Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Adoptive Parent's Perspective on "Find My Family"

ABC's new reality show, "Find My Family," helps adopted kids (who are now adults) find their birth parents, and birth parents find the kids they put up for adoption. When I heard the premise, first I didn't want to watch it. Then I decided that I wouldn't be allowed to really have an opinion about it unless I watched it at least once. So I did.

On one hand, the show made me glad. Without meaning to be (just like Juno and Bella), it is very pro-life. One of the people featured on Monday's episode said, "I want to thank my birth mother for giving me life." When she finally got to meet her birth mother, those were some of her first words. She knew her birth mother had a choice. She was a teen mother and could have very easily taken the easy way out. But she didn't.

On the other hand, it made me sad. I've read the books--so many of them. I know how hard it is on adopted kids to not know where they came from, to not look like anyone in their families, to not know anything of their genetic or genealogical history. I can understand why adopted kids feel the profound need to search for their birth families. But that's why it makes me sad--my kids won't be able to. Of course, I would always be happy to support my child in a search. But short of giving DNA tests to every person in Tanzania, my kids are not going to find their birth families. We know nothing. Not a shred. So it makes me sad to see these adopted people in this show talk about how important it is to them, and know that won't ever happen for my kids. Only their Heavenly Father will be able to heal that hurt.

The rest of my feelings were just conflicted. Is the show pro-adoption? I can't really tell. One person featured seemed pretty unhappy in his adoptive family. The other said to her adoptive mom, "You're the only person I will ever call Mom." That was cool. But I worry that by only focusing the show on the birth families, prospective adoptive families could get scared off. Why adopt a child if they never really will feel part of your family? Even the name of the show, "Find My Family," bothers me. Don't my children already have a family? Are we only second best? That's not how I view adoption, and that's hopefully not how my kids will see it.

I also wonder what it's like for adopted kids to watch this show. I've read that most adopted kids fantasize about their birth parents, and usually they believe that their parents never wanted to give them up, are living a happy life somewhere, and desperately hope to find their children someday. Of course, this show only focuses on stories like that that really are true. They are not going to feature the stories where the birth parent is living a screwed-up life, or has no desire to meet his or her child. They're not going to tell the stories of the multitude of international adoptions where there's no way to ever find the birth family.

You know what would make a great show? Adoption stories. Where children with no family finally find one. That's a show I would watch.
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