I have to admit, I feel very uncomfortable with the word “bastard.” Mainly because it originated as a derogatory term used for children born out of wedlock and I feel strongly that any form of discrimination against a person due to their circumstances of birth is reprehensible. Even if the term “bastard” has come to mean “jerk” or “impolite/rude/inconsiderate [male] person” — or even sometimes serving as a humorous term of endearment/admiration for someone who has managed to come out ahead of the game (“Hey, you know Bob? He won the lottery last week — that bastard!”) – I still refrain from using it even in casual conversation. And if I do “slip up” and say it, I feel a small pang of something (guilt?).
Having said, that, I have a huge amount of respect for adoptees such members of Bastard Nation, and bloggers such as Bastardette and Bastard Granny Annie and Ungrateful Little Bastard, for proudly taking ownership of the term and using it for their own purposes, and in doing so are removing some of the stigma from it. Good for them!
But this post is not about the term, it is about the stigma that is still attached to the birth of children outside of marriage. You can see this in figures quoted in newspapers, about how it is a measurement of the “social ills” in society. You can hear it in the derogatory words thrown at single, young mothers on buses, at least where I live. And the “campaign against teen pregnancy” that assumes that all young mothers are not only irresponsible monsters but are unwed.
I personally knew the shock when I met a woman in 1990 who had also given birth at age 17 in Canada, but had been allowed to keep her baby — the hospital did not abduct her baby at birth — the difference was that she was married!!
… And having to wear my grandma’s wedding ring whenever I left the wage home to go anywhere.
… and when I found out 24 years after the fact that my father had phoned my son’s father around the time of the birth of my son and asked him if he would do the right thing and marry me (Grandma Maxwell told my son about this one). I guess, that was the condition on which they would allow me to keep my baby.
… and being a single mother giving birth in a hospital in many places in Canada will still prompt a social worker visit while you are still in hospital, questioning your motherhood and your right to raise your baby, giving you adoption pamphlets and asking “How do you intend to support this child?”
But getting back to the stigma that in many places still surrounds having a baby outside of marriage, it is interesting about the double-standard that surrounds adoption.
Question: Given that it is such a social crime to give birth to a baby outside of marriage that the child is termed a “bastard”: What about a child who was born to a married couple, surrendered (perhaps due to poverty — this is happening all the time) then adopted by a single person (male or female)? That person was not born “illegitimate. ” The modern child adoption system that was invented in 1851 makes a child “As If Born To” the person who has adopted them. So, does that child become “illegitimate,” and hence a “bastard”? If not, then why not?
Only in adoption is there a paradox that a single mother “deserves” to adopt a child – but a child *born* outside of marriage is “illegitimate” and the mother is deemed not to deserve her own child.
Why is it is okay to adopt as a single mother, BUT if you dare to give birth to a child outside of marriage, that child is called a “bastard” and the mother vilified??? The woman who adopts is put onto a pedestal while the mother who has given birth is considered by the same people to be inherently irresponsible and potentially unfit? Being unwed is still considered to be “just reason” to surrender a child, or imply to a mother that she should surrender her child (“Have you considered adoption?”). Books on “how to adopt” advise prospective adopters to, in public places, approach pregnant women who do not have wedding rings, to hand them “adoption cards.” To imply that the people who want to adopt deserve her baby more than she does.
An interesting double standard.
~ ~ ~
Postscript: I want to recommend a related blog post, about how some mothers are condemned while others are honoured: “The Right Kind of Mother: Intersections of Race and Class and Choice“
Unlike what alarmist government-funded programs and conservative-religious lobby groups will try to tell you, teen motherhood is neither a crisis nor an event that will destroy or ruin the life of a young mother.
Old studies that supposedly proved that teen pregnancy was a crisis were based on biased data with confounding variables (race, culture, social class, etc.). But this supposed “research” fulfilled the right-wing, socially conservative, political purposes of the time.
New data proves what people knew up until 50 years ago: teen pregnancy is natural and is NOT a crisis. (When was the greatest rate of teen pregnancy during the past century? During the 1950s. These were the mothers of the Baby Boomers!)
