Saturday, October 8, 2011

Glee Raises Adoption Issues: Are they valuable or misconceptions?

Adoptive mom Amber Austin is so upset by the adoption story line on the TV show, Glee, that she's too patient and see it to its conclusion - which I predict will certainly maintain the "integrity" of adoption. Instead, she is protecting with a petition here that has in turn garnered news coverage.

The essence of Austin's concerns are:
In the current story line, Quinn, a teen mother who placed her daughter for adoption, is actively (and with malice) trying to "get my daughter back." And, Rachel, an adopted child, deals with the sudden reappearance of her birth mother.  In real, legitimate adoptions, a birth mother cannot simply take a child away from their family or pop back into a child's life, however this is one of most pervasive and harmful myths about adoption.  
Really? I believe the most harmful myths are the win-win myths and the myth of tens of thousands orphans waiting to be rescued.... or, how about the myth that adoption provides a child a "better" life, or that adoptive parents are somehow all wonderful people because they are motivated enough to adopt instead of just humans who are as flawed as any other and even abuse their adopted children on occasion.... 
For adopted children, the show raises the fear that they may be taken away from their adopted families
REALLY?!! How many adopted kids does Austin know who harbor such a fear? The ones I know all report fantasizing about being found. Additionally, any adoptees who know they are adopted mature, they come to know that they were born into one family and taken or given away. Any fear of being taken or abandoned or rejected already exists deep inside every adoptee. They don't need a stupid TV show to instill that in them.
And for adoptive parents and birth mothers, the show creates confusion about the nature of adoption - confusion that may prevent adoptions from happening at all...
Doubt that would ever happen.  People continue to adopt every day despite news reports of scams that rip them off for their money; despite failed adoptions - which Amber told me via private communication she experienced herself... Anyone fearful of a mother returning to snatch away an adopted child would be well assured by the adoption providers that it is rare to impossible and relieved, they'd go ahead.

Fact is, if a handful of people are discouraged from adopting because of a youth-oriented musical TV fictionalized show, OH WELL! They obviously were not really sure to begin with, AND... there would still be close to a hundred people and couples vying for each healthy, white child while ignoring the approximately 120.000 children in foster care who could be adopted.  So, no real concern is needed.

As for mothers in crisis being dissuaded or confused by the show - equally unlikely. Adoption themes loaded with misconceptions about adoption abound in movies such as Juno and TV shows from Parenthood (on which one of the characters wants to BUY to  an acquaintances baby) 16 and Pregnant to Brothers and Sisters to House...Dr. Phil...Rules of Engagement explores surrogacy and Happy Endings is exploring the aftermath of egg "donation."

It's FICTION. It's entertainment and the networks love controversy; the producers love shock content - it adds to their ratings!

The fact is that adoption has been a theme of entertainment since the days of early English literature: The Tempest; Canterbury Tales; Beowulf; Paradise Lost. It makes for interesting stories because of the mystery of it all. It's been depicted in horror films. most recently The Orphan and untold number of soap opera plots.  It has been and will continue to be...and is often the punchline of bad jokes and skits on SNL.

Those who want to get all upset about fiction can have a full time job doing so.

Adoption, like life and all interpersonal relationships, is messy.  It is filled with lots of ambivalence on the part of both the relinquishing mother before and after he  loss, as well as on the part of those who resort to adoption as  a last resort after years of frustrating and expensive attempts by most to conceive and carry a child of their own. Even once deciding to adopt, there are many choices and options that are explored: domestic, international, open, closed... Nothing is black and white and clear cut about adoption. it is messy!

The character Quinn is a confused, hurting teen who was abandoned by her family when she became pregnant. She is not a crazed stalker as portrayed by Austin and her petition.  I have not watched every episode, so please correct me if I have this wrong, but Quinn's placement of her child, while not an open adoption was an identified adoption. She chose this mother and knew who and where she is, since the adoptive mother is ironically, the original mother of Rachel, the star character of the show who, as a result of her adoption has two fathers.

The adoptive/original mother was not receptive at all to having a relationship with her beautiful daughter Rachel, despite their shared dark haired beauty, vocal talent and stage presence. Interesting that this rejection did not concern Austin enough to start a petition.

Mothers who relinquish children to adoption struggle with enormous ambivalence both before and after placement. Likewise those who adopt also struggle with their decision, most often made only after trying everything possible they can afford to have a child of their own. Once they finally resolve to their last resort - adoption - there are still many ebbs, flows and choices: domestic, international, open, closed, infant or older child, etc.

Nothing about adoption is black and white. It's messy.

Adoption is also laden with fear and it is fear-mongering that comes across most clearly in Austin's petition. 

