Find My Family on ABC hit it out of the ball park last night with their half-hour reunion show. Yep, it milked the strong emotions that surround the reunion of first/original/birth/genetic/biological parents with their offspring. Yep, I got glassy eyed, and so did the co-host, Tim Green, who met with the birth parents, Sandy and Scott Steinpas, and told them their daughter had been found. "I've waited so long for this," says the mother, Sandy. "I was sure I would always look for my daughter." She was sixteen at the time she gave birth and relinquished; her boyfriend and the father, Scott, was sixteen also. The year was 1979. They married two years later and had two more daughters and a son.
Sandy says she had been looking for her first child for nine years, only to hit a dead end. Yet our intrepid friend and search angel in Wisconsin, Mary Weilding,* found the daughter, Jenny Jones, now a 29-year-old single mother, living in the same town, Brookfield, Wisconsin, a mere eight miles away. Okay, I've seen a lot of reunion shows in my day, and the coming together, the feelings unleashed, never fail to raise a tear.
The reunion takes place--as it appears all will in Find My Family--under a huge tree on a hill. Symbolism, anyone? Family tree, roots, all that. As the parents walk towards their daughter, Tim Green, a reunited adoptee himself, says: "Every adopted person's dream is to be found."
And that's when I said: Hooray! Maybe this will be heard by legislators who are against giving adopted people their original birth records; maybe this will be heard by people who think it's wrong for a birth mother to find her child; maybe this will be heard by people who think it is unloyal somehow for a person to search out his or her roots, parents, family, when it is a most natural desire of consciousness.
Those who say they are not interested or do not wish to search for their biological parents, I think, are subverting their natural instincts, that is, to know who they are, who they were before they were adopted, who they were when they were born. And those adopted people who say, She gave me away, why should I be interested? They are only covering up a huge hurt in their heart they are afraid to acknowledge because to do so is too painful--and what if the birth mother (or father) indeed is not interested? Fear can keep you from finding the truth. I was afraid, oh so afraid, when I searched for my daughter. What if she did not want to meet me? Happily, she did and we had a relationship (that had its low points, to be sure) for more than a quarter of a century until she died in 2007.
The show continues with the entire family sitting under the tree as the first/birth/etc. parents read letters they have written to their daughter. More tears. Hugs. Later the two sets of parents--birth and adoptive--meet back in Wisconsin, and Sandy thanks the adoptive mother for taking such good care of their daughter. I know that some found this simple act irritating, but I did not. Birth mother Sandy thanks the adoptive introduced as "Mom"--from a position of strength: it is a vivid acknowledgment of all concerned that Sandy is the mother (no qualifier necessary) who gave birth to this person standing before them. And the gesture recognizes that the other mother is the Mom who raised her. When I "thanked" my daughter's adoptive parents, at least the mother brushed it aside and was visibly annoyed: What gave me the right to thank them? It was much too presumptive of me to "thank" them. Thanking them presumed that Jane was "my" daughter, that I had a "right" to thank them.
Although some people in adoption do not like these kinds of shows, I say, Bring 'em on! Every show about adoptee/birth mother/father reunions is worth doing because it illuminates the cruel and unusual punishment of adoption as practiced in most states of the union today--42 to be exact. Forty-two states still strip a person of his or her identity when he or she is adopted, and never give it back.
We at First Mother Forum rail against sealed records--for both the adopted person and the birth/first mother--but we know the general public most often thinks that the records have long been open. Every time I strike up a conversation with a stranger on a plane or train and tell them where I am going and what I am doing when it's adoption related, they are amazed that all adopted people can not get their original birth records merely for the asking. Yes, it is a miscarriage of justice at the deepest level, and the legislators who sit on their votes and do nothing are guilty of perpetuating this great and sorrowful injustice.
So I will be a huge fan of Find My Family when ABC gives it a regular time slot. Last night's program was a preview; there are five more shows ready to be aired. Yes, it appears to be a ripoff of The Locator on WEtv, but this will get a greater viewership and perhaps change more opinions about the need to reconnect with one's natural/birth parents. A quick look at the discussion boards on the ABC site shows that many people are posting about wanting to be found, as well as a lot of people kvetching mightily about the show--and the great damage it will do to adoption as we know it. In fact, Find My Family generated a lot of upset kvetching from adoptive parents over at Rainbow Kids blog, ** even before it ran, and you can be sure they will be asking ABC to not run the rest of the episodes.
We know that in the glow of reunion all is swell, and that anger, hurt and outright rejection can emerge in the aftermath. It's happened so many times it certainly is a statistical probability; but still, the questions have been answered, the gnawing doubts put to rest. Even when my daughter took a time-out and decided not to speak to me for months at a time, I was still better knowing what had happened, who she was, where she was. And then she would call and we would pick up like we had never been estranged.
Let's hope that Find My Family builds a big audience and furthers the fight to make adopted people full and complete citizens with rights just like the rest of us. If adoptive parents really cared for the well-being of their children, they would be with us, fighting for open records. Alas, their numbers are few.
If you missed last night's episode of Find My Family, here is a link to the whole episode.
* Contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org
** For more on the RainbowKids and fear of Find My Family, see Osolomama.
It's a different story over at The Huffington Post, Read Peggy Drexler's rahrah adoption column and gag. An adoption agency worker is hardly the person to quote on the health and well-being of adopted people, but that's who Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell Medical School quotes. She ought to know better, Cornell no less. But that's a topic for tomorrow.
Have a good night y'all. Turkey day two days away. I'll be baking pies, with crust from scratch.--lorraine