Here are some quotes from recent studies, illustrating the new knowledge about young motherhood:
“.. a review of the research evidence finds that the age at which pregnancy occurs has little effect on social outcomes. Many teenage mothers describe how motherhood makes them feel stronger, and marks a change for the better. Many fathers seek to remain connected with their children.” (Duncan, 2007)
“Moreover, we find that teen mothers may actually achieve higher evels of earnings over their adult lives than if they had postponed motherhood. Finally, we find evidence that while teenage childbearing does seem to increase public aid expenditures immediately after a teen birth, this “negative” consequence of teenage childbearing is not a permanent one, in that teen mothers use less public aid in their late 20s as their earnings rise and their children age.” (Hotz, McElroy, & Sanders, 1999).
Of young mothers who had left foster care: …”becoming a parent meant a positive change in their otherwise chaotic lives. Their experience of motherhood brought about love and enjoyment,
and it signified continuity and fulfillment of a void. For some young mothers, the child provided a focus in their lives and a drive to achieve a position.” –Barn and Mantonavi (2007, page 236-237)
Look at your family trees. My guess is that almost all of your female ancestors prior to 1900 were teen mothers when they had their first babies.
And, existing social class that a woman has grown up in indicates that social class she and her child will be in — NOT the age at which she has given birth! A mother who has grown up middle-class does NOT automatically become a “welfare mom” just because she started a family when young:
“Teen mothers’ life trajectories reflected legacies of unequal life chances that began in childhood and persisted into their 30s. Mothers with childhood advantages fared better over time than impoverished mothers, and a legacy of advantage contributed to a cushion of safety and opportunity for their teenaged children. Conclusion: The powerful legacy of social class and racial divisions on teen mothers’ long-term outcomes challenges the view that teen mothering leads to a downward spiral with negative repercussions for mothers and children” — SmithBattle (2007).
Not only this, but recent research has shown that there’s no good reason to postpone childbearing, especially postponing it until you can no longer conceive. Nature made women to be their most fertile between the ages of 16 and 26. Age-related infertility begins it’s slow climb at around age 27. So, whey are women waiting until their 30s or even 40s to try to conceive? It is their individual choice to do so, but if they do, then I do not believe they “deserve” another woman’s baby to fill that need. It was their own choice to wait, and to take the risk that conception would not possible.. Whitley & Kirmayer (2008) mention that the average age of first births in Canada in 2003 was 28, compared to 22 in 1972.
“Don’t be selfish! Think of that poor couple who can’t have a baby of their own!”* — my father’s words to me when i was crying my eyes out, wanting desperately to keep my baby.
We as young mothers were (and are) supposed to put the wants and needs of adoptive parents before our own, to give away our babies in order to allow them to “build their families.” We are called selfish, self-centred, and immature for wanting to keep our babies. (But does anyone apply these adjectives to older, married mothers who have children? No, because it is only teen mothers who are considered “not worthy” to have babies at all.)
Is it any wonder that a teen parent not only has to fight for the right to raise her baby, but also for her basic human right to the support to keep her family together — and on top of that, she has the social stress of the stigma against her? To show how incredibly unnecessary and inappropriate this stigma is, Whitley and Kirmayer (2008) found that it is now being applied to women in their early 20s!
“Anglophone Euro-Canadian mothers in their early 20s may now be experiencing aspects of social exclusion traditionally associated with ‘teenage mothers.’ This may have a deleterious effect on health.”
I was forced to leave high school in 1979 when I became pregnant – that’s what girls did. I worked on courses by correspondence. It wasn’t even an option to stay in school. This exiling and ostracization was barbarous to do this to any woman — and I thought that this inhumane, discriminatory, and backward practice had ended — but then I read this, written in 2008:
“Girls are forced out of the mainstream education system because they are pregnant or have given birth. The consequences for the young mothers and their children are dramatic… there is a los tgeneration of teenage girls who hve become pregnant in the last two to three years and have effectively ‘fallen through the net.’” (Lall, 2008)
What we need are strong programs that support young mothers, without exclusion, without limitation. Programs that recognize that young children NEED their mothers at home, and that mothering as a career is JUST as important as any other career. Not only that, but recognizing that becoming a mother can be a powerful incentive for a woman to advance her education. Here is one study’s recommendations about helping young mothers:
We suggest that the UK Government adopts a broader approach to addressing social exclusion associated with teenage pregnancy, and one which: values and supports full-time mothering as well as gaining skills; affords teenage mothers the same rights as less vulnerable mothers; fosters supportive social networks and enables the young women to engage actively in the process of their own inclusion. (Austerberry & Wiggins, 2007).
