Not Reality, Scripted

There were a bunch of adoptee reunion programs on TV in the 1990s. I think seeing these really made my adoptee mom wish for a reunion of her own. It was not to be. Even as Tennessee was turning down her request for her adoption file, they broke her heart by telling her that her mother has died several years earlier.

As today’s story reveals, you really can’t believe what you see on these programs.

In early 2020 pre-COVID, I was contacted by a TV producer asking if I would be interested in being on a show. I won’t give the name, but it’s a show about finding lost family members. I immediately knew it was probably about my bio mom or dad.

I agreed, a little out of curiosity, but mostly because they offered me $4000 to be on the show and an all-expenses paid vacation to LA for filming.

Sure enough, it was my mother. She put forth this sob story. She was 15 (which I already knew) and that she felt like she had to give me up, in order to escape shame and disownment from friends and family. Also that her boyfriend pushed her to do it. She said, she always wanted to find me – blah blah blah. I felt completely awkward doing this around cameras.

I found out that ALL reality shows, even the feel-good ones, are SUPER scripted, and the producers kept trying to feed me lines to say, like “I’ve waited for this moment all my life.” At this time in my life, I really couldn’t care less about finding my biological family and had negative feelings about my firth mom, so I don’t think I played the “grateful daughter” role that they wanted. Anyways, the show ends and I go back to my life. I got my biological mom’s info and we text a few times a year.

I was just notified that the show will be airing in the summer, and I have had a lot of anxiety over it. I cannot shake the feeling that none of this was necessary and that it was all for show, and that my biological mom did this to give the world an emotional story to make herself feel better.

There was absolutely NO reason she needed to go on national television to find me. For one, I have researched, and closed adoption files can be accessed by the biological mother, if she goes through the proper steps. She could’ve found my adoptive parent’s information and gone from there. It’s also literally 2022 (actually it was 2020 at the time but still).

Everyone is taking Ancestry DNA tests. She could’ve spent 60 bucks to get a 23 and Me test and found out that I’m already in the data base. I just feel like she completely went to the extremes to do this and put our personal business out there for the world. What if I am portrayed as being an ungrateful bitch or something ?Or future employers search for my name and find the episode!!

One commenter noted – I hear you on the “reality” shows. I also did a pilot many years ago in which they wanted me to react a certain way, so did my daughter. Basically they’re all fake (not real at all). As for the biological mom, everyone is different in how they come to the decision, and what they do with it. She could’ve been looking for her 15 min of fame, or possibly she did feel so pressured and now finally felt like it was time to stand up to those who pressured her. 

And yet another added – or she wanted the money.

Not Every Situation Works Out

It can be heartbreaking. Case in point –

We were matched with an expectant mother 2.5 years ago who chose to parent. We understood and gave her all the things we had for the baby. We checked in on her legitimately a few times to offer help, but she blocked us – which I also understood. This was not a $50,000 agency adoption. She found us on social media. During the time we got to know her, we also got to know her sister who we have remained Facebook friends with. The sister recently reached out to ask how we were doing. In that conversation she shared that soon after her niece was born, her sister got into a bad relationship and started using drugs. Her child was taken by Child Protective Services, the Termination of her Parental Rights by court order occurred and the foster parents adopted the child. The sister was complaining that at first the foster family let them have visits, but they were super uncomfortable, seemed sketchy, and have since blocked contact with the child’s biological family.

I do advocate for moms to keeping and raising their babies. The woman above asked, “but what about situations like this?” and goes on to make a point that there are some moms that do not do well parenting or maybe their circumstances change. That maybe she wasn’t as able to parent though she thought she was.

A really good response to this story acknowledged that the woman telling this story was really trying to learn and wrap their head around breaking out of the whole “rainbow and butterfly” narrative (what adoptees often refer to as the societal adoption myth). I believe you are mature enough to understand that there is always going to be a “not“ situation that falls into a gap. I have a sibling who could perhaps fall into that not all situation… (and in fact this blog author does too.) To answer your question… Yes, there are probably situations involving parents who don’t want to raise their children. Some parents believe the narrative that giving a baby for adoption is better than having an abortion. Some parents, maybe in this particular situation, decided to parent the child because they honestly feel that’s what is in the best interest of their child and it was. Here’s the reality – being in an abusive relationship can change the victim’s mentality. A person trapped in such a relationship can literally become someone you would no longer recognize and someone they never intended to be. So again… Had this child remained with the mother and had she received the kind of support and assistance she needed when she need it including how to get away from her abusive partner, this story would have had a good outcome. There are so many women in situations that really could use help. There are a bunch of places where the system fails to help. And in her case, those failures resulted in the termination of her parental rights. I immediately wonder why this woman’s sister wasn’t contacted to foster this child who is her kin. Why was this sister not encouraged to adopt this child? It’s too late for answers to these questions. I’m just saying there were so many ways in which this one child was failed by a seriously flawed system. The trauma will be huge over the child and her mother’s lifetimes.

