With the rate of teenage pregnancy going up again for the first time in fifteen years, the recent release of this special report from the National Council for Adoption is especially timely. This NCFA report identifies a critical improvement needed in public school health and sex-ed classes: Educating teens about adoption as a positive outcome for crisis pregnancies.
Right now, just four states — Virginia, Utah, Michigan, and Louisiana — have legislation that mandates adoption awareness for public school “reproductive health/sexual education” programs (either mandated or voluntary). However, NCFA reports that studies have shown “four years after the birth of their children, those who had made adoption placements had higher levels of educational attainment, higher rates of employment, and lower rates of subsequent pregnancy relative to those who chose to parent” (NCFA “The Adoption Option,” pg 2).
Another good reason for the change: Studies have shown that “children born to teens are twice as likely to suffer abuse and neglect than those born to older mothers.”
The subject of sex education in schools is a controversial one. Ultimately it is parents’ responsibility — not the school’s — to teach their children about sexuality. Sadly, too many parents — in a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided attempt to protect their children — abdicate this responsibility. The reality is that if we are not proactive in educating our children, we will lose an important opportunity — and run the risk of having our children get an education of a different (and far more painful) kind.
We need to be teaching our children more than “don’t.” And I’m not talking about saying “Don’t, but if you do … be safe.” Contraception is not the answer; a woman’s fertility is not a disease to be treated but a gift to be embraced and respected. Rather, we need to be giving our youth — girls and boys — a vision for God’s plan for the family, and for their own bodies. We need to give them a sense of self-respect, empowerment, and confidence in themselves. We need to teach them that sex is not a game, but a gift … to be opened only in the context of marriage.
The NCFA report acknowledges that when teens do not embrace this message, they need information of a different kind. They need to be taught that if they are big enough to engage in sex, they must be willing to accept the consequences of their actions by putting their child’s needs ahead of their own desires. In many cases, this would include adoption, so that the child is not forced to pay for his parents’ mistakes, either with his life (through abortion) or abuse or neglect.
If you are looking for resources to help you give your teenager a spiritually sound perspective on human sexuality, I’d like to suggest “Theology of the Body for Teens” (Brian Butler, and Jason and Crystalina Evert, Ascension Press).
I am an adoptive parent and an adoption advocate (in the informal sense), and I am glad that adoption is at least getting a hearing among teenagers. My son’s birthmother was 19 when he was born, and utterly unequipped to raise a child–and knew it. But she was under so much pressure, including a parade of social workers in and out of her hospital room, to keep him.