Austerberry, H., & Wiggins, M. (2007). Taking a pro-choice perspective on promoting inclusion of teenage mothers: Lessons from an evaluation of the Sure Start Plus programme. Critical Public Health, 17(1), 3-15.
Duncan, S. (2007). What’s the problem with teenage parents? And what’s the problem with policy? Critical Social Policy, 27(3), 307-334.
Gibbs, N. (2002). Making time for baby. Time Magazine, April 15, 2002. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1002217,00.html .
Hotz, V. J., McElroy, S. W., & Sanders, S. G. (1999). Teenage Childbearing and Its Life Cycle Consequences: Exploiting a Natural Experiment.
Hope, T., Wilder, E. I., & Watt, T. T. (2003). Pregnancy, pregnancy resolution, and juvenile delinquency. The Sociological Quarterly, 44(4), 555-576.
Lall, M. (2007). Exclusion from school: Teenage pregnancy and the denial of education. Sex Education, 7(3), 219-237.
Luker, K. (1996). Dubious conceptions: The politics of teenage pregnancy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Oberlander, S. E., Black, M. M., Starr, R. H. (2007). African American adolescent mothers and grandmothers: A multigenerational approach to parenting. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39(1-2), 37-46.
Richards, J., Papworth, M., Corbett, S., & Good, J. (2007). Adolescent motherhood: A Q-methodological re-evaluation of psychological and social outcomes. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 17(5) 347-362.
Shanok, A. F., & Miller, L. (2007). Stepping up to motherhood among inner-city teens. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31(3), 252-261
Smith-Battle, L. (2007a). ‘I wanna have a good future’: Teen mothers’ rise in educational aspirations, competing demands, and limited school support. Youth and Society, 38(3), 348-371.
SmithBattle, L. (2007b). Legacies of advantage and disadvantage: The case of teen mothers. Public Health Nursing, 24(5), 409-420.
Solinger, R. (2000). Wake up little Susie: Single pregnancy and race before Roe v. Wade. New York: Routledge.
Whitley, R., & Kirmayer, L. J. (2008). Perceived stigmatisation of young mothers: An exploratory study of psychological and social experience. Social Science and Medicine, 66(2), 339-348.
Zeck, W., Bjelic-Radisic, V., Haas, J., & Greimel, E. (2007). Impact of adolescent pregnancy on the future life of young mothers in terms of social, familial, and educational changes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(4), 380-388.
* The sad irony is that this “poor infertile couple” that i was supposed to give my child to, to satisfy THEIR needs, then went on to have two children of their own. So there was absolutely NO reason for this adoption to occur. They could have children of their own – they did not need mine.
Hi! I haven’t written any posts lately, and I apologize to my readers for the delay. I’m spending every spare waking moment finishing off a large report for the clinic I volunteer for, as the final requirement for my practicum work term there. And, following “Cedar’s Third Law” (or “Cedar’s First Law of Project Management”:) “Every project will take twice as long as you originally estimate.” And, indeed, this one has. So, wish me luck. The finish line for my Masters degree is finally in sight … !
Meanwhile, as most of you know, I am a support and advocate for young mothers. I want to share these two sites with you:
Promoting Respect for Young Mothers at http://prymface.yolasite.com
and Moms and Mentors Society at http://www.momsandmentors.ca
Maureen Hobbs, who coordinators Moms and Mentors, wrote an excellent Masters’ thesis for her Nursing degree, written on how support for young mother can make so much difference for them. (Frankly, this support is something that older mothers take for granted!). On a discouraging note, I heard from another mother in Vancouver who spoke with the coordinator or a support group for young mothers — she said that young mothers are still openly insulted to their faces and yelled at on Public transit in Vancouver — there is still a huge amount of stigma against a woman having a child during the first half of her most fertile years, the time when Nature intends us to give birth.
