' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption on the Today Show--Upbeat and glorious! But it could be worse

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Adoption on the Today Show--Upbeat and glorious! But it could be worse

"Choosing Adoption" segments running on Today this week in conjunction with National Adoption Month are what you'd expect: happy vignettes designed to reassure those seeking to adopt that, yes, you can get a baby and that openness and reunions can be positive. The segments ignore as much as possible those who make adoption possible--first mothers. 

"Choosing Adoption" does not provide new insights and, so far, ignores the purpose of National Adoption Month, which is finding permanent families for children in foster care. I was not disappointed in the superficiality of the show, just relieved that it was not worse.

Monday's segment featured Liane Thatcher and Kerry Keane, a couple in an open adoption with 12-year-old Phelan's first mother, Moriah Dailer. Moderator Al Roker notes that "when we adopted our daughter 26 years ago, the thought of being connected to her birth mother never crossed our minds.'" Roker is apparently unaware that open adoptions --though they were rare then--were possible and forward-thinking people were doing them.

Thatcher, Keene, and Dailer appear to have an ideal situation: lots of sharing through phone conversations and visits although they live--3,000 miles apart. Viewing openness from the perspective of the adoptive parents, Roker notes that "some [adoptive] moms might feel threatened at hearing their child call someone else 'mommy' but [Thatcher's] thrilled to see her son's connection with his birth mother." Thatcher dispels any doubt: 'There's an amazing thing that happens when we get together--when Phelan first sees Moriah. It's inexplicable how excited [he gets] and how much he literally needs her.'" I loved Thatcher's response, but annoyed that it apparently had not occurred to Roker that first mothers such as Dailer might also feel distressed at hearing her child call someone else "Mommy."

No first mother appears in Tuesday's segment about the difficulties in finding a baby to adopt. Moderator Kate Snow beings by telling us that "my husband is adopted, a lot of people in my family have adopted and adoption can be a wonderful and glorious thing." At that point, there was not the slightest bit of acknowledgment that adoption is wanting but "wonderful and glorious." Lorraine says she sat up when she heard those happy words and prepared for the worst. 

Snow then introduces us to Rick and Therese Meyer who could not have children, and after fertility treatments failed, "chose" to adopt. They tell of the hoops they had to go through--a home study including videos of their home, marketing themselves through an album and the "Dear Birthmother" letter--getting their hopes up when they thought they had been "picked" only to learn they were one of four "finalists". There's indignation in their voices, an anger directed at those "birthmothers" who have all the power who and withhold a baby from them..

Chuck Johnson of National Council for Adoption offers that people spend more time "choosing plumbers" than adoption agencies" and cautions would-be adopters about the risk factors: "scams, countries closing international adoptions, or birth parents changing their mind." That again. How awful of those chimerical "birth mothers." Snow tells us that a "birth mother" did reach out to the Meyers, sending them ultra-sound pictures but changed her mind. It was "her legal right," Snow tells us, suggesting in her tone that is was too bad and how terribly sad for the adoptive parents. No one so far has apparently heard that "first mother" or "other mother" might be the preferred term of some of us.

After enduring the process for five years the Meyers did get an infant boy, not from an agency but through a "domestic, private adoption" that, according to Snow can cost to $20,000." She notes that adoption from foster care is a lot less expensive but there's often "a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy involved," immediately making it sound like not a good idea which of course undermines the purpose of National Adoption Month--to encourage people to adopt from foster care. 

The segment ends with the Today moderators discussing a report Snow did with Reuters about adoptive parents who "did not get the support they needed and in some cases having to go online and search for another home." This we know is called "re-homing," though Snow avoided the nasty-sounding word, and if you weren't attuned to what you were hearing, you would not have understand exactly what she was talking about. According to Snow, Congress may begin hearings on the need for support for adoptive parents. She cautions adoptive parents: "Adoption is just the beginning; there's a lifetime ahead of you and you need support." No mention was made of the fact that the real culprit is that large segments of adoption industry fail to screen and educate prospective adoptive parents; rather than trying to repair broken relationships, efforts should go into keeping children within their natural families. And certainly no mention is made to talk about how first mother might need counseling, support and grief counselors to help them deal with the lifetime ahead of them without the child they gave birth to.

