Dr. Robin Kochel shares how she grew her family through adoption

As an adoptive mom, I’m always happy to share the experience of how I grew my forever family. My husband, Ryan, and I had been trying to have a baby for several years, and after an ectopic pregnancy and two failed in-vitro fertilization attempts, we were ready to try something new.

Both of us had always been open to the idea of adoption, and after attending orientation at the Gladney Center for Adoption, we were sold. We knew that by going this route, we were guaranteed to be parents. A little more than a year later, that dream became a reality when we brought home our baby girl, Charlie, on Oct. 10, 2012.

Robin Kochel

Robin Kochel

Since then, we’ve become volunteers with the center and befriended many other adoptive families. These are relationships that we treasure because our stories are all different, and we have been able to bond through the experience of adoption.

This Adoption Awareness Month, I would like to share newer resources to help families who may be considering adoption. Often, these conversations turn educational as many people do not personally know anyone who was adopted.

Adoption today is different from what it was about 15 or 20 years ago. For example, many adoptive parents and birth parents opt for semi-open or open adoptions that allow some degree of continued communication and connection between the families.

Even the way we talk about adoption is different. Birth parents don’t “give up” their child for adoption. They make an adoption plan, which aims to have the best interests of their child at heart. For the millions of parents who are able to grow their families through adoption, including myself, we would never have had the honor of becoming moms and dads without the courageous actions of birth parents who make an adoption plan.

Many adoptive families love to share their story, and a way some parents do that is through a program called AdoptED. AdoptED was established in 2014 as a high-school curricula to educate youth about adoption. Key objectives of the program include:

  • Changing students, teachers and community members’ attitudes and perceptions about adoption — a move from a negative or neutral perception to a positive one
  • Educating doctors, nurses and social services providers about the adoption process in hospitals and clinical settings
  • Decreasing the number of expectant moms who choose to parent as an obligation because they lack information about adoption and adoption resources
  • Decreasing the number of children who enter foster care because of ill-equipped or ill-prepared parents

As a researcher, I’m always interested in whether an intervention works, so I was eager to see what data are collected and the results of using the new curriculum. Before AdoptED enters the classroom, most students believe that adoption is not a good choice in an unplanned pregnancy. However, post-test data show that 82% of students start believing that adoption is a “very good” option in an unplanned pregnancy. Other findings show:

  • 88% of teachers report “very high” satisfaction with the program and are “very likely” to refer the program to other teachers
  • 53% of teachers have a student currently facing an unplanned pregnancy
  • 82% of teachers report positive student feedback about the program
  • 75% of students feel like they know more about adoption as a choice for unplanned pregnancy compared to 47% before the program

Results like these have been consistent year after year. Since its inception, AdoptED has reached more than 70,000 students across the nation. The program’s new virtual classroom now reaches all 50 states. AdoptED continues to collect data to measure whether such positive outcomes will demonstrate lasting changes in attitudes about adoption. It will be exciting to follow the program’s longterm impact.

Courses like AdoptED are a valuable resource for increasing awareness and providing a factual narrative about adoption. Not only does it provide a platform for educating youth about the option, but it may help people who are struggling to grow their family realize that adoption can be a viable path. At the same time, it helps to foster an adoption-sensitive culture where children like my daughter aren’t made to feel different because they’re adopted. Every child deserves a loving family, and that’s what adoption is about.

As I said in the beginning, I’m always happy to share our adoption story. If you or someone you know has questions or would like more information about AdoptED or adoption, please reach out. In the meantime, I will leave you with one of my favorite videos from the AdoptED program.

By Dr. Robin Kochel, associate professor of pediatrics – psychology, at Baylor College of Medicine. Reach Dr. Kochel at kochel@bcm.edu.