A question that comes up in the anti-adoption and family preservation camps is “Why don’t prospective adoptive parents give their money to expectant moms so they can keep their babies?”
The answer to that is really easy:
Prospective adoptive parents want to become adoptive parents, or, as we prefer to be called, parents. PAPs are pretty straightforward about that. Giving an expectant mother $30,000 doesn’t accomplish that goal. PAPs aren’t charities. They’re people who want to be parents.
Blog post over? Not so fast. There are other reasons why giving an expectant mother $30K to keep her baby is completely inappropriate.
Money Does Not Make a Person a Better Parent
The anti-adoption and family preservation camps love to say that: Money doesn’t make you a better parent. So, why would giving someone $30K make her a better parent? Because she’s biologically related to the child? Biology doesn’t make you a better parent either. (But that’s another post.) If I somehow got $30K right now, I would use it to pay back taxes and take my kids to Disneyland. Neither of these things makes me a better parent. Although, to be fair, Jackson would say I was the best mom ever for taking him to Disneyland.
Throwing Money at a Problem Doesn’t Solve It
Let’s say that you give a struggling expectant mom $30K. The first thing that happens is, she loses any government benefits she may be getting. Maybe that’s not important, because she has $30K. But while $30K seems to be an insane amount of money to spend on an adoption, it’s not easy to live on for even one year.
In many states, a person would have to make more than $30K to be able to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment – that is, to keep a two-bedroom apartment at 30% or less of their income. I checked a few different cities, including Kansas City, where Jackson was born, and the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is over $1K per month. Child care for one infant costs an average of anywhere from about $5K per year (MS) to $16K per year (MA). Many expectant mothers who are considering placing already have at least one other child. Remember, Jackson’s birthmom had one son when she placed Jackson, and Cassie’s birthmom has three older children. That’s more in child care. The average monthly food cost for a family of three (one mom and two kids) is $704. For two parents and one child, it’s $750. We don’t have anything for the baby factored in yet. We don’t have clothing, utilities, transportation, just to name a few of the monthly essentials. According to one website, the average cost of a baby’s first year is anywhere between $18K and $42K. A BabyCenter poll puts it around $10K.
And what happens when the $30K runs out?
The problem is, money isn’t the problem. The problem is what’s causing the lack of money. Usually, that’s a lack of education, combined with a lack of opportunities. If you’re a woman in her 20’s who does not have a high school diploma or GED, you already have 3 kids, and you live in an area with a high unemployment rate, you’re screwed. You need good schooling child care for the kids, while you go back to school, and somehow you’re supposed to pay for your monthly expenses. But you probably live in an area with failing schools, so your kids aren’t getting the educations they need to pull themselves out of the vicious cycle that is being poor.
Ultimately, what we, as a society, need to fund isn’t individual pregnant women, it’s schools, day care centers, and job training programs. We need to get certain politicians to stop paying lip service to “family values” and raise the minimum wage, guarantee paid maternity leave, and provide equal pay for women. Those are the problems.
Money Isn’t the Only Reason for Placing a Child for Adoption
While money is often one of the reasons for placing a child, it’s not the only reason, and sometimes, it isn’t even a reason at all. I highly recommend reading “If You Want to Help a Birth Mother” by Jill at The Happiest Sad. I love her blog.
There are women who could have made the decision to parent, who could have made parenting work, but who ultimately decided that that wasn’t in their best interests or the best interests of their children. There are women who are involved in abusive relationships. There are women who do not have partners and who firmly believe that children should be raised in two-parent families. There are women who are pursuing their educations and feel that now is not the time to parent. There are women who simply don’t want to parent. There are also women who have had children removed by social services in the past who are told, “You will make an adoption plan for this baby, or we will put this baby in foster care.” There are women who are addicted to drugs. There are teenagers who realize that they are not equipped to be mothers right now. There are women in jail who will be given the choice to place their children for adoption or have their children delivered into foster care.
Resources and Money Are Not the Same Thing
I do agree that a woman who wants to parent her child and is capable of parenting her child should be able to parent her child. I believe that too many adoption agencies are about the bottom line, and not about finding resources and support for pregnant women. But “resources” is not a code word for “money.” Resources include dependable child care; safe places to live; education, for parenting, job training, and personal fulfillment; jobs that allow mothers to be moms as well as workers; financial advice and planning (once you have money, you have to know what to do to keep it); and people who will be there to listen to you and give you sound advice.