On the Wednesday segment, NBC's chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman and her adopted daughter, Kate, tell of Kate's reunion with her first mother. Kate's adoption was unusual--Snyderman was contacted by a doctor she had worked with who told her he had a patient, a 16-year-old girl, who was planning to give up her baby. The prospective adoptive couple backed out and the girl would deliver soon. Although Snyderman, 34, was committed to her career as surgeon, and had not thought about motherhood, she immediately agreed to take the baby. When Kate was 16, she asked about her first mother and Snyderman gave her a letter her first mother had written explaining why she put Kate up for adoption. Snyderman warned Kate against searching at that time: "She told me that I should know who I was before I went on the journey to find my other self and the person I was before I was named Kate. My mother warned me it was a Pandora's box; it could be fantastic, or it could be awful, and I needed to be prepared for any outcome."

Kate waited until she was 25 to begin her search. After a year-and-a-half, she connected with a sister and began communicating with her first mother, Cheryl Williams. This September, Kate and Snyderman met Williams, in Little Rock, Arkansas near where Williams lived. It was typical of TV reunions: Thanks, tears, and smiles all around with only a hint of the sorrow that adoption causes first mothers. For Kate as for many adoptees, it gave her the opportunity to to put together the pieces of her life. "For the first time in my life, I could really see in Cheryl's smiling face where I had come from. ... I no longer have this thing hovering over me and it's given me a family I love."

Although charming and graceful Snyder found herself marveling over how much her daughter looked like her other mother. "I was stunned to look at a woman who looked exactly like my daughter." Their cheeks are similar; their eyes are similar; their smiles are similar. "They even shared the same nervous laugh." I'm tempted to ask "What did she expect?" As a doctor, she should know the power of DNA. I confess, though, that when I first met my surrendered daughter, I, too, was stunned at the similarities. When Lorraine's other mother met Lorraine, she too said she could not get over the similarities. Of course when Lorraine's mother met Jane, her granddaughter, she was not in a least surprised at how she resembled Lorraine.

Snyderman read a letter Williams had sent her a few months after the adoption. "'I won't try to keep in touch with you unless you give your consent and, if you don't, it's okay.'" Synderman was uncomfortable as she explained "And I didn't keep in touch because of a need to start Kate" her voice trailed off. Clearly, like Al Roker, she was ignorant of the benefits of openness when she adopted Kate. 

Snyderman was supportive of the reunion and offered words which might allay the fears of other adoptive parents whose children sought reunions. Synderman said she knew she was Kate's mom and "our bond was so strong that nothing could disrupt that but I felt so strongly that I had no right to interfere with Kate's journey to know who she is." No mention, though, of the unjust laws sealing records, impeding reunions.

Not surprisingly, Today's "Choosing Adoption" tells us nothing about adoption that most American don't know. Sometime, though, I would so love to see the mainstream media do a real adoption show featuring not only the rewards and joy of adoptive parents, but also the harrowing pain and sorrow of many first mothers, as well as expose the questionable and often unethical practices of the adoption industry. --jane

P.S. Finally on Thursday's segment, "Choosing Adoption" did make a pitch for adopting out of foster care, profiling a 19 year old former foster child still seeking a "forever family." This was after a piece where a couple from the Netherlands received a newborn baby on the show. The couple, in their fifties or sixties, seemed nice enough. They had previously adopted an African American baby from the U. S. They emphasized they wanted to keep in touch with the birth mother but adopted from the U. S. because adoptable babies in The Netherlands were rare. Although not mentioned on the show, we know this is due to strict laws which work to keep mothers and babies together which we wrote about last year.. 

The program ended with a judge approving the adoptions of 12 children in eight families, right there on Rockefellar Plaza. The children may have come from foster care; only two, twin girls, appeared to be young infants. 
National Adoption Month
'Open adoption' keeps birth mom in family tree
Adoption Challenges: It's worth it--but it's not easy
Kate Synderman: The journey to find my birth mother
Dr. Nancy Snyderman: The day that changed my life forever

'Re-Homing': Dumping unwanted adopted kids
Happy Adoption Day
Halloween Ushers National Adoption Awareness Month
Why Become an Adoption Reform Rabble-Rouser
Adoption in the Netherlands is "undutch" while America's love affair with it continues

Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self 
It came out years ago, but it was a wonderful examination of the different stages of life for an adoptee--which is different than life for the non-adopted. Highly recommended. Amazon says: "Like Passages, this  groundbreaking book uses the poignant, powerful voices of adoptees and adoptive parents to explore the  experience of adoption and its lifelong effects. A major work, filled with astute analysis and moving truths."
The Declassified Adoptee Essays of an Adoption Activist The Declassified Adoptee: Essays of an Adoption Activist, in clear and plain language, provides a wealth of emotional intelligence answering the difficult questions that adoptees face from the moment they learn they were not born into a family, but adopted instead. Without unnecessary verbiage, Transue-Woolston gets to the heart of the matter of what it means to be adopted, and what needs to change in adoption today. First mothers reluctant to search, adoptive parents fearful of an adoptee's reunion, and adoptees anywhere on the journey will all find much to savor in this wise collection of essays from someone who is destined to be among the leaders of the next wave of adoption reformers.--lorraine



  1. "Adoption is just the beginning; there's a lifetime ahead of you and you need support."

    ....Wait! Is Ms. Snow saying that parenting is a lifetime commitment that requires a great deal of support from family and friends?

    Goodness gracious! And here I thought it was a brisk walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon! Apparently, however, that's not the case. Wow! Shocker!

    Cough...sputter....! We are so blessed to have the bastions of intellect at the Today Show to help us find our way in the world, aren't we? Why however would we find our way otherwise?!

    (Pardon the rolling of my eyes. I hope they don't get stuck that way!)

  2. This post was quite triggering for me. After all of the biased adoption stories, for example, how the media always refer to PAPs as the 'adoptive parents', I know longer have any confidence in anything the mainstream media says. I'm always wondering what important facts they are leaving out or what information they got wrong.

    So here are some of my random thoughts on this post.

    "It's inexplicable how excited [he gets] and how much he literally needs her.'"

    Well, Surprise! Surprise! Children actually need their natural mothers. This is actually quite a revealing quote. I was raised in an era where being adopted was considered the same as being a bio kid. And many of us adoptees were expected to forget all about our bio-families with nary a backward glance, or else we were told something was wrong with us. Now people (hopefully) understand that many adoptees always felt connected to their blood relatives, even if we didn't know who they were.

    "The segment ends with the Today moderators discussing a report Snow did with Reuters about adoptive parents who "did not get the support they needed and in some cases having to go online and search for another home."

    No one HAS TO GO ONLINE to find another home. And I bet very few people listening to this thought about how unsafe that is for the child. Or what this 'going online' to find another home really means for and to the child. It makes me sick actually.

    I felt indignant reading that Dr. Snyderman was so shocked that her adopted daughter actually looks like and acts like her original mother. Where do adoptive parents think adoptees come from? A cabbage patch? Doesn't Nancy Snyderman look and act like her blood relatives? Doesn't her husband? Well, we adoptees do, too. It's just that, in so many cases, our blood relatives are hidden from us.

    I'm sure this is too much to hope for, but I would like to see a show that brought out the fact that not all adoptive parents are saints. Or what about stories like Jeremy Simmons, father of Baby Desirai, who never gave his daughter up for adoption in the first place. And yet she still may end up being an adoptee.

  3. Anonymous said...
    "Adoption is just the beginning; there's a lifetime ahead of you and you need support."

    ....Wait! Is Ms. Snow saying that parenting is a lifetime commitment that requires a great deal of support from family and friends?"

    Yes, and adoptive parents are encouraged to ask for help. Natural mothers - no support for you! If you can raise a child completely on your own then go for it, otherwise you should just give that baby to an adopter that is more entitled to support than you.

  4. 1414Great piece. Couldn't watch the Today show this week- especially today when they finalized adoptions on the show.

    The best talk show on adoption that I have seen was one last year on the Ricki Lake Show- she featured the UTAH adoption attorney who resigned as president of the UTAH adoption lawyers association. He and several of his clients were talking about how Utah treats fathers. Ricki even had a brief point at the beginning where some of her female staff posed as pregnant women and called agencies to see what was said regarding how to avoid telling dads or to avoid the dad altogether in the adoption process. That show was all too brief and of course, later cancelled.But it was the most honest an well done that I had ever seen.

  5. "Natural mothers - no support for you!"

    Jane, oh so true. :-( :-(

    Kindest regards,


  6. 'Couldn't watch the Today show this week- especially today when they finalized adoptions on the show.'

    That makes me feel sick.

  7. Boy, after how the Crapos are NOW SUING VERONICA, the adoption industry sure has a lot of nerve to push adoption this month. Unfuckingbelievable.



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