Imagine for a moment, that you are a young woman in your early twenties, barely out of high school, trying to make it in life. You don’t have any real skills, other than waiting tables or bagging groceries. You plan on making something of yourself one of these days but just haven’t had the time, money, or desire to get a degree. You have a boyfriend that you love very much and dream he’s the one you are going to marry. Then, you discover you are pregnant. Suddenly your entire world changes. Decisions need to be made. Do you go to the clinic for an abortion while there’s still time? Do you try to abort the child with “home remedies”? Do you proceed with the pregnancy, have the child and try to raise him yourself? Or, do you find an adoption agency and hope they can make everything better? It’s not an easy choice, and before I go any farther I’d like to state that I am pro-choice, I see no problem with abortion, But if that’s the choice you want to make. But, there is a choice, and often times the best choice, for the birth parents and the child is to place them for adoption. Despite the stigma that surrounds adoption, it can be a positive experience for the birth mother, ensure a bright future for the child, and allow the birth parents to grow and mature before they begin their own family.
One half of all pregnancies in America are un-planned. Two thirds of those are unwanted and half are aborted. In 2001, there were about three million unplanned pregnancies, less than a million resulted in a miscarriage, and 1.3 million were aborted. That leaves 1.4 million children born into this world. At least 400,000 of them were not only unplanned, but unwanted. Approximately 127 thousand were placed for adoption domestically. With the current state of the economy and nearly ten percent unemployment rate nationwide, it would be no surprise if the number of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies were greater now than ten years ago.
One has to wonder: with all the unplanned and unwanted pregnancies in the United States every year, why aren’t there more adoptions? What causes these women to decide to keep and raise a child that they don’t have the means to care for, or just plain don’t want? Usually the answer is religion, in other cases its family pressure. Sometimes it’s because of the belief that mother and child are connected. All of these reasons may seem valid but there is a glaring flaw; if you aren’t ready or don’t want to be a parent, you are not going to be a good parent. What makes me most sad is that there are 1.5 million families who cannot conceive children and are actively looking to adopt a child in the United States.
I love the argument: “You brought a life into this world so you’re responsible for it.” The reason this is my favorite argument for raising a child that is because it’s the wrong terminology. The very definition of Responsible is A: Able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations; B: able to choose for oneself between right and wrong.” Which begs the question: how is it responsible to raise a child if you don’t have the desire or means? Raising a child isn’t easy. Parenting is a big responsibility and shouldn’t be given a half-hearted try. Children’s needs must be met ahead of the parents’ needs. Raising a child means not going out to the bar with friends, and possibly, having to trade in the motorcycle or convertible for a sedan or minivan, if it can be afforded.
Kids are the largest expense a parent will ever have. On average, a single child will cost his parents $235,000 for just the basics. That breaks down to nearly $1100 a month for eighteen years. This figure does not include providing a home for them to grow up in, toys, name brand clothes, or any extracurricular activities, lessons or sports. To put that into perspective, the average single, minimum wage employee working full time will make around $1400 a month (U.S.). These facts will of course bring up the argument that welfare was created to address just such a scenario, and that’s true; Welfare was created to help low income families support and feed their children, however that help is limited. A single parent with one child will only receive $200 for food and $300 for housing every month, if they make a thousand dollars or less at their job. The next argument is always about subsidized housing and how it is meant to help low income families. Again, there is nothing false about this statement, but unfortunately the average wait time to get into rent controlled housing is a year or more, and usually the apartments offered are in poor condition and/or in dangerous neighborhoods.
I could continue listing facts about why it’s hard to raise a child in a low income environment, give statistics about the likelihood that the child will end up in a gang or doing drugs, but cold hard facts don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the difficultly of trying to be a parent when you don’t have the income to do so. Of the people I have met in my life, most of them have been parents – single moms or young couples, just trying to scratch out a living. Last Christmas I worked with two such women, one had recently broken up her son’s father and moved back with her parents. The other had escaped an abusive relationship and was trying to make it on her own. Both women worked full time, while their sons spent days in government run day-care. What I remember most about these two women was that they were both despondent over the concept of Christmas. Rachel was slightly better off, since she lived with her parents and didn’t have to pay rent, but I remember her carefully browsing over K-mart and Wal-mart advertisements trying to figure out if she could afford to get her son new clothes and two different toys or if she could only afford one. Britney, on the other hand, was in tears when she realized that she couldn’t afford to get her son any Christmas presents at all because she had to buy groceries. These stories are abundant throughout the low income class – parents who try to make an unplanned pregnancy work, and find nothing but struggle and disappointment.