Happy birthday, my precious first-born! I never imagined we’d be reunited for 10 years, 1/3 of your life. Plus i feel far too young to possibly have a son who is 30! Come on, I’m not nearly old enough for that!
I still remember that clerk in the furniture store, when we were buying stuff for your/our apartment, referring to you as “my brother” and when i said with a smile that you were my son, she stated in surprise “How old were you when you had him — four?!?” We had a great laugh over that one!
Anyway, happy birthday, honey. I hope we have many more great years together, back together, where we belong. We have come a long long way in only 10 years, restoring everything we could that was taken from us. But we will never get those 20 long years back, and I think we will both always grieve that loss.
I want to share with my readers how you described to a classmate today the reason why you belonged to Origins: “I was adopted, and it was the most painful thing that every happened to me.” Your words are echoed by so many other adoptees I know. I will forever try everything I can to take away your pain.
(Related post, for visitors who have not read how this all began: February 20, 1980)
This question was asked on “Yahoo Answers” a number of months ago:
“Do a lot of people believe that women give their children up for adoption and then in the future “change” their version of the facts/or their way of thinking, to reflect that their child was stolen or they were viciously coerced rather than truly relinquished due to whatever circumstances there may have been?”
Various people on Yahoo Answers had been posting comments calling into question the integrity of natural mothers (“birthmothers”) who had recounted their stories of having lost children to adoption against their will, of feeling they had no choice but to surrender. This person asked whether mothers had actually changed their stories.
I found this question to be interesting for several reasons, as it showed how “general society” might still be ignorant of what happens when a mother loses a child to adoption, the trauma that occurs, or that she may be in a far different position later in life as far as knowledge of the processes of the adoption industry. (Also interesting was that this question was asked in the first place: Perhaps the questioner was trying to wrap his/her mind around the very concept that coerced surrender could exist?).
Firstly, this question assumes that women don’t block out the memories of what happened to them — a common symptom of PTSD: you dissociate as the trauma is too difficult to face. I know women who can’t even remember their child’s birth date or signing papers, until much later, at which point the memories come flooding back, often in the form of flashbacks and nightmares. It is often with reunion or beginning their search that moms begin to remember details of what happened.
PTSD Criterion C: Avoidance/Numbing
3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
Secondly, a young or otherwise vulnerable mother may be forced to surrender by various means, and it is only when she is much older — when she has far more information on what her rights were at the time — that she realizes that those rights were violated. Rights that the adoption industry never informed her that she had rights.
“The first thing the unmarried mother is likely to lose is her right to make important decisions. The agency or community tells her what she must do if she is to receive the services she needs . . . In most instances the plan for the baby is pre-determined. Often these matters are decided without her being able to state her own preferences.” Helping Unmarried Mothers, by Rose Bernstein, copyright 1971*
Or the natural mother realizes only much later that she was coerced, not realizing it at the time, when she finds out that carefully-researched methods were used on her that would increase the likelihood she would sign those papers. An expectant mother, labouring mother, or new mother may not realize at the time that various practices were being done to her in order to ensure she would surrender her baby. Thousands if not millions of dollars in federal money in the U.S. and Canada has gone into studies researching how to get more mothers to surrender. These adoption studies do not hide their purpose. Even open adoption was designed for this purpose, to get more babies to market.
Why was this done? In part, because of the post-WWII consumer demand for healthy white infants:
“… the tendency growing out of the demand for babies is to regard unmarried mothers as breeding machines…(by people intent) upon securing babies for quick adoptions.” – Leontine Young, “Is Money Our Trouble?” (paper presented at the National Conference of Social Workers, Cleveland, 1953*)
“For every healthy newborn available, there are now almost forty potential parents searching.” – (“Love for Sale” by Nelson Handel, Adoptive Families Magazine, 2000).
Adoption is now North America’s largest multi-billion dollar unregulated industry. Agencies, lawyers, and facilitators exist as “baby brokers,” practicing adoption as a commercial transaction where people pay tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for an unrelated baby (In many other nations, this is known as human trafficking).