Adoption Is A Selfish Act

A woman in the all things adoption group I belong to wrote –

Why can’t people just stay childless, if they cannot have their own ? Why is adoption even sought after failed attempts trying to conceive ? How does it not occur people that taking a child from their mother because you want a child is not an ethical path to family ? Adoption is so selfish. As humans we need to live with the fact that we cannot have it all. We don’t always get what we want and that includes babies. Like any other disappointment in life, you need to deal with it. You are not dying because you can’t have kids.

The truth is that adoption has been packaged (for commercial profit reasons) as the selfless solution to their infertility problem. “Save the unwanted babies” and all that.

The ProLife/religious narrative is strong. Giving your baby to a family who can’t have one is framed as giving the most precious gift anyone can give. And NOT having children is a fate worse than death because you’re not bringing more soldiers into Christ’s army. The manipulation tactics used by the church are psychological warfare. And that bleeds into secular society.

Of course, the argument “for” always comes up –

Where would you have these children go ? What happens when the person regrets their one night stand and resents that child for their loss of “freedom?” What happens when someone has a drug or alcohol addiction and does not feel the need to seek treatment ? What happens when someone has anger issues that put children at risk for abuse ? I agree that the system is not perfect, but I think on some level we can agree that there are some wonderfully kind, capable people with a lot of love to give who would be better suited to raise the child than a parent who is not willing to put the work in to make themselves the parent their baby deserves. I really don’t think this is so black and white, where adoption is always evil, period. I think it’s a case by case thing.

The reality is that there will always be people raising other people’s kids, but there isn’t a need for the power imbalance, the fake birth certificates, and all the other bullshit.  What it means to “help children” needs to be redefined because adoption and identity theft isn’t it.

An adoptee responds to all the what if statements with this –

Most children are not relinquished for the reasons you stated. The majority of adoptions happen because of lack of support. Furthermore even in the circumstances you mentioned, adoption as defined currently is not necessary. No one should have to give up their identity and be forced to play a sick game of pretend, that never really ends, just to be cared for properly.

The narrative that adoption is the ‘opposite’ or the solution to child abuse is damaging. The truth is that there are adoptive parents who are abusive and have anger issues. And there are adoptive parents who resent their adopted children and treat them terribly.

Why is adoption so heavily promoted in the US as a good thing that there are 40 couples wanting to adopt to every newborn that is available for adoption ? Money and religion are behind the desire.

Human Dignity

It has been amazing for me to learn how adoptees are treated as somehow LESS THAN other citizens in this country.

It isn’t a wonder to me that adult adoptees simply want self-determination and autonomy.  They yearn for a respectful and inclusive definition of family – where their inclusively defined (original and adoptive) family is seen as a strength rather than
a weakness.  It isn’t too much to ask that they be allowed transparency and truth.

Policies related to adopted person should be based on evidence and best practices that are healthy for adult adoptees and respectful of their human rights. They wish to be treated with dignity and as having human worth.

How is it that adoptees never have a say within the adoption system ?  That they are not considered the “owners” of their own birth experience.

A child’s human rights include –
the preservation of their biological family whenever possible, information related to their heritage and identifying family information that will provide accurate medical health histories.

At a minimum, there should be unrestricted adult adoptee access to their own original birth certificates.

It is mystifying to me that there is such a lack of support for an adoptee to make sense of their personal diversity.  I believe that is because in a predominantly non-adopted society, people simply don’t understand how it feels, how vexing this hidden and/or false identity is for a mature person.

My mom was offered the most minimal non-identifying information from her adoption file, often referred to as the “censored records”.  It was of no practical use to her and why is it that the powers that be do not honor a citizen’s right to information that is personally their own ?

Just recently the state of New York finally decided to do what is just and fair by adult adoptees.  Too many states continue to hide behind bureaucratic policies that I judge to be no more than bureaucratic laziness.