Support group helps birth mothers of adopted children

By: Andy Kozlowski | Southfield Sun | Published July 27, 2022

Shutterstock image


SOUTHFIELD — Adoption is a life-changing act for all involved, including the biological parent who chooses to relinquish their child. It can be an enormously difficult decision, one that birth mothers may struggle with for years, even if rationally they know it was the right choice.

That’s why there are support groups available, such as Christian Family Services in Southfield. The nonprofit adoption agency has been around for more than 70 years and hosts a support group for birth mothers at their offices at 17105 W. 12 Mile Road, between Greenfield and Southfield roads. The group meets on the first Thursday of every month, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The next meeting is Aug. 4.

All are welcome to attend, regardless of whether they’ve gone through the agency’s adoption program before. The program features educational materials and curriculum provided in partnership with the nationally recognized Sit Knee-to-Knee Support Group and the Lifetime Healing Foundation. The current support group started in April and has been meeting ever since. Each is free to attend.

Deb Morse, the executive director of CFS, said that “every situation is different” when it comes to birth mothers and why they relinquish their child.

“Some women feel they are too young — or too old — to parent. Some do not feel financially and/or emotionally ready to parent a child; others do not have the support system they want or need. Some women are alone or in unsafe relationships. Some married couples already have children and do not feel capable of parenting another one. Or perhaps the child has a medical issue that is overwhelming to the biological parents,” Morse said in an email. “There are many reasons why an adoption plan is made.

“We prefer to say a woman has ‘made an adoption plan’ rather than ‘giving up’ her baby,” Morse added. “She will always be the birth, biological or first mom to that child. She is making a different parenting plan for her child — not a better plan. It is a lifelong decision that will forever change her, her child, and the people in her life and her baby’s life.”

Morse explained that adoptions today put the expectant mother in the “driver’s seat” of the adoption process.

“She decides if she will parent her child, or if she will choose someone else to parent her baby. She sees the profiles of prospective adoptive parents and decides who gets the privilege of raising her baby,” Morse said. “There is a wide range of emotions that expectant moms feel during the adoption process. The most common that we see is the fear that their child will hate them for the decision they have made. Another common emotion is fear that the grief of loss will be too difficult for them to overcome. There is a tension in their hearts — they are convinced they are making the right decision for themselves and their child, but they are also scared of what the future holds.

“It will never be easy, but healing is possible,” she concluded. “That is why a support group like ours is so important, so we can help these women through the hard work of healing.”

Sarah Harpootlian, an adoption counselor at CFS, said the group allows birth mothers to meet others who understand firsthand the emotions they’re feeling.

“Our support group is often the first time a woman ever meets another woman who shares this experience as a birth mom,” Harpootlian said in a statement. “We are here to serve women who have made the very difficult decision to relinquish a child for adoption, not just up until the time of placement but in the many years following the decision, or for as long as she needs adoption-related support and counsel.”

Since its founding more than 70 years ago, CFS has helped place more than 1,500 children in adoptive homes. In Michigan, as of September 2021, there were nearly 11,000 children in foster care, and 2,160 available for adoption. The state has more than 5,400 licensed foster care homes. In 2021, more than 1,500 children were adopted from foster care. Morse said there is always a need for more foster care families, and there are always more children being added to the system. And that means there is an equally high number of birth mothers who may still be coming to terms with their decision.

“During the support group, we take time to connect or check in with one another,” Morse said. “For most women, it is the first time they have ever met another woman who has relinquished her child for adoption. There is a special bond finding someone who truly understands your experience.”

Each month, the group explores a different topic from the Sit Knee-to-Knee curriculum, which includes a video presentation and time to journal. Topics so far this year have included mental health, social media, body image and financial health.

“These are life skills that everyone benefits from,” Morse said. “Meetings are structured so that everyone feels welcome and included, even if they do not attend every month. We want every woman to know she is welcome, and that we are here for her.

“Probably the biggest impact has been the recognition and bonding that comes from women sitting face-to-face with other women who share the same experiences. Some women made adoption decisions almost 30 years ago, and some have only recently made adoption plans,” she said. “This is a safe, healing space where women are welcomed and accepted. It is private, it is safe, and it is free.”

For more information, visit the website for Christian Family Services at