First, a disclaimer. We don’t watch commercial TV in my home and I’ve never watched this show. What I do know is that it attracts the attention of a lot of adoptees and former foster care adults. Clearly, from the image above there is also an issue of transracial adoption.
For anyone somehow connected to adoption or child welfare, such viewers are likely to watch this show through a different lens. There are pebbles of accuracy surrounding adoption, foster care and birth parent reunions in the series as it unfolds from week to week. It is well not to forget that this is still a dramatic television show, which is never able to give anyone a fully realistic picture of what it’s like to be adopted or reunited with your birth father. But it’s definitely been judged one of the closest mainstream shows to attempt this issues.
The show’s writers are judged to have done their research and consulted with adult adoptees with the hope of accurately portraying not only aspects of transracial adoption, but also search and reunion, identity and trauma.
The truth is that each adoptee has a unique perception, opinion and view of their adoption experience — and that those very perceptions, opinions and views may change on a yearly, daily and at times hourly basis! But overall, the “feeling” of adoption as portrayed in mainstream culture is usually one of goodness, happiness and “rainbows and unicorns.”
In “This is Us,” we are introduced to a different side — the trauma and loss side — of adoption and foster care. We feel the push/pull of how an adoptee struggles with their feelings toward their birth parents. The writers painfully convey the angst that Randall feels when he discovers his adoptive mother knew from the time he was an infant who his biological father was — yet kept it a secret.
We see young Randall in a grocery store asking random adults to curl their tongues because he has learned this trait is hereditary and wonders if any of them — because they are Black — might be related to him. As he battles with forming his identity, he also carries a little notebook where he documents his encounters with people of color. In current time, we see Randall deal with panic attacks and his need for perfection and control. He is paralyzed by his own fears and the unknown.
As an adult, Randall and his wife, Beth, decide to become foster parents. They begin fostering an older girl and the writers introduce trauma triggers of abuse as well as the child’s deep connection with her mother. We sense Randall’s internal battle between wanting to protect his foster daughter while at the same time empathizing with her mother and the struggles she has experienced.
This show is recommended for adoptive and foster parents, especially those parenting children of color. This show would be appropriate for teenagers to watch, but it does have adult storylines and content.