' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Law & Order: SVU tackles adoption story line with honesty

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Law & Order: SVU tackles adoption story line with honesty

Law & Order: SVU this week dealt with Oliva Benson's adopted son's (Noah) finding a half brother nearby. Noah, 12, brimming with excitement, wants to meet him ASAP. Soon enough, Oliva and Noah drive from Manhattan to a nearby suburb to meet the boy and his adopted family, who are picture-perfect wonderful in their comfortable suburban home, decorated to the hilt for Christmas.

Big brother and Noah go off to play a video game, and when they appear for dinner, Noah asks to spend the night; Oliva stays for dinner and apple pie, but checks into the nearby motel, where the 2nd story line--about a creepy hidden camera in her room--proceeds.

What a pleasure to watch an adoption story line so realistically portrayed! Oliva lets her son guide the experience, but with some reluctance and pain as she sees his enthusiasm for a blood relative. As some point, he refers to his "real family," and you do see a tinge of ouch! from Oliva--but the son isn't looking--and she quickly agrees to what he wants.

As a teaching model for adoptive parents, the show did a fantastic job! Blood calls! DNA kicks up some primordial response as old as time: This is who I am connected to. This is where I started out. This is what might have been. One may not want to go back to that family for any number of reasons, but knowing who is there and where they are touches us in the most basic of places in the human heart. Watch an episode of Henry Louis Gates's "Finding Your Roots" on PBS (my husband is addicted to it) and you see the deep emotions and grown men--and women--brought to tears as they learn of the trials and tribulations of their biological lineage--without adoption involved. It's quite breath-taking.

Of course, people being people, adoptive parents are going to have fear (will he/she still love me?) when faced with the child's reunion with like DNA, and the story line will be a great teaching moment for adoptive parents. Since the boys have different mothers, and the father is deceased, the whole business of how to react to a biological birth mother or father is avoided. But still, a great treatment of the adoption story for modern times.

Mariska Hargitay, who plays Oliva, or "Liv," is a biological and adoptive mother in real life. I was neutral about that--trying not to be prejudiced against all Hollywood people who adopt--and then I read an article about how she willingly gave back an infant after the natural mother decided two days later she wanted the child back. Hargitay, in fact, had helped deliver the baby. Had done the kind of thing that I am against, for it makes it harder for the natural/birth mother to change her mind--she doesn't want to disappoint the adoptive mother and father by changing her mind and keeping her baby. Yet after that, Hargitay quickly acquiesced to the birth mother's desire to keep her child. 

Here is what Hargitay said about returning the child to his natural mother:

“It was nothing short of devastating,” Hargitay explains. “But … it was probably the greatest, happiest ending. I mean, it was so painful for us, but it was deeply joyful and deeply right for her.”*

So. I am deeply sympathetic to Hargitay. If I ever met her, I'd probably bring that up and say, thank you, and tell her how aware I am of the opposite end to those stories.  

The characterization of the natural mothers of both boys do not fare so well in the story line. Though neither is in the show physically, we know that both were drug-addicted young women, and the father a thorough scumbag druggie. Noah's back story includes a prostitute mother killed in a car crash; we know more about the new brother's natural mother other than "drug-addicted." Since this is sometimes true, no sense in quibbling about that. In the past, the show portrayed other natural mothers in a more positive light. 

I'm guessing that the adoption story will continue to pop up occasionally. Law & Order: SVU (for Special Victims Unit) is the longest-running live-action series in the history of television. I've been a fan for years; the adoption story line has been part of the show since Oliva adopted Noah as a baby without a home. The adoptive family of Noah's half-brother have no other children, and they have made it clear they want Noah to spend more time with their son, his biological half-brother. At the end of the show, they give a gift to Noah so the two boys can play the same video game together, even when physically apart, and give Oliva a beautifully wrapped gift. To be opened later. 

And I am sure, story line to be continued later.--lorraine 


PS: The photo is a sneak peek at my author photo for the new edition of Hole in My Heart, coming in March from Grand Canyon Press. I'm quite excited about it! It's longer and more complete with additional narrative and a bibliography and index. Available for Kindle pre-order today! It will be available in hardcover and paperback when released as well. To peek at the new cover, or preorder, click on link below.

             Hole in My Heart


The adoption trigger: To hang on or let go?


  1. Great to see a new post from you.

  2. Have never watched Law & Order: SVU. I simply don’t watch much tv at all. But I did work with a student a few years back who was writing a paper for my intro to Women’s Studies class. She included some insights into the show and its creator. Pretty impressive. Will definitely need to check this out at some point.

  3. I'm glad you wrote about this because I saw it last night and I wondered if anyone was going to cover it.

    My reaction was different, and I appreciate your appreciation for the show honoring connections.

    My quibble (I may or may not have grumbled at the TV "here we go again") was the idea of hiding information from adoptees. I *think* it was posed that sharing would eventually be OK in an age-appropriate way, but my fear is that the convenient takeaway for parents might be "if there's hard info to share, let sleeping dogs lie."

    I didn't know about that part of Hargitay's story, that she'd advocated for a natural mom. She has a lot in common with her character when it comes to empathizing and doing what's right.

    Great photo. Lorraine. I hope so many read your book, as it meant a lot to me.

