Adoption: A Classic Case of Supply and Demand

In a recent New York Times article entitled “The Unborn Paradox,” columnist Ross Douthat notes the shocking decrease in adoption rates over the past several decades. According to statistics, less than one percent of children born to unwed mothers in the United States are put up for adoption, in comparison to twenty percent in the 1970’s. So, why are fewer women choosing adoption?

Americans, whether pro-choice or pro-life, have always been extremely opinionated when it comes to this heated issue. However, I encourage you to put that debate aside and look at the way mainstream society now views pregnancy and parenthood. Poignant examples of public opinion are MTV’s hit reality shows “16 and Pregnant” or “Teen Mom.” Americans are captivated by the struggles of pregnant teens and the media has turned these “children with children” into celebrities and unfortunately, role models. However, society loses interest in these teenage mothers after pregnancy as new motherhood progresses into actual parenthood. What happens to these children over the next eighteen years?

Unfortunately, those who practice in the field of family law see all too often what comes next and it is generally not a pretty picture. What the media fails to show is the vicious cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that often follows teen motherhood and puts these children at significant risk, both physically and emotionally. Although many of these young parents undoubtedly care for their children, raising a child is truly a labor of love and they often struggle to meet the challenges.

Today, there are tremendous adoption resources available to new parents and yet, very few seriously consider that option. Although the number of Americans who wish to adopt has increased, the number of women choosing to place their children up for adoption has dwindled. The article also notes that the growing need for adoption is partly the result of widespread infertility issues that may be linked to the long-term use of chemical birth control. However, regardless of their reasons for wanting to adopt, data increasingly shows that more Americans wish to expand their families and are desperate to adopt. Are young parents simply unaware of the adoption alternatives? Or are they being discouraged away from adoption by societal pressure to raise these children on their own and thus, continuing the cycle of poverty and abuse?

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