LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
Juno and the 'A' word
Juno is one of the latest movies to portray a young girl who gets pregnant and in a matter of minutes goes from considering abortion to deciding on adoption. Ellen Goodman in a recent column about these films considers the message they send to 13 year old girls.Actually Juno's decision is rare. According to the Children's Bureau (a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services) less than 1% of children born to never married women are relinquished for adoption. According to Planned Parenthood more than half of teen pregnancies result in birth so most young women keep the child. Many of these mothers become school dropouts and live in poverty. That is another story.Juno's decision to find an adoption family while not rare is unusual. There are between 118,000 and 127,000 adoptions per year in this country. Nobody keeps good statistics on Juno's type of adoptions but it is considerably less than the 500,000 that are through state child welfare agencies. In Kansas the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services reports that there were 715 adoptions during the last fiscal year. I am not sure that is our share of the national total.When Juno meets the potential adoptive parents she flippantly asks why they don't go to China where it is easy to adopt. I wouldn't give away her line which is very funny. Adoptions from other countries represent about 15% of the total. Many of these are from China. As an adoptive father I wish that they were more frequent. The Urban League in a report on foster care and adoptions states that there are 100,000 children in foster care awaiting adoption. In Kansas, SRS reports that there were 853 children awaiting adoption at the end of the last fiscal year.Juno's search for adoptive parents is at least haphazard and amounts to looking through the classified section of a local free paper. The prospective parents look wonderful. Both parents are good looking and their home suggests that they have plenty of income. As the story develops flaws are hinted at that become real but again I wouldn't spoil that for those who have yet to see the movie. Did she pick the right parents? That is a question that looms large over the field of adoption. There have been two recent articles in the Journal World that represent two contrasting adoptive families. A January 14 article reported on a Haysville couple who adopted a girl and the father sexually assaulted her. A January 20 article reported that a Lawrence native was appointed an appellate judge who has a passion for children, has been a foster parent and has adopted 3 children.In the Haysville tragedy SRS apparently did all that they could to find a safe home for the child. They conducted a more complete investigation than Juno but failed. The truth is that there is little anyone can do to predict the outcome of an adoptive placement. Background checks for abuse or criminal behavior are helpful but far from foolproof. It is simply not possible to predict the outcome of a decision to approve a family for adoption. Fortunately the Haysville adoptive outcome is rare. Adoptive families work out as well as other types of families. If you haven't seen Juno, go before it leaves town. Talk to your 13 year old daughters. Support adoption.