Pregnant Teens and Adoption: What to Know as a Waiting Parent
The Myth of The Teenage Birth Mother
Often, hopeful adoptive parents come to our agency with a specific journey in mind when adopting a child. Having seen films like “Juno” and television shows like “Glee,” they probably have one image in mind when it comes to their family-building process — they believe their adoption opportunity will come in the form of a young teen mom that wants to give a baby up for adoption.
The truth couldn’t be more different.
As you learn more about your upcoming adoption journey, you may find that some of the ideas you hold about adopting a baby are actually misconceptions. Closed adoptions are not the norm, those placing children for adoption don’t do it for the money, and the majority of birth mothers are not teenagers putting babies up for adoption.
However, just because there may not be as many teens wanting to place a child for adoption as you initially thought, this doesn’t mean that your chances of finding an adoption opportunity are lower. In fact, the adoptive parents who work with our agency wait an average of 1 to 12 months to receive an adoption placement after they go active with our programs.
Pregnant teens looking for adoptive parents certainly do exist. But, if you are hoping to adopt an infant in the United States, there are a few important things you should know about pregnant teens and adoption before you start.
How Many Teenage Mothers Give Their Baby Up for Adoption?
It’s not uncommon for hopeful adoptive parents like you to have an inflated idea of how many teenage birth moms are out there. These views often come from a pop culture that is obsessed with the storyline of pregnant teen girls “giving away” babies — despite the fact that these stories don’t accurately reflect the reality of the adoption process.
In a reflection of a larger trend, only about 10 percent of the women who place with American Adoptions are younger than 20 years old. Currently, there are no nationwide reports of how many adolescent women place children for adoption. It should be noted that about 18 percent of the women having abortions in the United States are teens; the rest of the teenagers who become pregnant choose to give birth to their children (at a birth rate of 22.3 per 1,000 women).
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However, many teenage mothers are not adoption-minded. While awareness of adoption is certainly growing across the U.S., it is still a rather misunderstood process. Many women automatically think about abortion and parenting when they find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy, and teenagers are no different. They often choose abortion to prevent themselves from carrying a pregnancy to term at their young age, or they choose to raise their child, not truly understanding the reality of this choice and instead leaning on their parents for support.
While the number of teen pregnant mothers looking for adoptive parents is much lower than you would expect, there is still the possibility that you will be matched with a pregnant teenager adoption situation in your own journey. It will all depend upon the kind of expectant mothers who contact our agency and your personal adoption preferences.
So, What Does a Typical Birth Mother Look Like?
Knowing this new information, you now may wonder, “If there aren’t that many teenagers giving up babies for adoption, who exactly are the women who place their children with your agency?”
Great question! At American Adoptions, the majority of the women who place their children for adoption are in their 20s and 30s. They are often already raising at least one child of their own, and they recognize that they do not have the means (whether practical, financial or emotional) to provide another child with the kind of life they deserve. A woman chooses adoption out of love for her unborn child — to give him or her the opportunities she cannot provide herself, such as a loving, supportive home environment with a parent like you.
On the other hand, most unwed pregnant teen mothers do not give up for adoption because they do not have the same life experience. Because they have never had a child of their own before, they often lack the capacity to truly understand the responsibilities of parenthood — choosing this option because it seems like it might be fun and rewarding, or because a relative has offered their support in the childrearing process.
Of course, no two prospective birth mothers are the same, and it’s always best to avoid generalizations. After all, you may end up adopting from a pregnant teenager who chooses adoption out of love for her child, or your adoption opportunity may come from a woman who has a completely unique background and reasoning for choosing adoption. There are no “typical” birth mother demographics — just a common desire to do the best thing for her child.
The Future for Pregnant Teens and Adoption
With the expanded availability of sex education and contraceptives, the teenage pregnancy rate in the United States has continually fallen over the last few decades. In fact, 2016 marked the 11th year in a row that the number of teenage pregnancies has declined.
You may worry about what this means for adoption. But, as mentioned before, there is typically only a small number of teens wanting to place a child for adoption in the U.S. — which means only a small percentage of waiting adoptive families ever receive an adoption placement from an adolescent expectant mother.
With American Adoptions, the outlook for waiting adoptive families continues to be bright. Despite the fact that the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate has declined, the number of prospective birth mothers who have contacted our agency has remained consistent. Because of this, a family’s odds of adopting through our agency and their average wait time have remained steady over the last few years. Don’t let the small number of teen moms who give a baby up for adoption dissuade you from this family-building process; there will still be the perfect adoption opportunity for your family!
So, no matter how the birth rates of pregnant teenagers change in the future, know that adoption is always an option for you as a hopeful parent. When you work with our adoption agency, your adoption specialist will help you find the perfect adoption opportunity — whether that’s a mother in her 20s unprepared for another child or a teen mom giving a baby up in the best interest of herself and her child.
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