By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor


Research points the way

Are schools doing enough to portray adoption as a viable option for the pregnant student? The prime Canadian researchers in the field, Daly and Sobol, concluded that schools are doing nothing of the sort—they don’t teach about adoption and consequently single mothers choose parenting or abortion.

1,377 students surveyed

In September 1990 the federal Department of Health and Welfare chose Kerry J. Daly, PhD and Michael P. Sobol, PhD (now Michael Grand), of the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario to study adoption in Canada. Their mandate: examine key adoption trends; review legislation and policy; analyze how adoption services are delivered; and explore the factors in pregnancy decision-making.

Daly and Sobol surveyed 355 public and private service providers, 1,377 high school students, 373 of their parents, and 603 doctors and counsellors. Their 167-page report—the National Adoption Study—was published in May 1993. There has been no research since then which paints such a detailed picture of adoption in Canada.

The Daly/Sobol study gave these reasons for the drop in the number of infants available for domestic adoption:

• More support services for parenting and less stigma attached to single parenthood.

• Schools do not teach about adoption. Pregnant young women have little or no knowledge of placement procedures, legal rights and openness options.

• Parents of the students interviewed by Daly and Sobol thought adoption served the infant’s best interest. However, they believed adoption to have immediate and long-term negative emotional consequences for the birthmother and tended not to advise it.

• Most single pregnant women (60%) now prefer to raise their child, despite the financial hardship and disruption of education and social life. They view adoption as having emotionally traumatic consequences. Abortion is also a declining choice—students interviewed were very negative on abortion, judging it to be immoral, emotionally difficult and risky for the health. Here is how single women decided when they found they were pregnant:

Decision about pregnancy (single women under 25)

  1981 1989
Chose abortion 33,577 (49%) 29,246 (38%)
Chose to raise child    31,657 (46%)     46,234 (60%)
Chose adoption 3,521 (5%) 1,730 (2%)
Total 68,755 (100%) 77,210 (100%)    

Who are the 2% who chose adoption? Typically they are: single; 15 to 19; caucasian; Protestant (46%) or Catholic (29%); not in school (43%) or in senior high (32%); and living with their parents. They say the main reason for placing the child for adoption is that they are too young or haven’t enough money to raise the child. The birthfather is not in the picture: only 10% of the adoption facilitators interviewed said the birthfather was involved in the decision.

The Daly/Sobol study recommended enhanced public education about adoption as a pregnancy resolution alternative.

Teaching the choices

In September 1996 I asked Michael Sobol if he had any comments on the teacher’s guide to adoption I was preparing.

I think his comments then are still relevant today. His reply touched on involving the birthparent, on private agencies and on why teens don’t choose adoption:

“One issue that does come to mind is that of the various options that fall under the guise of an open adoption. It is not simply a matter of whether the birth parent meets the applicants. Other important choices are available such as continuing contact either directly or through an intermediary, exchange of identifying information, etc. All of these factors contribute to a sense of personal agency in the placement. There is also some evidence that the more involved the birth parent is in the placement and the ongoing life of the child, the more positive is her response to the placement decision. Some of these issues are addressed in a paper that Kerry and I wrote for the Journal of Social Issues in 1993.

“A second point is that birth parents ought to be aware that they have several sources to use to facilitate an adoption. Most think only of Children’s Aid. Few are aware of the more liberal practices followed by private facilitators. The fact that more birth moms place through private facilitators, in spite of the lack of publicity about this option, provides some support for the conclusion that a larger proportion of pregnancies are carried through to placement using private than public facilitators.

“Finally, in planning a curriculum about adoption, it is important to note that, contrary to the common understanding, we found that teens were not opposed to adoption as a response to an unplanned pregnancy. In fact, most viewed it quite positively. The reasons they did not use it as an option for resolving the situation were primarily twofold. First, they had no idea how to go about bringing about an adoption—abortion and especially parenting were much more evident. Second, they needed social support for the decision, especially from parents and partner. Without this support they were much more willing to choose one of the other options.”
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper,


ONE—Many ways to make a family
TWO—Many ways to create a child
THREE—Biased class assignments ... and how to fix them
FOUR—Teaching the language of adoption
FIVE—How to introduce adoption in elementary school
SIX—Answers for the pregnant student
SEVEN—A suggested classroom presentation
EIGHT—Research points the way
NINE—Adoption resources for teachers and students
TEN—Glossary: the ABCs of adoption
"Teacher's Guide to Adoption" by Robin Hilborn was published in print in Family Helper 45, "Adoption Goes to School", 2004, and online since Jan. 5, 2005.