When I found the book “Death by Adoption” back in 1982, I discovered other socio-political reasons for what had been done to me, and why adoption was an issue of discrimination against women:
“Adoption is a violent act, a political act of aggression towards a woman who has supposedly offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality, and therefore not keeping it for trading purposes through traditional marriage. The crime is a grave one, for she threatens the very fabric of our society. The penalty is severe. She is stripped of her child by a variety of subtle and not so subtle manoeuvres and then brutally abandoned.” – Joss Shawyer, Death by Adoption, Cicada Press (1979)
For example: My baby was taken right at birth for adoption, by hospital staff. I had never told them that I wanted to surrender my baby. I wanted to keep my baby (but no-one ever asked me about this or gave me this as an option). They put me in a room far from the maternity ward to keep us separated, and kept me drugged for days. I was finally allowed to see him for about 5 minutes, but bulldog nurses kept a hawk-like watch on me to ensure I could not even pick him up. I was not welcome in that nursery. I found out later from my son that they even transfered him over to another hospital to keep him from me! Then I learned two decades later, by reading articles in nursing journals and the government inquiry testimony of hospital administrators — and through hearing the stories of dozens of other natural mothers across Canada — that taking babies at birth was routine, and done specifically to prevent a mother from keeping her baby, to prevent all contact in the intent that she would be prevented from “bonding with” her baby, to prevent her from “changing her mind (i.e. preventing her from making ANY real decision about adoption, as that can be made only post-recovery.) At age 17, I had no idea that this was why my baby was taken. I also did not know that it violated my parental rights, discriminated on the basis of marital status (in treating me different from married mothers), and constituted abduction under the Criminal Code of Canada:
“(281) Abduction of Person Under Fourteen – Every one who, not being the parent … unlawfully takes, entices away, conceals, detains, receives or harbours that person with intent to deprive a parent … of the possession of that person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.”
A mother may also “come out of the fog” when she discovers that other mothers “not on the adoption treadmill’ were treated differently. An example is when an agency/lawyer or parents tell(s) you: “You are 17. There is no way you can to go college and get a job with a baby — you’ll be in poverty on welfare for the rest of your life. Besides, children raised by single mothers turn into criminals and if you don’t sign he’ll sit in foster care until you finally do!” You are not told about welfare and your parents are firm that you are NOT allowed to bring your baby home (after all, they already shut you away in (or you were shamed into “turning yourself in” to) a maternity facility, wage home, etc. so that relatives and neighbours would never find out).
A mother won’t realize at the time that this is coercion as she whole-heartedly believes the lies that the adoption worker told her — and no-one tells her differently. Then years later you meet someone your age who DID keep her baby, went to college (where there was an on-campus daycare), and works at a better or equal job, and her baby didn’t starve — you realize that at age 17 you were lied to and surrendered your baby because you believed this lie. Nevermind finding out that the paycheque of the person or agency who told you this depending on them “making enough sales”! This equates to legal conflict of interest.
For me, another wake-up call came when I met my friend Pashta back in 1990. She was a few years older than me, but also had her first baby when she was 17, also in Canada. I asked her how it could be that the hospital allowed her to keep her baby and did not take her baby at birth. Her answer: The difference was that she was married!
Does this mean I “changed my story”? No, not at all. But it means I did not realize at age 16 and 17 how coercion worked. All I knew at the time I lost my baby was that I wanted to keep my baby and that I had no choice but to sign those papers in a state of numbness and shock. At age 17 I thought it was “normal” and legal and that somehow I did not deserve or have a right to my baby. Only years later did I find out how it was done such that I had no chance or choice, why it was done, and that it had been done to thousands of other women across Canada.
… a seventeen year old with no-one to talk to and no-one who would listen to me.
… parents are 62 and 61 years old … small town Prairie mentality and Fundamentalist beliefs.
… internment in a wage home once I began “showing,” hiding my growing belly to protect my parents from the shame of “what would the neighbours and relatives say?”
… being shamed by my parents into wearing my grandma’s wedding ring to hide my shameful “unwed” status from the world.
… a week of false labour.
