Anyone who is a part of the adoption community knows that the manner in which the mainstream media (MSM) portrays adoption ranges from totally inaccurate to seriously wrong. The MSM likes stories about feel-good reunions and shocking failed adoption attempts.
When the occasional opinion piece or annual article for National Adoption Month or National Foster Care Month comes out, facts are apparently not an issue for the MSM. Writers for the MSM are held in higher esteem than the “mommy bloggers” of the world, and yet, the “mommy bloggers” are the ones who most often get adoption right. The MSM “journalists” perpetuate myths, spin false narratives, and spread half-truths or outright lies.
Laws? What laws?
The MSM rarely addresses adoption laws at all. When they do, they almost always try to simplify things to the point of being useless. In a recent Huffington Post blog post, the author states that birth parents have a 45-day revocation period in New York. However, that is not true for all adoptions, not even for all private adoptions. Revocation periods are often contingent on specific circumstances, but the MSM doesn’t feel the need to clarify. There are different laws governing adoptions in all 50 states, but some MSM writers don’t seem to realize that. They report on the laws in their own states as though they are the law of the land, when, sadly, there really is no standard when it comes to adoption law.
The devil is in the details – so we’re not going to use them.
Adoption is complex, and contested adoptions are even more so. Instead of being unbiased, the MSM decides which side it is going to take and spins from there. In March 2016, a young child in foster care was returned to her biological family, but the MSM cried that Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was to blame for ripping away the only (foster) family she had ever had. Never mind the fact that ICWA or no, the goal of foster care is reunification with biological family, the biological family had been identified and ready to accept the child since November 2012, and that the foster family had tried (and failed) to contest another adoption by a different foster child’s biological family. Oh no! It was all the fault of the big bad ICWA.
Adoption is totally awesome!
The MSM portrays adoption as a concept as a total win-win. A child in foster care, an orphan in a third-world country, or an infant born to a somehow unfit mother finds a family. Maybe the child wouldn’t have been in foster care if this country provided better support for families. Maybe that orphan has parents in that third-world country who are now wondering what happened to their child. That infant? Well, there’s competition to adopt her, and her birth mother is probably a perfectly acceptable parent, thank you very much. Adoptee and birth parent narratives are rarely given any column width. When they are, only the “happy” ones need apply for the space. Adoptive parents dominate the scene, and always with a woe-is-me story of infertility or gay civil rights issues. We’re the ones who have it so hard, because we have to fill out mountains of paperwork . . . blah blah blah.
I can show you an example of a story that demonstrates all of these major problems: “Adopting in the US has more heartache than you’d imagine.”
– Woe is me story? Check! The APs “longed to start a family, but adopting a child in the US proved to be more difficult than they ever imagined.”
– Total lack of concern for adoption law? Check! The baby “officially became ours at 2 days old.” And a whole slew of misinformation about birth mother expenses and Louisiana adoption law.
– Adoption is awesome? Check! “Even though it’s an emotional journey, [the APs] would recommend adoption to anyone willing to take the ride.”
– No devilish details? Check! Their daughter’s birth father isn’t mentioned and there’s no information from the birth family’s perspective at all.
(As an aside, I really hope those parents aren’t as shallow as this article paints them.)
What are the consequences of the MSM’s portrayal of adoption? The general public continues to believe that what they read is The Truth (TM). Birth fathers are the big bad wolves who stand in the way of forming happy families. Adoptive parents are rich and birth mothers are trying to wrest every last penny they can from them. Open adoption and specifically birth mothers, are very scary. While the adoption process is fraught with peril (what if the birth mother changes her mind?!?), the act of adoption is beautiful and entirely happy for everyone.
The honest truth is so much different. If you want to learn about adoption, don’t read what these so-called “journalists” have to say. Read the “mommy bloggers” – and not just adoptive mommies! Find some birth mommies and adoptee mommies and daddies too. Adoption is complicated. The MSM just can’t seem to handle it.