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September 3, 2008
Column #1,410a
The Adoption Option?
By Mike McManus

When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin revealed that her 17-year-old daughter Bristol, is five months pregnant out-of-wedlock, there was a small sigh of relief in conservative circles when  the girl indicated that she intended to marry the father, Levi Johnston, an 18-year-old.

Yet questions linger.  If they were going to marry, why haven't they already done so since she's more than half way through the pregnancy?  Is marriage the right answer?  Divorce rates are very high for couples who marry at such a young age. 

Is this a serious young man planning for a future, looking forward to being a father?  Not exactly.

He revealed on his MySpace page that he was "in a relationship" but said, "I don't want kids." He called himself a "redneck" who likes to snowboard, ride dirt bikes, fish, camp out and "hang out with the boys." Not surprisingly, his MySpace page quickly disappeared.

Sound like a good marital prospect? Not to this father. He's very immature.  No wonder teen marriages tend to end in divorce.

I know nothing about these kids or their parents.  However, how much time does the governor have to help out, when she is already caring for four other children?

In a case like this, one wonders why the "Adoption Option" is apparently not being considered. The baby's life would be preserved, and be relinquished to a more mature couple who has longed for years to have a baby. Bristol's future could include college.

Furthermore, the birth mother could continue to have some contact with the child. "The vast majority of adoptions involve some level of openness between the birth mother and the adopting couple," says Chuck Johnson, vice president of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA). That may range from an exchange of pictures all the way to regular visits.

There are 2 million couples waiting to adopt, and only 22,000 unrelated infant adoptions in 2002, the latest year with data.  In that year there were 1,366.000 unwed births, 25 percent of which were to teenage girls.   Keeping the baby virtually guarantees that the mother and child will live in poverty.

However, why is the "adoption option," so rare, involving less than 2 percent of unwed births?  At one time, there were 90,000 infant adoptions, but that was before abortion was available.  In 2002, there were 1,313,000 abortions.

NCFA's Johnson says that "Most pro-life people are very pro-adoption. However, when a woman comes to a Crisis Pregnancy Center, most counselors focus on helping the young woman develop a parenting plan.  They see parenting as the best option."

Frankly, I doubt that is in the interest of most teenage mothers..  CPC volunteers view abortion as the most likely alternative to carrying the baby to term, and therefore, pitch to a young woman's natural instincts to mother a child growing within her: "You can do it.  We will help you with diapers, etc." they say.

When the late Bill Pierce was President of NCFA, he obtained a federal grant to train volunteer counselors in presenting the adoption option.  And 18,500 were trained to do so, but the numbers of adoptions is shrinking.

A new Ad Campaign has been developed.  Its theme: "Sometimes choosing adoption is being a good mother."  The goal is to remove the stigma associated with adoption, by convincing her that she is not "giving up" a child, but relinquishing that child for a much better future than the young mother could offer.

American families who want to adopt have turned increasingly to foreign adoptions.  According to the State Department, there were 22,884 infant adoptions from abroad in 2004.  That compares with only 7,093 in 1990.

Adoption by non-relatives is very rare in foreign countries.  Those local officials do not understand the interest of Americans. One Keynan judge asked if a couple wanted a black baby to be a slave!

A much larger source of children to be adopted are the 510,000 now in foster care. With 303,000 entering foster care in a recent year.  About 50,000 of those children are adopted annually.  Government subsidies are actually available to encourage adoptions.

On average, a family who takes in a child in foster care receives $508 a month.  If the child is adopted, $444 of subsidies will continue.  And the family can take an $11,000 tax credit.

Who are these children going into foster care?  Many are out-of-wedlock kids of immature mothers  unable to care for them. 

Barack Obama says he wants to encourage more adoptions.  Good.  There is a long way to go.


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