One option for pregnant teens is to bear the pregnancy to term, have the baby, and put it up for adoption. 2-3% of teens who are pregnant choose this route. However, the term “adoption” is not as simple as it used to be; there are different types of adoptions available. In this post, we’ll explore resources, basic information, and options for you and your teen to consider.

Many adoptions in the popular media are portrayed as unsatisfactory in some way, sometimes to the point of being ridiculous. The truth is that the majority of adoptions work out very well, enriching the life of the child being adopted as well as that of the adoptive family. They also allow the birth mother to continue her life without the unplanned impact of raising a child.

If your teen is considering continuing the pregnancy, and having the child adopted,  it may be hard for her to decide how she will feel after the adoption is through. Ask her to picture what it might be like. She might be able to see herself feeling relieved, deprived, proud, anxious, responsible, or miserable. It’s normal to be uncertain which emotion would predominate (especially as she will likely experience many.) Work through these emotions with her. What difference would it make in her life if she felt proud and responsible? What might she feel anxious about? What if she felt like she had made the wrong decision? What will it be like to get prenatal care and deliver the baby? How will this decision affect her life goals?

If your teen decides she wants to carry the pregnancy and adopt out the baby, the next decision is what kind of adoption she wants to have. The two broadest categories are “open” or “closed” adoptions. An “open” adoption means that she (and the baby’s father, if he wishes) will communicate with the adoptive family. This can range to everything from meeting them once during the pregnancy to regular, in-person visits with her child as he or she grows up.  Most people who choose open adoption end up somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum. If your teen wants, she can select which family adopts the baby.

“Closed” adoptions mean that your teen will not meet the adoptive parents, and will be uninformed and uninvolved regarding the child’s placement, although she can make requests to a third party. Most closed adoptions do involve her releasing a medical history, since it is vital for someone to know what disease risks run in their biological family.

Research has shown that open adoption is, in general, better for the mother’s mental health than closed adoption. But your teen is a person, not a statistic. If she desires a closed adoption, that’s her choice. It’s best to allow some room for leeway, in case she decides she wants some basic information on the child down the road. It’s much easier to ask for less information and contact in an open adoption, than to try and get more in a closed one.

Adoptions can be performed through an adoption agency, through independent legal counsel, or by the your family independently. I would highly recommend at least having contact with a specialist, even if that person or agency does not end up handling the adoption.  This document has information about some local agencies and lawyers who are informed on the various issues around adoption, and can guide the process. Make sure your teen gets to research different choices and decide what works best for her. If the whole process is intimidating, partner with her to look at options.

These are the Washington state laws pertaining to adoption. It’s a dry read, and can be hard to understand, but I’d encourage you to go through them with your teen. If she asks, “What does that mean?” and you don’t know, contact a specialist and find out. (This is a short cheat sheet, if you’d rather start with something less technical before moving on to the laws themselves.) Your teen is about to make a big decision, and it’s important that she understand the adoption process thoroughly.

Many people have had their lives touched in some way by adoption. I’d love to hear your stories!