PunditMom Rants (again) About Media Coverage of Adoption — It’s Not Just About Madonna

Tue, March 31, 2009

Adoption


I really try to stick to more political things here at PunditMom, but sometimes I have to speak up when the media gets out of control with its coverage of adoption.

This week, the Washington Post wrote this headline, Maryland Woman is Charged in Death of Two Girls: Children Were Found in Adoptive Mother’s Freezer Last Year. (emphasis added)

This is a horrible story. But can you tell me why it’s important to the narrative that the woman was their mother by adoption? Is the Washington Post suggesting this was somehow more heinous because the mother had adopted them? That it would have been less horrible if the crime had been committed by a biological parent? This sort of writing is one of my pet peeves as a mother by adoption — the fact that the children were adopted is irrelevant to the story, so why mention it?

When I’ve asked reporters that, they say, well, it’s an additional fact and we like to include as many facts a possible. That’s nice, but as a journalist and an attorney, I like facts too — if they’re relevant. The not-so-subtle inference in many if these stories is that somehow families by adoption are suspect. If there is another reason to include the information about how a family is formed, then why not include it in each story?

And don’t get me started on this whole Madonna brouhaha. Pop culture media loves to mock celebrities who want to adopt children from countries. Last night, CNN was having a discussion about why there isn’t more of an effort to have celebrities set an example for the rest of us by “adopting American.”

To say I was insulted is an understatement. Where does the media get off telling families where and who they should adopt children from? Really, if they want to go down this road, then I want to see coverage about all the celebrities who have used extensive fertility treatment to have bio kids. Or, if they’re looking for a real discussion, not a sensational one, let’s talk about the realities of adoption here and abroad, plus how each family should be entitled to determine for themselves what’s best when making a family.

I agree with one thing CNN is suggesting — it is time for a serious look at the adoption process in this country, but to suggest that there are half a million kids ready for adoptive homes is inaccurate. While there may be that many children in foster care, the point of the foster care system, while far from perfect, is to ultimately reunite families and keep them together, not to be a feeder system for adoption.

As for the critics are are pointing and yelling at Madonna for heading back to Malawi for another child, I’ve got news for you. PunditGirl talks all the time about her wish that she had a sibling from China and wishes there were other people in our family who are Asian and “look like her” (there are, but they live thousands of miles away). At nine, she longs for more of a daily connection to her birth culture. We’re doing the best that we can, making sure she learns Chinese language and culture and that we actively cultivate friends who also have Asian children. But at the end of the day, it’s not enough for her.

In light of our “advancing ages,” there isn’t another sibling in PunditGirl’s future. But if we were a tad younger, I think it would be a good thing for her and would help give her more of the connection she’s searching for.

Given the fact that Madonna already has a child from Malawi, she’s actually doing a responsible thing by making a choice to adopt from the same country as her son, David. But I guess that’s not a sensational enough story for the tabloids.

Photo by PunditMom

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19 Responses to “PunditMom Rants (again) About Media Coverage of Adoption — It’s Not Just About Madonna”

  1. Veronica Says:

    wow…You totally convinced me to root for Madonna on this one despite the fact that I haven an aversion to what looks like celebs collecting children via adoption. But I guess if she can afford it, in both love & money, then why the hell not. And thanks for sharing that painful piece of info about PunditGirl's desire for a sibling from China.

  2. Jeni Says:

    I have a cousin who was unable to conceive and she and her husband turned to adopting children from Korea. THey adopted four! I don’t know what impelled them to turn to adoption from another country and frankly, I admire their doing that very much as they were able to provide a wonderful home to four kids -all now college-educated, doing quite well in the States too! Yes, there are certainly children in this country in need of being adopted too -same as others world-wide -but perhaps the stringent requirements for adopting American-born children -just as the difference in prices sent folks off to buy foreign cars and other prices -we’ve ended up screwing over ourselves in many areas. What difference does it make if someone who is just a regular Joe and Jane or a celebrity who has money galore adopt a child from another nation as long as the child is being well-cared for, given opportunities unavailable to them in their native land? Oh, and a classmate of mine from high school, adopted two girls from China when she was 57 years old too and she is still working today (teaching, I believe) and plans to continue with that as long as she can too! Where there is a need, try to fill it -and it should make no difference whether children adopted are American-born or from some other country nor should the status of the adoptive parent be problematic either as long as they can physically and financially care for the children they take into their homes.

