I have followed Tyler and Catelynn of Teen Mom OG stardom since their story began on an episode of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. Eight years ago and at the age of 16, Catelynn and Tyler decided to make an adoption plan for their unborn child when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. With the guidance of an adoption agency, they selected a childless couple named Brandon and Teresa to adopt their soon-to-be daughter, who would be named Carly.
The two sets of parents have agreed on an open adoption including the exchange of photos and annual visits. This relationship is seen during the early seasons of Teen Mom and Teen Mom OG as Catelynn and Tyler grapple with life after placement and eventually go on to graduate from high school and get married. In early 2015 they give birth to a second daughter, who they parent.
If you have been watching the more recent seasons of Teen Mom OG, you are aware of the tension their open adoption relationship has been experiencing due to the unforeseen popularity of the reality show. Brandon and Teresa want to keep Carly out of the spotlight, but Catelynn and Tyler want to have a continued relationship with their daughter and share about her with their fans.
Tyler expressed displeasure with Carly’s adoptive parents requesting they stop talking about her on the show or on their personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, even going so far as to say he would be willing to pay the “ultimate cost.”
Their situation is certainly unique playing out in such a public way, but it still begs the question—as adoptive parents, how do we fairly decide what is in our children’s best interest?
Brandon and Teresa understandably do not want Carly’s image floating around the internet and social media (although the family did all appear on the cover of a Fall 2012 publication from their adoption agency). I do wonder what exactly they thought they were getting into, accepting a match knowing full well that Catelynn’s pregnancy and placement were being portrayed on the reality show 16 and Pregnant. No one could have anticipated the popularity Teen Mom has garnered, but to an extent they must have known what they were getting into.
Additionally, is it fair for adoptive parents to police the sharing of photos on social media, such as Facebook? This is a question that comes up regularly in the various adoptive parent support Facebook groups I am a part of.
My opinion? It depends. I can’t relate to the unique situation Brandon and Teresa are in, but I hesitate to establish rules that I would not follow myself. Our family is fine with our children’s birth parents sharing appropriate photos of our (and their) children on Facebook, because we do the same and we have no concerns for their safety.
By sharing Catelynn and Tyler’s adoption story, I believe MTV has done a wonderful job of portraying the complexities of adoption and the imbalance of power that occurs even within the healthiest open adoption. In one particularly emotional episode, Catelynn and Tyler sit down with their adoption social worker, Dawn, who reminds them of the agreement they made before Carly was born that stipulated visits would only occur at the discretion of the adoptive parents and only if deemed in Carly’s best interest.
Unfortunately this is the reality for many birth mothers who find out that their open adoption “agreement” is not legally binding, and are desperately relying on their child’s adoptive parents to keep their word regarding contact.
No one can know what is truly happening within this relationship except for Brandon, Teresa, Tyler, and Catelynn. There has been no indication that either party intends to cut off communication. I know from personal experience that open adoption sometimes requires work, just like any other relationship.
What is abundantly clear, however, is the great love they all share for the same little girl. May Carly grow up knowing how sacrificially loved she is, by both sets of parents!
What do you think? Do you empathize with Catelynn and Tyler? Do you agree with the boundaries set by Brandon and Teresa?