Whether it be TV shows like “This is Us,” tabloid covers, or your local news, adoption and foster care are hot topics in today’s media. Unfortunately, the portrayal of these topics and all of their elements do not always get characterized in a positive or truthful light. TV and movies are simply trying to tell the best story, while the local news usually only broadcasts the worst. The tabloids make the adoption process seem easy for celebrities and unattainable for the rest of us. Here are four things you won’t learn about adoption or foster care from the media:
1. Adoption isn’t just for the rich.
Most of the adoption stories in the media are centered on celebrities. These celebrities have millions of dollars in disposable income and seem to just one day suddenly have a new baby. They make it look so easy! Let’s be honest: Adoption is expensive no matter which way you cut it, but there are ways to afford it, even for middle-class families. One type of adoption that the media does not often cover is adoption from foster care, which is free in most states. There are also multiple grants available that allow much of the cost of adoption to be refunded. As of right now, there is also an adoption tax credit that allows the cost of adoption to count towards your tax liability. Many choose to take out a personal loan that they can pay on monthly for the span of typically 3-5 years to make the immediate costs more feasible. It is nice to be rich if you are going to adopt but, absolutely still possible if you are not.
2. Not all children in foster care or adopted are “troubled.”
The media heavily perpetuates the myth that children who are adopted are “troubled” or delinquent. This myth is especially perpetuated for children who have been in foster care. While many of these children have been through incredible struggles, many are great students, well-behaved, and well adjusted. This myth continues to live on with the typical token adopted or foster child on TV who has a rap sheet a mile long and obvious emotional issues. Children who have been adopted or are in foster care may well need more emotional support and may have various struggles, but by and large these children thrive in a loving and supportive home that will support them through adoption or until reunification.
3. Most foster homes aren’t awful.
Our daughter, whom my husband and I adopted at nine months old, spent the first few months of her life in foster care. While she was in foster care, we spent months terrified. All we had known of foster care were the horrible stories portrayed in the news or those on TV shows where the parents just hosted foster children for the money. That notion was quickly corrected when we met our daughter’s foster parents and they turned out to be one of the sweetest, most loving and generous couples we had ever met. I have also had the pleasure of meeting multiple foster moms through various engagements and have yet to find one who did not also fit this description. Does the system fail at times and horrible homes slip through the cracks? Absolutely. However, these are the rare few that are not people giving their all so that children can have a safe, loving home through some of the hardest times in the life.
4. Not all birth parents are “unstable.”
There is nothing quite like a story of a baby left at a fire station on shows like “This is Us.” It tugs at your heartstrings and makes you ugly cry when the child is “rescued.” While these are the most heart-wrenching stories, they perpetuate the myth that birth parents are unstable and/or addicted. Children are placed for adoption or in foster care for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes a child is in an unsafe situation or placed because the birth parents are unstable. However, many times, a child is placed because a birth parent knows that they are not at a place in life to parent. They may even be perfectly capable of financially and emotionally supporting a child, but simply felt parenting was not right for them. Some children are also placed if the pregnancy was a result of a sexual assault or their are dangerous people within the parent’s life from whom they want to protect their child. Children can be removed and placed in foster care for a short time due to a parent passing away or a life crisis that will quickly pass. Stability is certainly a common theme, but the negative light surrounding birth parents is often due to a result of not having the whole story.
It is important in adoption and foster care not to judge any situation without the full story. As with any media portrayal, there is a dramatic story being told. While elements of the story may hold truth, facts are often exaggerated or over-emphasized to tell a better story. If you want the truth about adoption and foster care, turn off the TV, shut the laptop, and seek out foster families and those who have adopted. Most are happy to share their heart and clear up the myths to foster a better understanding of these important topics.