  3. anniegirl1138 Says:

    As an adoptee, I have always taken issue with the way the media distinguishes between bio and adopted children. Like it makes a difference or something. But we are a society terribly hung up on genetic ties. My late husband insisted we try IVF before looking at adoption because of the dim view of adoption he grew up with and the pressure from his mother that adoption was a “last resort only”.

    I looked into foster care and older child adoption at one time but it is fraught with problems and infant adoption actually turned out to be more expensive than fertility treatments.

    I look enough like members of my dad’s family and my younger brother that no one would guess I was adopted and are usually surprised when they find out. Still, I know that I don’t “look like” anyone I am related to and it is a lonely feeling to look for your facial features in every similar face in the crowd. It wasn’t until daughter was born that I had that DNA connection. It is a more powerful thing than we give credit to but in the end it is not what creates a real family.

  4. BananaBlueberry Says:

    I HAVE to comment-
    I AM TOTALLY with you!

    I cannot stand when people even say, ‘adoptive parents’, etc. I am a firm believer in the people who raise and love you ARE your parents- period.

  5. Jenny Says:

    I remember that story about the adoptive mother who killed her children. I’m thinking the adoptive part was relevant as damning of the state system as that woman was on their radar as possibly being dangerous and yet was allowed to be a foster parent/adoptive parent and had slipped through the cracks – not enough was done by the state to make sure those kids were safe, they were just happy to have people willing to take kids off their hands. Which, while not an adoption issue, is still an issue, overall.
    The foster care system is indeed meant to be temporary, with the goal of returning these kids to birth families. Unfortunately though, that isn’t the norm, and I think we’ve all seen enough research about healthy kids and their need for stable households to know these kids deserve better than what we as fellow Americans are gicing them.
    I get why you’re sensitive about adoption being mentioned negatively in the press. I would be too, in your shoes. And I agree the media are pretty worthless, generally speaking, these days. But I still think any attention we can give to highlight how broken the child service systems are across this country, the better, even if well functioning programs are slighted a little in the process. What will it take for us to get as angry about that as we are about AIG and their bonus structures?

  6. PunditMom Says:

    Jeni, It’s really not accurate that one has to have money galore for an international adoption. Costs associated with domestic adoptions, fertility and regular health care for “the old fashioned” way end up being very similar — it’s just that health insurance covers a lot.

  7. jodifur Says:

    I just wish people considered adopting foster children, nothing against International adoption at all.

    No child is an adopted child, every child is a child of, no matter how they got to be that way.

    and I had to plug my own link, and your very thoughtful comment to-

    http://www.mamapop.com/mamapop/2009/03/madonnas-adopti.html

  8. BaltimoreGal Says:

    I find it offensive, this specifying of “adoptive” children, for sure. I have two Japanese cousins that HAPPEN to be adopted but the fact is, they could have been born that way as their mother is Japanese, and they live in Japan! The world is changing and people need to get that multi-ethnicity is not odd or weird.

    I also know that adoption is (or has not been) as acceptable in many countries’ culture, leading to a huge amount of orphans available. I think this is changing somewhat and I think celebrity adoptions CAN help that so that more in-country and multi-ethnic adoptions happen everywhere.

    I do question Madonna’s adopting children under what seem to be privileged circumstances, just like I question Angelina Jolie’s adopting so many children so close together. Just like I would if they were adopting American children- not because of their ethnicity or nationality.

  9. Monkey Girl Says:

    Here’s my two cents,

    My brother and I were former wards of the state of California in the late 60′s early 70′s and in foster care (4 years+) and eventually adopted.

    My parents made it very clear that we were NO DIFFERENT than if we’d been born from them. Any friend/relative who introduced us as ‘their adoptive children’ were quickly berated that we were their children. Friends and relatives of the family who couldn’t ‘get it’ were ‘weaned’ from the family very quickly.

    My husband and I considered adoption when we were in Asia, it never ended up happening but I’ve never understood the negative backlash from foreign adoption. I could care less which country Madonna adopts from, it’s her business.

    I will say when I hear conservatives spout off criticisms about foreign adoption I believe they’re trying to appease their sense of guilt. Our adoption/foster system in California/Washington (the two states I’m familiar with) are under-funded, under-staffed and under-monitored.

    I studied and written much on ‘aging out’ of foster care. I thank Rosie O’Donnell for bringing adoption to the forefront of American media.

    I am my mother’s daughter, adopted or not…legally there’s no difference…even on my birth certificate (which has her name on it)…so why is there a difference in the eyes of the media?

  10. impromptublogger Says:

    To me it’s the adoption that’s the issue, it’s the adopter. Madonna is now divorced, seems more interested most of the time in her boytoys and her career than raising her children and frankly I don’t see why she wants to adopt another child in the first place. She probably doesn’t pay much attention to the ones she already has.