    1. Yes, I did notice pushing the hard story to later, but it actually seemed quite realistic to me because Noah, who is 12, is going to have to deal with a quite a back story. Knowing how they have dealt with adoption in the past I suspect it will be handled well. It is a crime show, basically, and they don't want adoption to be the main story--but of course to some of us it is when it appears.

      On another note, Lori, the new edition of Hole in My Heart is somewhat different from the first edition--this baby is about 30,000 words longer, much more about being a woman in a "man's" profession in that era, love and relationships after relinquishment and such, with additional research material--and a list of Recommended Reading. Your book, "The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption" is on the list.

  4. Wonderful post, Lorraine. I don't watch too much Law & Order: SVU and have definitely not kept up with the adoption angle in that series. Perhaps because I am living my own adoption story and it gets more complex, the older my adopted son gets. It is hard enough being a 14 year old adolescent without having to navigate adoption, so I almost have to be more present for him now than I did when he was younger. I have to let him process his own feelings, he DEFINITELY does not want advice from me, yet I sense he likes me being there, waiting in the wings, wanting him to find some resolution, some peace, some reconciling in his heart and his life of his two families.

    From a very young age, our son has craved his natural family with every fiber of his being. Biology is such a fundamental part of our identity, and being raised by strangers has been so very hard for our son so that I can't imagine it is any different, for any other adoptee. What is hardest for him is that now that he has had some contact with his natural family, it has not been the easy bond he imagined it would be. He met his sister in person when he was 10 and she was 18.....I found her and her adoptive parents online and reached out to them. At the time, he said that although he had been so excited to meet his sister, it was strange to finally meet this person and and be told "this is your sister." He has met his sister sporadically since then, the latest one being a few months ago: he 14, she 22 and married with a young baby girl. This was the first meeting where he noticed they had similar personalities, and it made him happy (he told me after the meeting). However, I think his sister had the image of her brother being so excited that he was now an uncle and wanting to hold the baby and he told her he doesn't like babies and didn't really want to hold her. Ugh. For his sister, having this baby was a huge life goal - she told me she dreamed about her own baby from a very young age because she wanted to "get motherhood right" (and she did, she is a wonderful mother). But for her 14 year old brother who currently says he doesn't want children, there was a big disconnect. I fervently hope that now that connection has been established, the age gap will close as they get older.

    The one he craves a relationship with the most is his natural mother. We had given him all of the identifying information we have, and he recently found her on Facebook. I didn't know this until he told me and asked if I wanted to see her profile. I saw her Facebook profile (that he shared with me), and she wishes him every single year on his birthday (does the same thing on his sister's birthday). He thinks she is "shady" because her boyfriend is much older than her, I see a mother who has not forgotten her children. I told him this and he said he would think about it. It is just so hard when families are torn asunder. Even in foster care, stories are never black and white and it is always a tragedy when as an adoptee, you cannot have a comfortable relationship with your natural family. I hope this changes for our son, over the years. Sending you many hugs,


    1. Jay, I have often wondered how things were with you! So good to get an update. Your insights and love come through your comment. When your son does make contact--and he probably will--I hope it goes well. It has all the earmarks of success, since his natural mother clearly has not forgotten him. It might by time to remind him that the opportunity to reach out to her might not be there in the future.

      You so well understand the innate desire to seek out one's natural family. It's bred in the bone. I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday. Many hugs back at you.

    2. I think of you often, Lorraine. I wish my thoughts could transmit telepathically! You and Jane have done so much to educate me about the dark side of adoption. We as a society really diminish the importance of biology. I am seeing a growing amount of pregnancies through donor egg fertilization and embryo adoption, all these women who want to experience pregnancy, and are they thinking about the child? Or only about their own desires? It makes me so sad. Will they tell the children born from these pregnancies about their origins? I think some will, but how many?

      I have to say that long before I became aware about the dark side of the adoption industry, when I was undergoing treatments for infertility, the doctor said, "You know, you could have a perfect pregnancy with donor eggs. The chances of a successful pregnancy for you are really high." And I thought to myself, "why would I want to deliberately create a baby who will not be raised by at least one of its biological parents?" I said No, immediately, no-brainer, didn't need even a second to think about it. My husband felt exactly the same way, we both thought the same thoughts at the same time. We both however naively thought that all children who were available for adoption were not wanted by their natural parents, and so we gravitated towards adoption.

      Once we committed to adoption, my husband said, "great, you're Indian, let's adopt from India." Yet, when I looked into it, I stalled. I wasn't entirely assured about where the babies came from. Eventually, the USA domestic foster system is what seemed to me like the avenue where we were most likely to find children truly in need of a home. Our foster daughter needed our home for a while, but she was able to be reunified with biological family members (sadly, her natural mother wasn't able to keep up with her care but she is with biological family - this makes me happy for her). Our son had no viable options for placement with biological family, this is something we were very particular about and asked for a detailed report regarding the candidate family members and why they couldn't adopt him. So, we've adopted him and are raising him, but that still doesn't take away the pain of what he has been deprived of by separation from his natural family. I do think, for example, that had he been raised with his big sister, they would not have this wall between them. At this point, all I can do is pray that they will understand each other better as their age gap closes when they get older. I have my fingers crossed and pray, every day.

    3. Thanks, Jay for your compliments and insights. We wish you the best this holiday season.

  5. Thank you so much, and I wish both of you and all those dear to you a wonderful holiday season!



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