What comes across most clearly in the petition is the fear - common among those who adopt - that their child's mother will come back into their lives, interfere in some way, or heaven forbid stake a claim on their child and seek to overturn the adoption.

Precious, precious few adoptions are overturned.  You can let yourself be crippled by fear or embrace the truth.

Truth...something missing in current adoption practice.

The fact is that such fears are the fears of adoptive parents who see adoption as their entitlement, their child as a possession, and do not see their children as separate human beings with fears, concerns, wishes, hopes, lives and rights of their own. In my 30+ years experience with those touched by adoption,

One of the best gifts any adoptive parent can give their child - short of opening a closed adoption - is to open the dialog aloud that their kids are thinking and wondering about. I think Glee and other dumb show that mentions adoption - even incorrectly - can be a wonderful jumping off vehicle for such conversations.

Austin wants PBS announcements to encourage adoption loss and separation.  Here are the ones I'd like to see:
  • Public Service Announcements and education starting in HS about the preventable causes of infertility in order to reduce the demand for adoptable babies and children which supports global child traffickers who kidnap and steal children as well as the domestic agencies that pressure women and often deceive them.
  • PBS announcements to educate young women starting in Jr. HS about access to birth control. And I see a need for PBS announcements that offer help to mothers in crisis to parent safely.
  • PBS announcements to tell prospective adopters that taking children one at a time, at a price rag of tens of thousands of dollars per child, does nothing to ameliorate the poverty of that child's family, community or nation. That the real humanitarian thing to do is to spend those tens of thousands of dollars not to fill one wish to be a parent but to dig a well, build a school, or buy medical supplies.
  • And I see a need for PBS announcements that encourage prospective adopters to adopt from foster care or simply to foster, rather than add to the demand that creates coercion and exploitation.
But the one thing I do NOT see a need for is anything that encourages or promotes the destruction of blood kin families to meet a demand for children.

You can:


Robin said...

"What comes across most clearly in the petition is the fear - common among those who adopt - that their child's mother will come back into their lives, interfere in some way, or heaven forbid stake a claim on their child and seek to overturn the adoption."

I don't think that's the real fear. I think the real fear is that the CHILD will feel more comfortable with his/her natural mother, will find more commanilities with her and will want to become part of his original family again thus usurping the a-mom's position. I think some APs are worried that blood really is thicker than water.

I really liked this post. I'm glad you addressed this issue and agree with your many points.

Mirah Riben said...

Thanks Robin. I think they are kinda one and the same; fear of alienation of affection and also that blood really IS thicker than water. It's kind of a shame, especially for adoptees, but aps are very insecure.

BTW, the author of the petition did reply to me privately and we had some emails back and forth. She is in an open adoption with visitation. So whatever fear comes across in the petition is not hers, she assures me.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the fear the Adoptive parents are experiancing is the fear of being sued. Even if they usually win (which according to you they do) the costs can be crippling (I am not sure how it helps a child to bankrupt the adoptive parents).

BTW I am fairly sure that in the case of those 120,000 children in foster care, the birthmothers were coerced by child protective services into giving up the children so adopting from the foster care system won't exactly protect APs from legal risk. Also, how many of those children are teenagers?

Mirah Riben said...

Yes, contested adoptions are long, drawn out and very expenses processes.

And also yes that many children in foster in care were taken from parents too hastily and the situations could have been resolved in much better fashion than removing them. However, a parent whose children were wrongfully taken would be suing the state, not the final adoptive parents. In a very case, if a child was removed and quickly adopted, then, yes, the doptive parents might CHOOSE o fight to keep the child and that again would be costly for them.

In both cases it is the aps CHOICE to fight to keep a child from a loving, caring parent of parents, rather than do the noble King Solomon thing and let go. Mothers are told all the time that the more unselfish thing is to let go.

How many of what children are teenagers? Those in contested adoptions? None that I have ever heard of.

Anonymous said...

How many children in the foster care system eligible adoption are teenagers? I doubt that a large number of them are actually adopted and would be very surprised if any of them ended up in a contested adoption.

Anonymous said...

As an adopted child myself, who has met both her birth parents, I THANK GOD every day that I was adopted.
Your comment about 'blood being thicker than water' highly upsets me.
Your parents are the people that raise, love and support you throught life, be that adopted, a grandparent, foster parent, etc.

Mirah Riben said...

Dear Anon,

You are the exception, and a lucky exception: an adoptee who has met all their parents. In the vast majority of states (43 or 44) adopted persons (and we are NOT talking about children) are denied access to their own original birth certificates by discriminatory laws.

It was Robin, not I who said "blood is thicker than water" here. I agreed saying it was adoptive parents FEAR that that is so that is the issue involved in the concerns about Glee.

However...if you ever need a kidney - you'd find out just how perfectly correct that statement is!

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget