Demons in Adoption

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Adoption, It Seems, Is Everywhere, coming to a screen near you


Friday night I happened to catch the opening scenes of a cop show called Flashpoint...and saw that the cops with big guns and even bigger cars (wearing bullet proof vests, no less) were chasing a young couple with a baby. The young woman was cradling the baby, the young man was calling him Owen...and I thought, "It's a story about a young couple who stole their baby back from the very nice adoptive parents. Shoot 'em!"

Right. Baby was two months old, they had missed the cutoff date for changing your mind by a couple of weeks...story ends with the biological father's suicide (just like his daddy, after his mother died, and he was raised in unhappy foster homes) and the happy rich adoptive couple (father says he is a lawyer, natch, their house is very big) ends up back with the baby, the natural mother presumably in the hands of the police. Could we fast forward to twenty years?

Next day, I heard an NPR story ostensibly about judging a book by its cover, but turned out to be an interview with a young woman (well, she was 27) in Seattle who was choosing among the piles of letters she had received from couples and women who wanted to adopt her forthcoming baby. Her fiance died, she got pregnant after a short fling with but did not want to marry him or otherwise have him in her life...so, adoption story number two. Could we fast forward fifteen years?

I hit a trifecta: The next day I got an email about a new series on WE starting this fall called Adoption Diaries...press release here: http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20090731we01 Can we fast forward five years and show the well-adjusted, happy birth mothers?

And there is another show on one of the cable channels called: Pregnant at Sixteen, with the adoption-themed segment (done in conjunction with the adoption-as-the-best-outcome-for single-women Mormons). This is the show that several of us active in adoption reform were contacted for when it was being made. I could not bear to watch. There is only so much I will put up with, and this looks mawkish beyond belief.

WE is also where the channel where we watch (usually by DVD) The Locator (see our previous post here) where searcher Troy Dunn finds people who have been separated, often by adoption, season three starting in September. On a recent show that reunited two brothers, the birth mother had refused to meet her first son, but his younger brother decided to initiate the search and reconnect, even without her blessing. Dunn said that this was also the case with his mother, who had been adopted at birth. Troy found her mother, but the woman refused to meet her; some time later, she was contacted (and warmly accepted) by a brother.

And apparently The English American by adoptee Alison Larkin has been picked up and will be a sitcom sometime in the future. Ought to be a million laughs, with a nutty irresponsible birth mother and proper English adoptive mother. Oy vey, I can feel the laughter burbling up.

Then of course, we have the adoption story line on Brothers and Sisters and the numerous times it shows up on Law & Order, all three varieties; and many a medical show where medical histories are missing, such as House. Apparently the world can't get enough of adoption stories.

Let us not forget the brouhaha over the movie Orphan.

It includes the line (I'm paraphrasing here so don't kill me if I have it few words off): It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as one as your own. It seems that a whole lot of people are screaming that Orphan will set back adoption, and mark adoptees as crazy killers, and there has been a petition, and a lot of media attention. Here is a snippet from pressofatlanticcity.com:

Among those signing [the anti-Orphan petition] was Jedd Medefind of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. His group has launched a Web site - OrphansDeserveBetter.org - featuring a petition urging Warner Bros. to add a pro-adoption message at the end of the film and to donate a portion of box-office receipts to aid orphans.

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, suggested Warner Bros. could improve matters by helping produce educational materials about the value of adoption.

"It has been a long time since a movie caused this much angst and worry in the adoption, foster-care and orphan-care communities, even before its release," Pertman said.


Obviously, the way we were portrayed as a group in Juno caused not so much angst and worry, because--hey, we're not good people anyway. We are the sluts who give away our babies.

Where were these people when Juno was such a hit? Where was the anti-Juno sentiment when we were subjected to a movie that portrayed birth mothers as a hip-talking teenagers who barely gave a fig that they were about to give up their babies to cool white women in swell houses? Why are adoptive parents typically portrayed as good, worthy people who of course deserve to have that baby at the center of the plot because obviously, they will give him or her a much better life than the first mother ever could? This of course was the subset theme of the long-running Baby Jessica De Boer/Anna Schmidt real life story. And twenty years later, Juno.

