Lisa and John Hamrin with their children Major, 3, and True, 4 months, at their home in West Humboldt Park, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

EVANSTON, Ill. — Lisa Hamrin cringes when she hears the phrase “giving up" a child for adoption.

“I didn’t quit on my child,” said Hamrin, 33, who as an 18-year-old college freshman became unexpectedly pregnant and chose to place her baby boy in an adoptive family.

“ ‘Giving up’ can be related to quitting or being dismissive of something,” she said. “No part of adoption is that.”

The phrase drums up a negative connotation of birth mothers and the adoptive process, said Kim Perez, president of The Cradle adoption agency in Evanston.

“This idea that women are quitting on their child, giving up on their child, is so counter to the reality that we know,” she said. “They’re choosing adoption for their child because they believe it’s the best choice for their child. It’s a way for them to demonstrate their love for their child.”

In an effort to change how people talk about adoption, the agency is launching a campaign Wednesday on its website and social media channels with a short film called “Give Up Giving Up.”

Perez said she hopes people will view the film and think about their own terminology and adoption in general. The idea, she said, is to not only educate that the term is offensive, perpetuating shame, stigmas and misconceptions surrounding adoption, but also provide a chance to show what adoption and the decisions leading up to it really look like.

The short vignette in the film features two friends talking about how one who is pregnant plans to place her baby girl with an adoptive family because they can better provide for the child. The woman questions why her friend uses the phrase “give up.”

“Those words: Give up,” the pregnant woman says in the film. “It breaks my heart to think she’ll hear that. That she’ll think I gave her up. I hope that one day she knows that I did this, that I’m doing this — the hardest thing I’ve done in my life — because I love her.”

Hamrin said her decision to place her baby with adoptive parents 14 years ago was not made in haste and was based in love.

The oldest of five girls growing up on the South Side, Hamrin was the first in her family to go to college. On her first day at Augustana College in Rock Island, Hamrin met her college sweetheart, John. They eventually found out Hamrin was pregnant.

“It was a really scary, stressful time,” she said, adding that she felt embarrassed and worried she was setting a bad example for her younger sisters.

Hamrin sat with her best friend on a dorm room floor and talked about options. Her friend’s mother was adopted, so the friend asked Hamrin if she was considering it.

Through a Google search, the two found The Cradle, and Hamrin started to learn more about adoption, especially the concept of an open adoption, where the child and adoptive parents have a relationship with the birth parents.

After more research and phone calls, Hamrin and her boyfriend started to examine prospective adoptive parent profiles and settled on a couple. They eventually met and connected. Hamrin said she knew they should be the adoptive parents to her son and could give him a better life. At age 19, Hamrin gave birth and, after spending a week with the baby, placed him in the arms of his adoptive mother.

The families have kept in close contact, sharing photos and visiting one another, even after the adoptive family moved out of state. Hamrin and her boyfriend eventually earned their degrees and later married. They now have two more children.

Hamrin said her son, now a teenager, has always framed his adoption in a positive light, in part because of the terms both sets of parents used in explaining it to him — saying “placed with his adoptive family” or “finding him his mom and dad.”

“At a very young age … he was telling us his adoptive story,” Hamrin said. “He’d say, ‘You’re my birth parents, and you had me very young and weren’t able to take care of me, so you found my mommy and daddy.’ ”

She credits positive talk for reducing any feelings of shame or embarrassment that some adoptive kids feel.

“If we talk about things positively … you can’t help but think of it in that way.”


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