… my parents dropping me off at the hospital slightly past midnight, and the nurses telling them to leave. Being put on a gurney and given a sleeping pill to sleep, then put into a closet for the night. Lights on. The pain was strong and the sleeping pill did nothing for me. Awake all night. Alone.
… strapped down to a bed with a fetal monitor wrapped around my stomach. Another one screwed into his scalp.
… my mother coming in the afternoon to sit with me, acting ashamed, never showing concern or affection.
… screaming in pain … and being told by nurses to shut up.
… nauseated and disoriented from the straight Demerol injections that did nothing for the pain
… a doctor telling the intern that he had given me too much Demerol.
… 18 hours of labour with no food or water
… wheeled down the hallway
… climbing onto the narrow delivery table, as flat as an ironing board, my arms strapped down with leather straps, feet up in stirrups.
… trying to push out a baby against gravity, not having slept for 36 hours … not having eaten for 24 hours … overwhelming pain.
… episiotomy sliced down with a deep 4-inch-long cut, without anaesthesia … sewn up again without adequate anaesthesia. Permanent nerve damage.
… sheet put up in front of my face to prevent me from seeing him as he was born and whisked from the room, abducted.
… given a shot and waking up 18 hours later in a ward far far from the maternity ward and nursery, other end of the hospital, different floor.
… a huge huge sense of loss.
… my breasts bound up to prevent lactation.
… unable to walk for 2 days after.
… not allowed to see or hold my baby. Never being told I had the right to. No lawyers to explain to me that i had *any* rights at all. No nurse brought him to me
… finally allowed to look at him for about 5 minutes in the nursery several days later, watched over by hawk-like nurses to prevent me from picking him up. I was not welcome there. Seeing him confirmed for me what I already knew: that I loved him beyond all measure. I wanted to keep him.
…. a woman who had surrendered a baby 2 months prior being sent in to convince me to “do the right thing.”
… forbidden by parents from taking my baby home.
… never told about welfare or any other way to keep him. At age 17 from a small farming town and a sheltered upbringing, I had no idea even what ‘welfare’ was.
… the social wrecker telling me to sign or he’d be in foster care until I ‘decided’ to. Telling me that the children of unwed mothers grow up to be criminals. Lying to me that I would “move on.” No informed consent, no other options, no choice.
I wanted to keep my baby. I was capable. I was never given the chance or the choice.
This is adoption. This was coercion. I was nothing more than a convenient uterus to them, to take away another baby for adoption.This was done to thousands of unwed mothers across Canada for thirty years, until about 1988. There is nothing “voluntary” about “voluntary surrender.” A coerced “decision” is not a decision at all.
We all know about the horrors of the Baby Scoop Era, where if you were a white woman (not a black woman, because there was no market for black babies) with no family support, you were often herded into surrendering your baby for adoption.
” … Black single mothers were expected to keep their babies as most unwed mothers, black and white, had done throughout American history. Unmarried white mothers, for the first time in American history, were expected to put their babies up for adoption. …” (Solinger, p. 149)
But what is little known is that at the end of the BSE, the dropping number of babies being surrendered led to a panic in the adoption industry. The growing number of abortions post Roe-v-Wade led to conservative governments reacting with alarm. These forces together led to a well-funded campaign to get more babies to market. Yes, literally. Much federal funding went into research on how to accomplish this (and still does). I discussed some of the resulting research on open adoption in an earlier post, “Open Adoption: They Knew it Would Work,” but there was a second prong to this pro-adoption initiative as well: curing the “social ill” of single and young parenting.
Natural mothers from the BSE never stood a chance. But the adoption industry during the BSE relied on overt coercion to get the product to market. As the supply of “product” dried up, the industry became more sophisticated. They researched how to get more mothers to surrender. Mothers who were forced to surrender during the BSE have solid claims to injustice. But mothers who surrendered after the BSE often did so because of research on how to get them to surrrender. Like the mothers of the BSE, most of these mothers also did not stand a chance.