Now I’m not saying that just because a pregnancy is unplanned that the parents will not love their child. The two examples I used above, both mothers love their sons dearly. What I’m saying is that one in five children in America struggle with hunger and 16.1 million kids live in poverty. Is it fair for birthparents to willingly put a child in that situation when there are adoptive couples who can provide amply? One can love a child more than life itself, more than one loves their pets, their car, their job or even themselves, but love cannot feed nor clothe a child. Love cannot keep a roof over a child’s head or clean diapers on his bottom. When a person truly loves someone they have to do what is best for them, and sometimes, what’s best for them is letting go so that they can be loved and provided for.
Of course, on the other side of this coin are those who don’t suffer from poverty but can’t find the time to care for a child. In 2005 it was reported that 62.8% of all child abuse cases were some form of neglect. This statistic includes all forms of neglect: medical, physical, emotional, and educational. I’m just going to look at emotional neglect. Children need stimulation and love to thrive. They can have every toy and the best clothes, but without love they won’t grow into well-adjusted adults. Men and woman who are dedicated to their careers can work an average of 60 to 80 hours per week, and while this all work and no play attitude can net well over $100 thousand a year, it means there is little time left for their families. Children raised in these households tend to spend more time with nannies than parents and often grow up unable to connect with others. In this case, adoption is the right choice because the parents are not ready to be parents.
I could spend hours talking about why adoption is a wonderful thing for children. I truly believe that no child should be hungry or lonely or unloved or unwanted. There are people who truly, desperately want to love a child with all their hearts, give their time and support for every game, or play, or concert. But, adoption isn’t just about the children and the adoptive parents; it’s about the birth parents too. By now I hope I have made it clear how hard it is to raise a child, and how much time, effort, and money one needs in order to effectively provide for a family. When a woman is suddenly faced with the concept of being pregnant the last thing she needs is more chaos in her life. The first thing she feels is fear. Having a child should not send a woman into tears – the idea of telling her boyfriend or husband that she’s conceived should not terrify her – and she should not suddenly fret over all the things she won’t ever do again once she has a child. Yet when a pregnancy is unplanned, when a woman isn’t ready to be a mother that is exactly what happens.
Abortion clinics are filled with women who don’t know what else to do, who don’t want anyone to know, and women who are terrified that they will be seen as horrible people because they managed to get knocked up. These girls, as well as all those who don’t see abortion as an option, stare down the barrel of a gun filled with ridicule and rejection – pointed at them by a society that refuses to understand. The fact is: sex happens. It happens a lot. We are driven by the base need to procreate, a need that evolved to be enjoyable for both parties. While contraception is more readily available then it was even twenty years ago, it doesn’t change the fact that even the IUD is only 99 percent effective. So, when the unthinkable happens and the newly pregnant woman is faced with that growing list of things they will never be able to do, accomplish, or the thought that the baby’s father may walk away, it can leave her uncertain and scared.
Adoption is a great option! Today open adoptions are far more common then closed. The United States has a wide selection of adoption agencies throughout the country who work with birth and adoptive parents every step of the way. Adoptive couples must be thoroughly screened, interviewed and complete paperwork before being approved. Birth parents meet with a counselor to process emotions and questions throughout the pregnancy. After they select adoptive parents, the birth parents can meet or speak with them. They can request letters and pictures and visitation. Contact can remain open throughout the child’s life. The child will grow up not knowing he is adopted. Most have a healthy understanding of adoption and the love that ALL his parents have for him.
Adoption is not about giving up. It’s not about letting go or not loving a child enough. Adoption is the essence of love, the kind of love that can only come from understanding that sometimes the best for a child is not something the birthparents can give. Not being ready to be a parent isn’t a crime. Adopted children have happier lives with less stress and a better chance at success than impoverished and neglected children, raised by parents without the means or desire to raise a child. Adoption is a choice that doesn’t have to be sad; birth parents don’t have to cut all ties. Pictures, letters and phone calls are completely normal in today’s open adoptions. Birth parents can watch their child grow knowing they made the right choice. They can have the time they need to grow and mature, knowing that their child is being raised by people who love them dearly. In the end, adoption means that all will find joy where some would have suffered. Is there a better gift than that?