Everyone loved Juno (see earlier post), it ended up with an damn Oscar for best screenplay, adding insult to injury.

Where was the objection when Juno was released? Was it our fault that we didn't raise the objection ourselves, get a petition going, write to the movie maker and storm hip stripper-turned screenwriter Diablo Cody's house? Uh, well, yes.

But we first mothers are not an active lobby group, many of us are still hiding in the closet, and we don't have an active lobby of adoptive parents (and they are organized) to stand up for us. We are just the women who gave them our children, and a whole lot of those parents want us off the stage.

Besides, lots of people still want to think that we are Juno's sisters. Dammit, I'm not.

26 comments :

  1. We NEED an active lobby group. These shows make me sick. I watched the 16 and pregnant episode where the grandmother won't sign the adoption agreement for the daughter (she is 16) so they have to go off hospital grounds to sign it. I was so upset after, I just cried. I was actually sitting there yelling at the TV saying don't do it, don't do it. I decided after that to stop watching these shows all together. Too triggering.
    Hugs! Kristy

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  2. An active lobby group would be a blessing to the adoptees in this country. Every single time that the politicians claim "privacy" of birth parents, etc., they could be effectively SHUT DOWN.

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  3. Last Friday the show that preceded the story about the baby Owen was Ghost Whisper - it was about a mother, her husband, the daughter she raised and - the son she placed for adoption and then found as a young man. She helped him through his troubles as a young man. She never told him or anyone in the family that he was her son and then she died leaving many questions. The show actually put a good message out to the viewers on how the secrets created by adoption are damaging and that birth parents do care about their children.

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  4. This is part of the "orphan care" movement that the fundies are deep into. Their already large propaganda machine can crank itself up at lightning speed when such situations arise. They continue to quote the misleading "145 million orphans" number and they have zero awareness of adoption corruption. That's because they start out with the assumption that adoption is God's work. Also, their "facts" about orphans on the orphansdeservebetter website are all positive. No mention whatsoever of adoption issues or dysphoria. For them, it doesn't exist.

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  5. I have only one question regarding the idea of getting an active lobby group together....What is stopping us? I am up for it. Anyone else got the stones? If you do write me - its easy - moiraaerin@gmail.com.

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  6. I have a problem with lobby groups or protests about movies, books, TV or the arts. These things are fiction, creative efforts to sometimes portray real life, but they are not life and they are not law.

    I am actually glad we did not have the kind of protests and political involvement around Juno that adoptive parents stirred up around Orphan, because that kind of protest is just more publicity for the movie, and does not have the effect of causing people not to see it or the studio or producer not to make money on it. In fact, it probably fattens their purse if anything.

    Juno was last year, is it even remembered now except by us? Orphan was last month, soon to fade from view and mind. TV shows are forgotten even before the last commercial.

    Lobby politicians, yes! Write letters and articles and reviews critical of bad movies that paint a skewed picture. But protesting or picketing or boycotting movies just make the people doing it look stupid. Did the people who got so hysterical over that grade B horror flick Orphan really look good after the fact?

    Trying to get politicians and laws to say what is or is not politically correct in any of the arts comes too close to censorship for me, even when the movie is one I would hate and never see, like Juno. We need serious political lobbyists, not movie nannies.

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  7. Lorraine,

    Thanks for the summary. I don't have tv, but of course have come adoption references to all of the shows that you've cited. I really wonder how this impacts my "youngish" son's view of adoption. I mean, really if he was warned off of hanging out losers - why would he want to know me? His adoptive parents have painted me in a not so nice light all of these years and then, wa-la, here you have "proof" thanks to Hollywood, that your mother is indeed pretty awful! Yikes. Is it any wonder some of our reunion relationships don't go anywhere?

    Evil "birth"mother,
    Carol

    PS: It would have been more humane for the birthmother in that movie to have been shot than "just go to jail" where of course, she is getting her dues. Death might have elicited some feeling of empathy.

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  8. Adoption is in so many damn tvshows it makes the hairs on my nec kstand up.

    But do you know why ?

    Because people love drama and misery..