  11. Jerseygirl89 Says:

    I’ve never understood that whole “adoptive” parent thing either. I remember once saying to a friend born on New Year’s Eve, “Guess your mom missed the parties that year!” and he replied, “No, my mom was at a party. But I think the woman who gave birth to me probably missed a party. My mom got drunk in celebration.”

  12. JCK Says:

    It bothers me when the media mentions ADOPTIVE mother/parents, too. Just throwing that in there. It’s a fact, but with what relevance to the story.

    I am an adoptive mom of an American baby. It was not expensive, we had a wonderful experience with the birth mother. I wish they would have more postive stories in the media about that. The press always goes with the negative few.

    If any child is adopted and loved, no matter overseas, USA …it is a good thing.

  13. Jessica McFadden Says:

    I’ve always thought that it was sensitive and amazing that mom Mia Farrow has always made an effort when adding to her family through adoption to adopt subsequent siblings/kids from countries of her other kids’ origins, so that the children have at least one sibling that shares his/her ethnicity and birth culture.

  14. Jen Says:

    Inprompu blogger -

    I don’t think that’s fair to say about Madonna. Yes, she’s had her fair share of men, and she’s divorced… that doesn’t make her a horrible mother. By all accounts, she’s actually a very good mother. I haven’t always approved of the things she had done… but I think you’re wrong on this.

  15. Jen Says:

    We definately need to make adoption easier here in the US. It is sad that we have so many kids here that need to be adopted. And, then add to it.. the argument against abortion is that you could put the child up for adoption… and then those children end up in foster care for years.

  16. riiiight Says:

    So do you guys feel this much outrage when the media goes on endlessly when it’s a *gasp* SUV(!!!!) involved in a fatal car crash, rather than just leaving it at ‘there was a fatal car crash involving Joe Blow of Doofustown and Bertha Hoobsnoober of Sludgeville’??

    Gimme a break. How lame can you people be, making a big deal about ONE WORD?

    Do you also get your panties in a bunch when a report says someone choked to death at an Italian restaurant, rather than just leaving it at the person was at a restaurant when they kicked off?

    Really. Aren’t there more crucial things to get worked up about?

    Oh, and on the Madonna thing. . . maybe she should stop wasting so much time trying to get special privileges because of her so-called ‘star status’ and try practicing her pathetic fake British accent some more. What a loser.

    Now go ahead and sensor away, as all you good libs like to do.

  17. Jen Says:

    hahaha … I love how people just respond with anger instead of calmly trying to prove their point… how come everyone rushes to anger…. and how can you be angry at someone who wants to adopt a child?

  18. riiiight Says:

    hahahahaha. Whatever Jen.

    Amazing how you automatically jump to the conclusion that someone is responding with anger and hasn’t thought something out first. Were you in my brain today and I just didn’t know it? Were you in my den while I was typing? So how do you know the mood I was in when I was typing?

    Oh, and I do know you were talking about my comment because basically everyone else here has been a mindless sheep (impromptublogger and Jenny being the exceptions), following the masses and rah-rahing PunditMom.

    BTW, how exactly do you know Madonna’s such a rad mom? Are you, like, her BFF or something? Amazing how you can be the omniscient one and know for a fact she’s a great mom, while someone who has a lower opinion of her is dead wrong.

    And re: the ridiculous question . . . and how can you be angry at someone who wants to adopt a child?? *blink, blink*

    Umm, gee, I dunno. What if a convicted pedophile wants to adopt a cute, smooshy little Malawian boy of his very own. Should we give him the green light and our blessings? What if a person with a history abusing children wants to adopt? Would that be a grand idea too? But I guess in your world, everyone is a perfect candidate for parenthood. ‘Cause we sure can’t get angry with ‘someone wanting to adopt’ now can we?

    Shall we all now grab hands and sing a couple verses of Kumbaya–minus those horrible references to God, of course. Certainly wouldn’t want to offend anyone or hurt someone’s widdwe feewings, would we?

    **Note to impromptublogger and Jenny: sorry for mentioning you by name up there. But I agree with your opinions much more than any of the other comments here. Sorry if that offends. lol**

  19. PunditMom Says:

    Hm. Someone here is missing the point. I’m assuming that “riiiight” would be OK if he/she was adopted and was always referred to as someone’s “adopted” child, as opposed to that person’s child?

    The discussion is about what value this society places on various relationships, not it’s use of adjectives.


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