- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2001

The adoption rate of crisis pregnancy centers "commonly are below one percent," according to a new report, "The Missing Piece: Adoption Counseling in Pregnancy Resource Centers."

These agencies, which profoundly believe in the importance of the life of a baby conceived out of wedlock, have been utterly unable to persuade even the 390,000 pregnant teen-agers who gave birth in 1998, that their child would fare better in the home of a married mother and father.

Why not? Certainly the data are clear. A child born out of wedlock is 6 times likelier to be in poverty than a child of a married mother and father, 3 times as apt to repeat a grade or to become pregnant as a teen-ager, and a staggering 22 times more likely to be incarcerated than a child from an intact home.

Yet pro-life counseling centers have no better adoption record than family planning clinics, which typically advice young women to have an abortion.

Not long ago, adoption was not a neglected option. In 1970 when there were 400,000 babies born out-of-wedlock, 71,500 were adopted, reports the National Council for Adoption. That's nearly 1 baby in 5.

Illegitimacy has soared to 1.3 million, yet only 23,537 infants were adopted in a recent year. That's not even 2 percent of babies of unwed parents. Why has adoption become the neglected option?

The Family Research Council undertook a major study to identify underlying factors that either inhibit or motivate the consideration of adoption in both single, pregnant women and by pregnancy counselors. Fifty-one single women, who had experienced one or more pregnancies were interviewed along with 12 pregnancy counselors.

"The Missing Piece" by Rev. Curtis Young reports results. Adoption has a negative image due to stories in the media of adopted children desperate to be reunited with their mother. A key image: adoption equals abandonment of a child. As one put it, "Think about who would give up a child. What a mean person. It's like your mommy doesn't want you any more."

Adoption is also seen as "The Big Lie." It involves secrets or deceptions they think can hurt a child, and evoke "pity on the one who was adopted and condemnation of the mother who 'gave the child away.' " It is seen as an unbearable sacrifice, the breaking of maternal trust.

Pregnant women go through a two-stage decision-making process. First, they decide whether to have an abortion, which can be quickly implemented and protects women from being judged by others and public shame.

But there are 250,000 fewer abortions now, as more women have gone to the 2,000 crisis pregnancy centers that have persuaded many to preserve the child's life. "Once they decide to give birth, it is, in effect, a choice to keep their babies," writes Mr. Young. who once directed the Christian Action Council (now CareNet), 650 centers that have 300,000 client visits a year.

However, the second stage of the decision about what to do with the baby, stretches over months. It is here that most crisis pregnancy centers fail. Neither do they make a case to marry the father the best option for many women nor to relinquish the child for adoption.

What I found shocking is that "the psyche of the counselor" is the same as the women coming for help, for whom adoption equals abandonment and an unbearable sacrifice. Many counselors are volunteers who had a baby while unwed. Most will not even bring up the adoption option, fearful "their clients will no longer see them as trustworthy."

Counselors lack crucial information. Children adopted as babies actually do better than average children, according to Patrick Purtill, president of the National Council for Adoption.

Only 7 percent of adolescents adopted in the first year of life repeated a grade in school compared to 12 percent of those living with both birth parents and 30 percent of kids with a single parent, according to a study by Nicholas Zill. Children living with single parents are 3 times as likely to be suspended from school (17 percent) vs. those with adoptive parents (6 percent).

Adopted adolescents have higher self-esteem than a national sample of teen-agers (55 to 45 percent), and are much less likely to see their parents divorce (11 percent vs. 28), reports the Search Institute.

Further, mothers who relinquish their children for adoption are more likely to graduate, be employed, and to marry.

The National Council for Adoption should publish this data in pamphlets for pregnancy counselors. Pro-lifers interested in helping the child and mother should learn to be pro-adoption.

Michael J. McManus is a self-syndicated columnist and president of Marriage Savers, a nonprofit group devoted to reducing the divorce rate.

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