    Says a lot really about adoption doesnt it !

    Im so tired of adoptees being shown as psychopathic nutters as well :(

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  9. I'm not into trying to get TC shows kicked off the air or shutting down movies It's a christo-fascist tactic or just a fascist tactic depending on what the subject is. There's a long history of this stuff and none of the boycotters look good.

    I love crappy adoption stuff myself, especially when it's the do-gooders with who get their socks in a wad.

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  10. Maryanne asked, "Juno was last year, is it even remembered now except by us?" It is - crazy a$$ Jean Schmidt (R-OH) keeps trying to promote a "Juno Bill" to encourage adoption. Life imitating so-called art.

    And the movie is now in heavy rotation on HBO. Movies live forever in the world of movie channels and cable re-runs.

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  11. Is Juno forgotten? Fat chance. It was hugely popular and I personnaly know some people who asked me if it was like that when I gave up my son.

    I don't think Lorraine was suggesting that we needed to picket Juno, or have had a petition against it, but that the comment of Pertman about it being the only movie of recent years that caused anguish was the problem. Not one word was raised anywhere about Juno not being a realistic portrayal of giving up a child. It just got great reviews and then..the Oscar.

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  12. BD:love adoption stories too where the aparents get their knickers twisted but it happens way too often that the birth parents are presented as losers. and the a-parents are rich, smart, kind, etc.

    that's what make me sick.

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  13. Anon said (about Juno):

    "Not one word was raised anywhere about Juno not being a realistic portrayal of giving up a child."

    I think that is the strongest point to be made--it captures neither the true event nor the true emotions involved. That would also be legitimate film criticism. I heard some naysayers but (present company excepted) they dismissed the film as 100% trash and blathered on about "irresponsible role models".

    Movies aren't here to give us role models. BTW, my daughter loved Juno but just refused to see Orphan with a friend because the premise of the film did upset her. They can't get in anyway because it's 14A but the subject was still debated.

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  14. Oops, I meant TV, not TC.

    For clarification, I'm all in favor of getting certain classes of aparents and the adoption industry all het up. But I realy support getting liberals all het up. Adopta liberals and do-gooders are the real enemy.

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  15. From the Evan B.Donaldson Newsletter, re Juno:

    MOVIE `JUNO’ CONTINUES TO SPARK DISCUSSION, CONTROVERSY ON ADOPTION
    Responses to the movie Juno continue to spark discussion on issues related to teenage pregnancy, the realities of adoption today, and the promotion of adoption as an option. “Movies Open Door for Adoption Advocates,” by Wendy Koch, in the March 9 USA Today, reports that Juno and another movie, Bella, have provided a backdrop for efforts to increase the number of single women who place infants for adoption, such as the media campaign launched this month by the National Council for Adoption.

    “Does ‘Juno’ Show Strength or Glorify Teen Pregnancy?” in the same USA Today issue, raises concerns about the impact of pregnancy and parenting on the lives of adolescent girls and acknowledges that many teens are able to parent successfully; a similar article, “The Juno Syndrome: Are Teenage Mums Bad News?” appeared in the London Times on March 11. Other responses to Juno include an op-ed article by the filmmaker Jean Strauss, “In Juno, Adoption Pain Is Left on Cutting Room Floor,” in USA Today on March 18; and an article by Susan Bomalaski, an adoption social worker, in the Anchorage Daily News, on March 9. Both of these commentaries contrast Juno’s presentat
    ion with the realities of current adoptions.

    Several reader responses on the USA Today site reference the Adoption Institute’s study on birthparent issues. To access the March 9 articles in USA Today, go to: http://www.usatoday.com; to access the Strauss op-ed, go to: http://blogs.usatoday.com/; to access the London Times article, go to: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/; the Institute’s study is available at: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/