These quotes are from some articles published by those researchers, explaining *why* they were doing the research on how to obtain more babies for adoption:
“It is the intent of the current administration to promote adoption among adolescent mothers. This intent comes at a time when many adolescent mothers are choosing to raise their babies born out of wedlock, a trend that has increased during the last decade.” (Resnick, 1984)
“It maybe that open adoption policies … can result in greater consideration of adoption by some adolescents who currently keep and raise their babies.” (Kallen, Griffore, Popovich, & Powell, 1990)
“… it is important to continue to achieve higher adoption rates among teenage parents …” (Hanson, 1990, pp. 639-40)
“For many reasons, there is an urgency in convincing pregnant adolescents to place their babies for adoption.” (Hanson, 1990, p. 640)
“By being able to point out strengths and weaknesses, and applying grounded intervention strategies, we may be able to effect higher adoption rates for adolescents who give birth” (Hanson, 1990, p. 641)
“The multifaceted problems associated with teenage pregnancy and parenting have become an agenda item for federal, state, and community action, resulting in a growing number of research and service initiatives …One recent federal strategy has been to advocate adoption as an alterative to either abortion or child rearing for young adolescents.” (Resnick, Blum, Bose, Smith & Toogood, 1990)
“It is reasonable to expect that a number of the difficulties associated with adolescent childbearing would be ameliorated if a child were released for adoption.” (Donnelly and Voydanoff, 1991, p. 414)
“The decision to release is one way of reducing the many social and economic problems associated with adolescent parenthood” (Donnelly and Voydanoff, 1991, p. 410)
“The Omnibus Budge Reconcilation Act (1981) and supporting research grants (Federal Register, 1982, 1983) have been directed toward furthering adoption as an alternative to abortion.” – (Sobol & Daly, 1992)
“Both private organizations and the federal government have promoted adoption as an alternative to abortion. When an unwanted or mistimed pregnancy occurs, adoption may serve the interests of the child, the biological mother, and the adoptive family” (Bachrach, Stolley, & London, 1992, p. 27)
“There is a strong interest in programs that encourage adoption as a preferred resolution for both mother and infant. …Because placement for adoption is typically an unusual choice for a pregnant adolescent, the development of efficacious programs to promote the adoption choice necessarily depends on expanded knowledge of the predictors of placement and the processes involved in the decision to place or parent.” (Dworkin, Harding & Schreiber, 1993, p. 76)
“… pregnant young women with no prior exposure may be less likely to choose adoption because they never consider the option for themselves, rather than because they consider and reject it based on their attitudes. This line of reasoning suggests that some form of adoption socialization may be necessary … Considering that most young women will not receive the prior personal exposure in their childhood families, a suitable alternative may be pregnancy-resolution counseling. Providing young women access to peers who have chosen adoption may be one way of achieving this goal.” (Namerow, Kalmuss, Cushman, 1993)
“Our results indicate that it would be in the best interests of these women for pregnancy counsellors to fully and fairly discuss the adoption option.”(Namerow, Kalmuss, & Cushman, 1997)
” … the results will assist helping professionals increase the frequency with which they encourage thoughtful consideration of adoption” [by unmarried mothers] (Custer, 1993)
“… a fair consideration of adoption is often overlooked in pregnancy counselling” (Leon, 1999)
“Since adoption can solve both personal and societal problems, it is important to identify salient variables related to the perceptions of pregnant adolescents while in the process of deciding to keep or place their baby (Moore and Davidson, 2002, p. 29)
“… In promoting research-based, empirically-validated adoption education as a priority in the lives of young female and male adolescents, professionals have the potential to effect change in the social, economic, and intellectual fabric of our time. (Ibid, p. 39)
Given this research and the momentum behind it, does anyone really, truly, still believe that there is a level playing field for any young expectant mother who is considering adoption? Does anyone really believe that she is making a totally informed decision with complete freedom of choice?
Bachrach, C., Stolley, K., & London, K. (1992). Relinquishment of premarital births: Evidence from national survey data. Family Planning Perspectives, 24, 27-48.
Custer, M. (1993). Adoption as an option for unmarried pregnant teens. Adolescence, 28, 891-902.
Donnelly, B., & Voydanoff, P. (1991). Factors associated with releasing for adoption among adolescent mothers. Family Relations, 40(4), 404-410.
Dworkin, R., Harding, J., & Schreiber, N. (1993). Parenting or placing: Decision making by pregnant teens. Youth and Society, 25, 75-92.
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