The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--please feel free to adapt or expand on them.
Write a response at your blog (including the link http://www.productionnotreproduction.com/2011/03/open-adoption-roundtable-24.html so your readers can browse other participating blogs) and link to your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I'd appreciate it if you'd add a link back to the roundtable. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.
I waffled between a lighter writing prompt and a heavier, more personal one for this round. I decided on the less personal topic; we'll save the deeper one for later this month.
Awhile back, out of curiosity, I set up a search on Twitter for the phrase "open adoption". If someone mentioned open adoption in a tweet it popped up in my feed reader. The search rarely turned up much. For the most part I saw promotional tweets from adoption professionals or prospective adoptive parents trying to "network," with occasional chatter from folks involved in open adoptions who were talking about their lives. Then suddenly big bursts of tweets started showing up once a week or so. Tweets that were overwhelmingly--although not totally--negative about open adoption: talk of birth parents needing to leave the adoptive family alone or doing something wrong by maintaining a connection to their children, that sort of thing. Like the greatest hits of open adoption misinformation, delivered on a schedule.
I soon realized those bursts were coming whenever MTV aired a Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant episode involving adoption. I typically roll my eyes when another clumsy adoption storyline shows up in a scripted show or bristle when reality tv mines the adoption process for stories. But here was a television franchise with massive reach giving lots of viewers their first (heavily edited and manipulated) glimpses of real-life open adoptions. And it didn't seem to be doing much for the cause.
For better or worse, open adoption is working its way into mainstream entertainment. Which brings us to our writing prompt:
How have you seen open adoption portrayed on television? What did you think? What, if anything, would you like to see?
The responses thus far:
Jenna (first parent) @ The Chronicles of Munchkin Land: "I’m sure, as years continue, 'reality' TV will bother me less, just as comedy/drama TV/movies have since my first experience. (Though, I think because it is attached TO my pregnancy, the Friends portrayal will always be raw.) I’m not sure, however, if the news media continuously dropping the ball will ever not bother me. I don’t know what it will take for the reporting of adoption stories to change. I know it will take more than ethical adoption reform. It will take a huge societal belief/moral reform, and I’m not even sure how that begins, moves forward and sustains itself."
Barely Sane (adoptive parent) @ Infertility Licks: "I just want someone to show it for what it is. Hard. Rewarding. Scary. Joyous. Soul searing. Soul mending. An adventure. A lifeline. And so much more than I can articulate. Something that regular folks (and maybe even celebrities?) are currently living. I want to see a tv show where characters don’t just struggle to make the decision to adopt/place but where they make the decision to remain open. Where they try to find their way in that relationship, stumbles and all."
Susiebook (first parent) @ Endure for a Night: "I don’t watch feel-good TV, and I don’t want stereotypically girly TV. And yet, most of the way through a crisis pregnancy, knowing that I was going to lose my baby, I suddenly decided that it was time to watch The Gilmore Girls after knowing only the premise."
Lia (first parent) @ Lia--Not Juno: "Yeah, it sucks that the birthmom revoked her consent. But that’s what it was – her consent. And I can’t IMAGINE a television show, now or in the near future, that would actually give credence to that fact. And you know what? That sucks. I can’t imagine TV showing compassion or respect to a birthmother in a plot that involves adoption – if they mention her at all."
Artemis (in comments): "What struck me was the extent to which the article represented the grief, anger and remorse felt by the women who placed their children, and further, how the article described it in such depth and detail, but didn't pass any comment on it. I think it was admirable that the story, which is ostensibly about how 'good' open adoption is, was so realistic about the birthparents' 'side' of the story, but I would have liked to see at least some discussion of it."
Racilous (first parent) @ Adoption in the City: "That’s what they show as far as adoption in popular culture, it’s an event that happens and is done, it’s not something you live with for the rest of your life. I think that’s one of the reasons people bristle at the mention of OA, when you have active contact with the birth family, it is much harder for our culture to pretend that adoption doesn’t have an impact, that it’s not an ongoing process for adoptees, bparents and aparents alike, and that it won’t impact the rest of our lives. ... That is the story I would like to see, one that actually shows there are impacts, that adoption isn’t an event that is then over and done."
A Life Being Lived (first parent) @ Carrying a Cat By the Tail, parts one and two: "Another part of the show that struck me as very 'Open Adoption' related is the fact that Chloe shows up at Brooke's home to drop off a plate of cookies. Now, in the 'real world' I don't think that an agency or counselor would provide a prospective birthmother and prospective adoptive parents contact information such as a home address right off that bat. However, maybe Brooke gave Chloe their address, or their telephone number, and Chloe googled it. Nevertheless, it presented a small way of how a prospective birthmother may get to know prospective adoptive parents, which is by visiting their home and/or meeting their friends and/or relatives."
Robyn (adoptive parent) @ Chittister Children: "I watched Adoption Stories, and I always thought they were re-enactments. It wasn’t until Adoption Diaries came on that I realized they weren’t. WE was running Adoption Diaries last week and I recorded them out of morbid curiosity. I can’t see how any expectant parent – adoptive or biological – would allow themselves to be exploited that way. A lot of the Adoption Stories episodes focused on foster adoption and international adoption, which is different, I think, than following a pregnant woman around with a camera for several months."
Cindy (first parent) in comments: "The only adoption story that I ever liked was on *Greys Anamoty* with the blond girl who was a model (forgetting her name) because she was portrayed as a smart woman, albeit bat-sh*t crazy (and killed off by brain cancer), but smart and beautiful."
Jess (adoptive parent) @ The Problem With Hope: "A while back there were some other shows, maybe of the 'True Life' series on MTV, I think, that showed some open adoptions that I enjoyed. They were greatly varied...some were birthfamilies and they struggled with placement before and after, some were adoptees who were trying to find their birthparents, etc. I also thought they were more 'real' than others I've seen. As real as reality TV can be, at least."
A (adoptive parent) @ Not a Visitor: "I wonder something similar about open adoption. No one who isn't in it can possibly understand what is is about. It's only when it goes wrong that it becomes sensational. Perhaps this is why its media presence is, at the moment, strongest in news stories and reality television shows. It is much easier to write scripts that deal with the timeless issues around identity and belonging without this new and hard to conceptualize wrinkle of an ongoing relationship between first and adoptive families to work with."
Sara (adoptive parent) @ Unofficial Mom: "With each summary I read, my anger grew. I would never, never, NEVER, read a story like that to my daughter. Other than the fact that it is a completely false scenario in our case, and in so many others, why would you want to demonize a child's family under any scenario? To portray the first family as the villains and the adoptive family as the heroes is so destructive to everyone involved."
Crafty Nester (adoptive parent) @ Crafty Nester: "Adoption Diaries actually highlights the adoption agency my husband and I used to adopt our son. When we were going through the process, especially during the 'waiting period' I watched every show they had to offer. I think it was a pretty realistic portrayal of the open adoption process - although of course very much abbreviated."