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  16. And there's more (but not nearly enough):
    BIRTHMOTHERS EXPRESS CONCERN ABOUT DEPICTION OF ADOPTION IN ‘JUNO’
    In a Feb. 21 article in the Chicago Tribune, “The Trouble with Juno” by Nara Schoenberg, birthmothers expressed concern about the movie’s view of the choices and consequences faced by pregnant teens. The teen-pregnancy comedy represents a fantasy vision of adoption, they say, not the gut-wrenching reality. Many birthmothers interviewed were troubled that the movie glosses over the difficult aspects, doesn't show an adoption agency providing help and support, and portrays the heroine as wanting to sever all ties with her first-born child. The article refers to a 2006 report by the Adoption Institute pointing out that several studies indicate birthmothers who had contact with the adoptive family after placement had lower levels of grief and regret. To read the article, go to http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/. To read the Institute’s paper “Safeguarding the Rights and Well-being of Birth Parents in the Adoption Process,” go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/research/

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  17. Lorraine and friends, I stand corrected on Juno's influence:-)It seems it it still kicking around and being used to promote surrender, hopefully with very little success.I think I read somewhere that NCFA and associates were hoping for a "Juno effect" of lots of surrenders influenced by the movie that did not happen.

    So yeah, I guess we do have to keep making some noise about nasty media portrayals like this, And Osolo raises a good point I had not thought of, that "concerned" adoptive parents never care how birthparents are portrayed, even when they are shown as monsters.

    As an aside...I wish Tennessee Williams had written an adoption story. I think only he could do justice to the tragedy and air of gothic horror in so many of our real-life tales:-)

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  18. I would think there is definetly a place for a lobbying group of mothers who reliquished.
    As a group you are infantilized and shamed by the state's propagation that you are helpless and in need of their protection.

    What other group of adults is treated like that?

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  19. Maryanne, I think it was Anon's comment, and a good one.

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  20. One way to get attention is to be in the movies. Here's a thought - how about getting our collective voices together and, along with help from folks like Ann Fessler, figure out how to put together a documentary about the "girls who went away" and then "came back." Often we are portrayed as "evil" birthmothers who abandoned their children and left them to be raised by strangers! In most cases, this isn't the truth and the stories (and there are many) need to be told.

    Gail

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  21. Yes, adoption story lines appear more and more frequently on TV and on the movies lately. And usually portraying nmoms as idiot sluts and aparents as angelic and deserving. That's the popular view and I wouldn't hold my breath for anything more real or truthful.

    I'm pretty sure that lobbyists cost money, as in you hire them to defend your case, kinda like attorneys. If only all the first mother and adoptee groups could agree instead of fighting and blaming, and join together to get one. Again, I wouldn't hold my breath. Look at how slowly the open records movement has moved after all these years.

    Pro-adoption groups and aparents are already in there, with the big bucks, influencing the federal and state governments, to keep the adoption and sealed records ball rolling.

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  22. A video is being made about this topic, here is the link:-

    http://originsusa.memberlodge.org/Default.aspx?pageId=245945

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  23. Have you seen the series "Harper's Island"?
    I hadn't until my husband and I watched the last two episodes together.
    I guess in every episode, two or three of the characters get killed.
    The big twist ends up being that one of the murderers is...wait for it...ADOPTED!!!!
    And he's so pissed that as he said his "mom pawned him off on strangers" that he becomes blood thirsty and kills most of his friends and family.
    I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
    Where are the protesters for that one?

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  24. An age-old plot device,
    started with Oedipus Rex...Tom Jones...
    but yikes, it's coming at us 24/7.

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  25. There will be no protests over Harper's Island because nobody gives a sh*t about adult adoptees. We're commodities that have served their purpose and put out on the curb like used appliances.

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  26. The loss of a child is an unalterable event that changes the path of parenthood forever. Adoption is the loss of a child and it is not always recognized as such. It is not a small loss if there is such a thing; rather, it is a hugely significant and enormous loss for all parties of the triad. For a variety of reasons, it is not treated as a loss in the same sense and/or manner as other child-loss events (e.g., miscarriage, kidnapping, death). Yet, the resulting stressful effects present themselves similarly in response to the toll that is taken upon the parent(s) and significant others. So, does losing a child to adoption make one sick? While a causal relationship may or may not exist, qualitative evidence in the form of testimonials suggests that there is a link. What this means is there’s a correlation. Stress is an inevitable outcome. The defining variable, imo, relates to how the stress is managed.

    Gail

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