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Published Sunday November 7th, 2010 at 11:07am

Original Article by Myrna Raffkind

Unintended and unplanned pregnancies have many adverse consequences and certainly one of the most destructive is the increase in the number of unwanted children. All too often, these children end up abused and/or in the foster care system. Statistics attest to the magnitude of the problem and the numbers are astounding. According to the Department of Family and Protective Services Data Book 2008, Child Protective Services received 2,320 calls from residents in Potter County alleging abuse and/or neglect.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition is committed not only to preventing unwanted pregnancies but also to preventing the adverse consequences of unwanted pregnancies and it is one of our missions to promote adoption as an unselfish option that will hopefully reduce the number of mistreated children.

November is National Adoption Month and it is a time to focus attention on the changes that have taken place in the adoption process and the many benefits that adoption offers for all parties involved: biological parents, adoptive parents, children who are high risk for being mistreated, and society in general.

Years ago, the adoption process was clouded in secrecy. Only in rare incidences did the birth mother know the name of the couple who adopted her infant and once she placed the child for adoption, all ties were severed. The scenario is very different today. A large majority of the adoptions that do take place are "open adoptions." The birth mother can choose her child's adoptive parents and she is often offered a number of couples from which to choose. If the birth mother and father wish to maintain contact with their child, they can send gifts, share birthdays and holidays, and take part in many of those activities that are so important to making relationships special. Of course, the primary beneficiary is the child who frequently bonds with both sets of parents, each having a different role and each holding a special place in the heart of the child.

It seems as though adoption is a win/win situation and given the advantages it offers to birth parents, adoptive couples, and children, you would think that it would be widely practiced. And yet, this is not the case. Adoption is still relative rare and many people know little about the open adoption process, local agencies who place children for adoption and the legal component.

As we all know, social norms change over time and one of the changes we have witnessed in recent years is the social stigma surrounding adoption. Years ago, being a pregnant and unmarried woman was a source of embarrassment and shame. Often an unmarried mother went to what were then called maternity homes, gave birth there, and only returned home after the child had been taken from her and given to a family she knew little about.

The situation is very different today. Somewhat ironically, the stigma today is on placing a child for adoption. For some reason this is viewed as "selfish." And yet, this makes no sense. Selfish? How can something be selfish if it is in the best interest of everyone concerned? Certainly the child benefits by having more opportunities; the birth mother benefits by having more time, energy, and funds to devote to future endeavors; the adoptive parents benefit by having a special person in their lives; and society in general profits because there are fewer children suffering from the physical trauma and emotional scarring that so often accompanies abuse.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition Subcommittee for Adoption has chosen as their slogan, "adOPTION, The Unselfish Option. It is our hope that we can change the perception regarding the "selfishness" of adoption. But before we can do this, we must dispel a two commonly held beliefs. The first is that love is a finite commodity. Years ago, someone gave me a plaque that reads, "Love Is Contagious. We Get It From One Another." I've often reflected on the wisdom of this saying. Certainly those in life who give the most are the ones who reap the rewards and have an abundance of friends.

The second misconception is that children belong to their parents. In truth, none of us belongs to anyone other than ourselves and perhaps to God. Yes, parents are children's legal guardians until those children reach a certain age but in present society children can and often do have more than one set of parents and children can never get too much love.

As we recognize National Adoption month, all of us can do our part in encouraging women who find themselves with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy to consider adoption. By doing so we make society and our community a better place.