Caseworker Jasmine was in a meeting with an adoptive family when Donna told her she needed to take this call. A hospital social worker was on the phone from North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville. She quickly briefed Jasmine on why she was calling, and the urgency at which she needed a response.
A teenage girl had just given birth, and she and her teenage boyfriend were terrified.
Nathan* and Chelsea* knew Chelsea was pregnant, but didn’t realize how far along she was. Neither of them had even told their parents she was pregnant, terrified of how they would react. When they were talking to the hospital social worker, the teen dad said, “We should ‘give him up’ for adoption.” The new teen mom agreed. They started asking the hospital social worker questions when she suggested they “talk to the experts” to make sure all of their questions were accurately answered. They agreed, and the social worker called CFS.
She asked some questions about the legality of it since Chelsea was only 15. Chelsea and Nathan were concerned they would need parental consent, which may cause an issue.
Jasmine explained that while CFS prefers to have parental consent for teen moms under the age of 16, Florida Law states a mom as young as 14-years-old has the right to choose adoption for her baby without parental consent.
Since Chelsea is a minor, the hospital was still required to contact her parents, because they have to discharge her to a legal guardian. Since they needed to contact her mom, Nathan decided it was time to tell his parents as well. The social worker helped him make that call and explain the situation, and they immediately left to head to the hospital. Unfortunately, Chelsea’s mom wasn’t returning the hospital’s calls, confirming to Chelsea she was right about her mom’s reaction. If she wasn’t willing to come for her daughter’s discharge, she felt it was extremely unlikely she would come to give her “permission” for the adoption, had it been required.
With her major question answered, the social worker then asked if and when we could come to the hospital to talk to them. She was shocked and extremely grateful when Jasmine told her she could be there in about 15 minutes. Jasmine quickly apologized to the adoptive family she was meeting with, but explained that since Jerry was out sick, she needed to leave immediately. The family, knowing birth parents are CFS’s priority, understood completely.
When Jasmine arrived, the social worker introduced her to Nathan and Chelsea before stepping out to give them privacy to talk. Right away, Jasmine could tell just how scared these new parents were and how much they were struggling with their decision. Chelsea was guarded and quiet, trying not to become too attached to their new son. Nathan was emotional and did most of the talking, as well as feeding, holding and caring for their baby boy.
Prior to talking about adoption, Jasmine explored the option of parenting with them. She asked what it was they truly wanted to do, and what it would take for them to parent this baby. What resources did they need and what family support did they need to make it happen? Both shared their desire to parent, but didn’t feel it was a viable or realistic option.
Nathan graduated high school in May and works full-time with a minimum wage salary; Chelsea is still in high school. Nathan recognized he doesn’t have the means to provide for his new family by himself. His parents don’t “come from money” either and have a limited income themselves. Even if they say they want to help out financially, Nathan says he doesn’t think it’s a possibility. He realizes want and can are two very different things. He also shared that he is an independent person, and doesn’t like asking or relying on others for help. And now, a father, he feels it is his responsibility to ‘step up’ and be the provider.
As a man and now father, Nathan feels conflicted about adoption. From his perspective, yes, adoption could give his child a great and wonderful life with loving and financially stable parents. However, he also sees it as “shirking his responsibility” and “passing his problem on to someone else.” Jasmine quickly validated his feelings, while also making sure he understood adoptive families don’t see it from that perspective at all, and certainly would not view either of them negatively for choosing adoption.
When asked what they knew about adoption, Nathan and Chelsea’s only “real” references were from movies. They didn’t know what it looked like in real life or how many options they had. They didn’t know the depth CFS goes to learn about and approve adoptive families on our list. They didn’t know the background checks, training, references and interviews the adoptive family has to go through. They didn’t know they could choose if they wanted a closed adoption, open adoption or semi-open adoption. They didn’t know they could choose the adoptive family, let alone meet them and have on-going communication with them.
With this new understanding, Jasmine began asking them what qualities and characteristics of an adoptive family would be important to them. She asked what sort of openness and communication would they want with the family, should they choose adoption. Nathan liked the idea of getting pictures and updates, but was unsure if he’d be able to emotionally handle that. Chelsea wanted to be friends with them on social media, so she could stay updated on not just their son, but the family’s life as well.
With their options discussed in detail, including community resources to parent and communication possibilities of adoption, Nathan and Chelsea were still very much on the fence. They were in crisis mode, trying to find which way was up. They said they were leaning towards adoption, but didn’t want to do any sort of initial paperwork yet, other than starting on the birth parent history. Chelsea said she could call her dad to help with their family medical history and Nathan could get help from his parents, who would be arriving soon.
Jasmine asked if they’d like to see adoptive family profiles, to help “get them off the fence” one way or the other. She explained that for most parents, this helps them to decide because one of two things happens. They see one family they are really drawn to, and get an inexplainable “gut” feeling they are who is suppose to raise their child. Or they look through the profiles, and feel more secure that they can and are meant to raise him themselves. Nathan and Chelsea both agreed, and asked to do this right away.
Jasmine told them she needed to briefly update the hospital social worker about this plan before going to the office to get appropriate profiles to show. She said she’d be back in about 45 minutes. As she was pulling in to the hospital parking lot just 30 minutes later, Jasmine received a text from Nathan and Chelsea. Nathan’s parents had arrived while Jasmine was gone, and assured them both they can and will help out however they need them to, including Chelsea moving in with them. They also talked to Chelsea’s mom, who was had “calmed down” from the initial shock, and was headed to the hospital as well. Nathan and Chelsea had the information and family support they needed to be able to parent.
Jasmine sent them her sincere congratulations, reminding them CFS is available should things not work out how planned. More importantly, she also reminded them that CFS is available to continue to help them find community resources available to help them. Nathan and Chelsea thanked Jasmine for all the information and her help.
The next morning, Jasmine text them to see if they were still at the hospital, as she had a gift she wanted to bring them. They said they were still there and were happy to have Jasmine come visit. They were so grateful to Jasmine, CFS and our donors, for supplying them with some new baby items to help get them started. As a Gator fan and teenage boy, Nathan especially liked the Gator onesie and men’s deodorant! 😆
As Jasmine told them goodbye and wished them luck again, Nathan stood up to give her a hug. He thanked her for not just the gifts, but for all her help. He thanked her for giving them the education needed to make an informed decision. He thanked her for the community resources she referred them to. He thanked her for her offer of continued support.
He thanked her for not pressuring them into choosing adoption.
Christian Family Services is dedicated to giving parents considering adoption ALL the information available so that THEY can make the best choice for them. CFS is first and foremost a ministry to birth parents. We know adoption is not the right choice for everyone. We know our job is to educate so parents can make an informed decision. We know pressuring birth parents into choosing adoption is detrimental to them, their child and even the adoptive family. CFS is proud of Nathan and Chelsea for Choosing Life. CFS is also proud and amazed at how maturely Nathan and Chelsea handled this extremely scary and stressful situation. It takes an extreme amount of love and courage to get all the information available and to even consider adoption. They were in crisis mode, but handled themselves with a maturity beyond their years. As they embark on this new journey of parenting, CFS will continue to pray for and support them however possible and however they need.
If you’re pregnant in Ocala, Gainesville, Tallahassee or Jacksonville, just gave birth or are already parenting and want to learn more about adoption, a CFS caseworker is available to talk to you 24/7. We can answer your questions and give you the information needed to make an informed decision. We are here to educate and help you, not pressure you.
*Names changed for privacy.*