The film "Juno" stars Ellen Page as the high school junior, Juno MacGuff, who decides to place her child in an open adoption. Juno considers abortion but changes her mind after visiting a women's clinic. She chooses an adoptive couple then returns to her life and a happy ending. In addition to being nominated for four Oscars, the movie is opening the eyes of many teens to the possibilities in adoption.
Teens today have no idea what the adoption option really entails and so many completely dismiss the possibilities before they even get answers. The media has been filled with stories of reunions, and regrets that teens (and even their parents) often see adoption as something that tears families apart. That couldn't be further from the truth.
While the movie is not without stereotypes, the message still comes through: that a teen cannot support a child as she is still a child herself, and adoption is the best answer for all. In the movie, Juno is a very independent, clear minded young woman and shows that a strong person can make tough decisions. Juno is funny and warm and you can't help but like her by the end of the movie. This is exactly the kind of role model that can help get other teens to look more closely at the decision ahead of them.
In the 60's, over 90% of teen pregnancies resulted in an adoption arrangement. Today, the pendulum has swung and less than 10% of teens choose this option, due much to the negative publicity of closed adoptions but also because there are more options available to help them to parent. However, while it used to be taboo to be an unwed teen mother, in today's society it is considered taboo for teens to consider adoption. So it is not unusual for many teens to avoid gathering information on adoption at all. The fact that the pendulum has swung so drastically in the opposite direction tells us that we are still not at a place where teens are making informed decisions based on what is best for them, but rather they are still caught in a trend.
The goal would be for every pregnant teen to explore both sides of the issue: parenting and adoption. The answer should be individual to them and their lives. If this were being done the percentages would most likely level off somewhere in the middle, rather than get stuck in extremes. So, as counselors and parents, what can we do to help our teens avoid the trends and find their own path?
The movie Juno can help. It is very difficult for teens to envision the future, with or without their child. It is also very difficult for them to take advice from adults, they are eager to be independent of this influence. By providing them with another teen they can look to and learn from we can begin to break these barriers. Seeing Juno in the movie as someone who is strong, independent and makes an informed choice for her child gives teens someone they can relate to and understand. Once this door is opened, it will become easier to counsel the teen and provide more information.
The movie does not show the grief a birthmother experiences, or how a birthmother and adoptive parents who are virtual strangers can come to a place where they feel more like family. This is where counselors and parents need to go the next step and provide this information.
Experts agree that the path to no regrets in a teen pregnancy is to explore both parenting and adoption before making a choice. The movie Juno is a wonderful resource for opening this discussion with teens. It shows one person's story. It does not push adoption, nor should it be used to do this. But it does portray that an individual has choices, and that when all options are explored a happy ending can be found.
It's time to get teens out of the trends and onto a path of individual success, or for now, into the movie theater!