Sunday, November 22, 2009

ABC's Find My Family Exploits and Distorts Adoption

I did not write the piece below. I point that out not to distance myself from it, but to give proper credit to Martha Osborne. Thanks, Martha, for writing this, and thanks, Katherine, for sending it to me.

Find My Family
ABC airs sensationalized adoption series
November 13,2009 / Martha Osborne

In the most exploitive and disparaging-of-adoption media effort yet, ABC will air a 'sneak peek' of their new series on Monday, November 23rd. With a sensationalized and soap-opera style, ABC will take viewers into the lives of adoptees and birth families in their Search to be reunited.

With the tagline "Some people have spent their whole lives searching for the one thing that matters most... Their wish will now come true. Let's find your family", producers completely discount any worth of the adoptive families who have loved and raised these children. Instead the show emphasizes the loss of a child's "Real family" as the one-and-only central issue of all adopted children's lives.

The entire premise of this show is upsetting on so many levels. I encourage every family of an adopted child to prepare mentally for the public reaction, and the reaction of their children who may find themselves the sudden center of assumptions about their needs, desires, and personal feelings on their adoption.

This new series is being heavily promoted on ABC. Created by the producer of Extreme Makeover, Find My Family is laden with emotional angst and tearful moments meant to increase ratings and viewership. Unfortunately, the general public's opinion and understanding of adoption is largely shaped by the media. ABC's exploitive new series will focus on the most extreme issues in adoption, and is sure to have an effect on how our children's teachers, extended family, and friends view and accept adoption.

For years, the adoptive community has sought to rectify the past vilification of birth-parents as people who gave away their children. Birth parents are now widely recognized as the First Parents of children, deserving of love, respect, and understanding. It is in no one's best interest to turn the tables and begin to portray adoptive families as second-class, or less-than' a family created biologically. This new series is a step back for everyone.

Preparing a Younger Child:

* A younger child should not watch this show, period. It focuses on emotional, adult-level identity issues and situations that are impossible for a young child to process.
* Families can empower their children to deal with unwelcome questions from adults and other children by using the Wise Up! Workbook.
* The holidays are a wonderful time to discuss the idea of families in general. What kind of families are there? Bringing adoption into a general discussion helps normalize the idea and emphasize tolerance and acceptance of all kinds of families.

Preparing Upper-Elementary and Middle School Children: Taking the Direct Approach

* This is a wonderful age to start letting your child know that birth families, even if we have never met them, or may never have the opportunity, are part of our families. A welcome part. Whether to search or not in the future is your child's choice and has absolutely no relation to the way your child loves you. I should know, I'm adopted. My parents (and yes, I mean my adoptive parents) are my parents and I love them in a way I could love no one else. Searching for my birth family is about me, my identity. Let your child know when they are still young that you do not feel threatened, and you may receive the gift of open-communication throughout their teens.
* Discuss the media, specifically as it applies to the marketing of ideas, forming of opinions, and exploiting of people for their own profit. It may also be pertinent to discuss the entire idea of people agreeing to have the most private, personal parts of their lives, filmed and put on television for the purpose of entertainment.
* Let your child know that it is okay to have mixed feelings and changing emotions about any topic, including adoption. It's not a rejection of the adoptive family to wonder about birthparents, or life in another country.
* If this series becomes widely-viewed, your child will receive very intrusive and personal questions. The show is meant to cast all adoptees as longing-for-their-lost-life. Practice, roll-play, be ready.

Search and reunion of adoptees and birth families is part of adoption, and always will be. All adoptive families and birth families are connected through our children, whether we accept that idea or not. Our children bind us. It is a precious, priceless connection. This show cheapens and sensationalizes what is sacred. ABC, your show is an insult, and hopefully a flop.

Maybe I'm naive, but I'm holding out hope that the show isn't as bad as the trailers make it seem. Then again, the language the show's producers use in the trailers make their agenda pretty darn clear: Get ratings at all costs. Very sad.

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
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Lisa said...

I too am troubled by this ~ I hold out hope that it will bridge gaps, open discussions and build relationshipes rather than tear them apart, but I'm not sure.

Thanks for sharing this AND your previous contribution was stunning.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

:Unfortunately, the general public's opinion and understanding of adoption is largely shaped by the media."

It never ceases to amaze me how much truth there is to this statement. Great post, loved the perspective even if it wasn't yours.