16 and Pregnant and its responsibility to present adoption as an option

MTV aired a special episode of it’s TV show “16 and Pregnant” focused on adoption on Tuesday, and I was pleasantly surprised with the seriousness with which it presented the topic. I was especially impressed with one of the teenage mothers, Katelyn, and her boyfriend Tyler.

Katelyn and Tyler were on the first season of “16 and Pregnant” and currently star in MTV’s show “Teen Mom” which follows some of the “16 and Pregnant” mothers after birth. Katelyn and Tyler made an adoption plan in their season, and have taken advantage of their “celebrity” status to speak to teens about pregnancy and adoption.

Katelyn and Tyler have a semi-open relationship with their daughter’s birth parents, and the two families have visited on a few occasions. The adoption special showed footage of Katelyn and Tyler making an adoption plan, choosing parents for their daughter, signing the surrender papers, and also being present for the placement.

I thought it was truly fascinating to see the emotions of everyone involved as it was happening, and I’m sure many people who were watching the show and have never been touched by adoption, learned a great deal from watching these experiences.

Maybe the most interesting part of the show was watching Katelyn sit next to Ashley, another teenage mother on “16 and Pregnant” who made an adoption plan on the show. Ashley decided to have her aunt and uncle adopt her daughter and continually said throughout the show that if she could, she would take her child back. It was heartbreaking to watch Ashley cry and have all of these emotions on national TV, but what was great was watching Katelyn comfort her, and tell her that these thoughts and feelings were ok, and that she was not a bad person or selfish person for making an adoption plan.

I appreciated that MTV didn’t attempt to present adoption as an easy choice and showed the grief that birth mother’s will go through during the post-adoption process. Dr. Drew, who was hosting the show, made a valid observation when he said to Ashley “To my eye, what differentiates you from Katelyn is you don’t have the support.” Adoption STAR believes that support and education are vital for everyone involved in the adoption process, and has support groups for birth parents, adoptive parents and adult adoptees.

After speaking with the teenage mothers who made adoption plans, the show brought out Katelyn’s and Tyler’s adoption counselor, Dawn. Dawn understood that because of the MTV show Katelyn and Tyler could become role models to other teenage parents and made sure that Katelyn and Tyler understood this as well.

Dawn also stressed the importance of positive adoption language, which I thought was very important for the show. She said “There is language that is passive and language that is active. Putting a child up for adoption or giving a child up, that’s an action of something we no longer want or we are sending out like old clothes. With a child, you make a thoughtful plan for their life. You plan out what their future is going to be, whether it is with you or with someone else that you feel can better provide for them at this time.”

There were a lot of heartfelt and heartbreaking moments during the hour-long episode.