On Saturday, “Teen Mom” Reality TV stars Tyler Baltierra, 21, and Catelynn Lowell, 20, spoke at Fresno State’s Satellite Student Union to promote open adoption. They shared their own story of teenage pregnancy and adoption.
Infant of Prague Adoption Service, a local and full-service adoption agency, sponsored Baltierra’s and Lowell’s visit to Fresno State.
“Our mission is to provide comprehensive counseling to both birth-parents facing an unintended pregnancy and adoptive families wishing to build their family through adoption,” said executive director Stephanie Grant said.
Along with connecting birth parents who choose to keep their babies with various parenting resources, the service guides birth-parents through the process of open adoption. Open adoption allows birth mothers and fathers to stay in contact with their child through social media, phones calls and in-person activities.
“Open adoption really is a very healthy option that is a win-win for everyone involved,” said social work practitioner Ashley Phelan.
At the young age of 16, Baltierra and Lowell faced the shock and struggles of an unintended pregnancy. Surrounded by a chaotic family life and unstable home, the pair chose to plan for adoption despite opposition from their family members.
Although Baltierra and Lowell did not work with Infant of Prague Adoption Service through their adoption plan, they worked with a similar adoption agency in their Michigan hometown.
Within the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno County has some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies. Often, teenagers and young adults are not aware of adoption as an alternative option, Phelan said.
Through Baltierra’s and Lowell’s story, Infant of Prague was hoping to educate the community on open adoption.
“We want to educate the community about the beauty of open adoption so that others can be supportive of their friends or relatives who make an adoption plan,” Phelan said.
Coming from a family of teenage mothers, Lowell wanted to give her daughter something more than what her grandma gave Lowell’s mother and what Lowell’s mother gave Lowell.
“Coming from the chaos of our family, I always looked at my mom, and he [Tyler] always looked at his dad, as people we were not going to be like,” Lowell said.
Before deciding to make a plan of adoption, Baltierra and Lowell discussed the pros and cons of parenting and the pros and cons of adoption.
The couple chose open adoption because it gave their daughter, Carly a life she deserved — a life her teenage birth-parents could not give her.
Birth-parents who decide to make a plan of adoption look beyond personal needs and loss in order to give their child a life that they cannot provide at the time, Grant said.
“Birth-parents who make a plan of adoption are courageous and loving,” she said.
Over the past four years, Baltierra and Lowell have spoken at high schools, colleges and universities about teenage pregnancy and open adoption.
Hoping to have a family of their own someday, the couple is now engaged, planning a summer 2013 wedding. Both Baltierra and Lowell are now enrolled in college.
Lowell plans to major in social work and become a pregnancy counselor and Baltierra also plans to major in social work, in effort to aid at-risk youth.
Along with educating the Fresno State community, the No. 1 message Baltierra and Lowell wanted the audience to hear was that adoption is not like it was several decades ago.
“If you have an unintended pregnancy and if you are the birth mom, you can choose all that you want for your child,” Lowell said. “It is all up to you.”