Know Your Rights
So many times in adoption, all the focus is on the adopting parents. People share their infertility stories or their faith commitment on social media and with friends and families. Women experiencing an unexpected pregnancy are seen as simply the way for the adopting parents to get their baby. It’s hard to get in the way of their excitement and joy, but no one need ever feel put down or be ignored for choosing to place their child for adoption. No matter how young or old you are, as an expectant mom, you have rights.
These rights include:
- To be treated with respect and honesty.
- To have an advocate for support before, during, and after the adoption placement.
- To ask questions and receive answers about all steps of the process.
- To review and understand all legal paperwork before you sign it.
- To receive emergency living expenses totaling up to $4,000.
- To receive counseling services before, during and after the adoption placement.
- To change your mind about placing your child at any point before you sign consents for the adoption.
- To choose the family who adopts your child.
- To know how the adoptive family has been screened and evaluated.
- To see, hold, and care for your baby in the hospital.
Rights always come along with responsibilities. These responsibilities include:
- Treating others involved in your adoption with respect and honesty.
- Letting your advocate know your questions, thoughts and feelings before, during, and after the adoption placement.
- Asking questions!
- Requesting a copy of the legal paperwork before you make a firm commitment to adoption.
- Useing the emergency living expenses as intended.
- Useing counseling services to help process your grief and provide a way to move forward.
- Being honest if you are not planning on moving forward with an adoption plan.
- Thinking about what type of family would be best for your child.
- Asking what screening measures were done by the adoptive family to insure not just a safe home but one where adoption is celebrated.
- Being available for your child when they have questions about their identity.
No single list is all inclusive. Maybe the best way to think about rights and responsibilities is to remember the Golden Rule—that is to treat others as you want to be treated.
Maybe you are looking here because you are one of the twenty out of every one thousand girls who get pregnant every year. Maybe you came to this page because you are the mother of one of those twenty of a thousand girls who got pregnant this year. Or the boyfriend, teacher, friend, or someone who just wants to help.
Twenty out of every one thousand girls between the ages of 15 and 19 will get pregnant this year, if statistics hold true. While this may not seem like a huge number, if you are one of the twenty, it doesn’t matter if there are any more or any less girls in this position. This pregnancy is happening to you. And just like women of all ages facing an unexpected pregnancy, you are faced with the choices of parenting, abortion, or adoption. And just like women of all ages, you are faced with the responsibilities and consequences that come along with that decision.
Except that for teenagers, an expected pregnancy can be a little more complicated. Telling your parents, telling your friends, planning for school, figuring out your relationship with the baby’s father, and dealing with people who want to judge you can make a scary time even more overwhelming. There’s a safe space for you at ASC to start sorting through these feelings. While the choices about your pregnancy and your baby are yours, there will always be someone at ASC who will talk with you about those choices.
Leah, one of our own adoption coordinators, understands better than most what teen pregnancy is like.
During her senior year in high school, she faced an unexpected pregnancy—and here’s her story. Your story will be your own based on your own decisions, but sometimes it helps to hear from someone else.
I had reached the final semester of my senior year of high school, excitement was rising because I had just gotten admission to a college I had always wanted to go to… I was thinking about my future, what to study, who would be my friends, and most importantly what I would wear to senior prom. What I was not thinking about, was being pregnant. But when those little blue lines showed up on that pregnancy test… I was surprised, I was scared, I was alone. Going to school the next day was a blur, I saw my friends and talked to them about prom and college but I knew in the back of my mind everything had changed for me. I now had to decide what was best for this baby’s future and put myself aside, but how was I to think like that as a teenager? I talked to some friends and even they didn’t really know what to say to me, so eventually I withdrew all together.
The teasing got worse and worse as my stomach got bigger and bigger, and the looks got more and more judgmental. People would talk about who the father was and if I was going to keep the baby like they knew all about my life and what went on in my head. I felt so isolated from my friends… everyone was talking about prom and college while I was trying to decide/prepare the best life for my child. I missed parties, senior events, prom, and countless friend get togethers because I was either too sick, too tired, or too sick and tired of being judged. I constantly thought about the crossroads I was at… to parent this baby as a single mother with no college degree, no house of my own, no father, and no form of stable income or to place my baby with a couple who had a lot more stability than me. Either way I decided I knew I was going to be sad, so I put myself aside and tried to envision what kind of a life I wanted for my child… having two parents, a home to grow up in, being involved in sports or other activities, going to college, and vacations.
I decided to reach out to a local adoption agency who sent a really sweet woman to my house to talk to me about my pregnancy and how open adoption works with them. I started to see that I could place my baby with a family who could provide the best life while also enjoying my child through visits, pictures, and updates. The concept of open adoption solidified my plan, because my child would always know my love but would also have the best life ever. I picked a family who had adopted before and who seemed like really down to earth people, and they were! I absolutely loved and trusted them. A week before I was supposed to go to college I had my son and placed him with his forever family.
They have kept me involved in a number of different ways and my son told me the last time that I saw him “you’re cool, I like you” which made my heart melt. Looking back on these last six years, I can’t believe how far I’ve come and what I’ve learned through my teenage pregnancy and placement… I have since earned my degree in Social Work and now work for the agency who helped me place my son, which I absolutely love because I get to help other women as they consider an open adoption. From the judgmental looks I would receive from my friends and peers in high school as I walked the hallways with my ever growing belly to the outpouring of support that I receive through friends and family today my life has done a complete 180, and I’m so grateful for how open adoption has changed mine and my son’s life for the better!