent for adoption is valid. That means that no adoption papers can be signed prior to 72-hours after a child’s birth.
In addition, after a voluntary and informed consent is given after the 72-hour-mark, it’s another 72-hours until that adoption is final and irrevocable after it is signed, meaning that in most cases biological parents have six days after the birth of their child to change their mind about the baby’s adoption.
Erwin chose this career because she said it changes lives, but it’s also changed her life as the adopted mother of five: one from South Korea and Taiwan and three from Guatemala.
“I feel like in our world we have you know some kids suffering, and their parents need help, and we have other families that really want to parent. If we can just put it all together, it can be a beautiful thing.”