The Media’s Slant on Russian Adoptee Story is Getting on My Last Nerve

Tue, April 13, 2010


Several months ago, I weighed in on another adoption “give back” story, so I’m not going to rehash that all again — you can  read my feelings about that at my post called There Should be No Give Backs in Adoption.

And I’ve ranted before about how the media covers adoption-related stories — that somehow parents who decide to adopt are more suspect in their desires and motivations than those who choose to (or are able to) have children the “old-fashioned” way.

But today this is on my mind — the media this week is obsessed with the potential abandonment aspect of the story of  seven-year-old Russian adoptee Artyom, aka Justin, by his American mother.  Trust me — I will make NO excuses for her or any parent who puts a child on a plane and ships them off somewhere as she apparently did.

But I have to ask — where is the media coverage every other day of the year about all the other children — mostly families’ biological children — who are abandoned, neglected or abused?  I’d like to think that the story of this little boy — who is now an American citizen, by the way — would be getting this much 24/7 coverage if the same actions had taken place but he had been the biological child of this mother, not a child who came to her family by adoption.

I’m pretty sure if I was a betting girl, my money would be safe on that one.

This story is getting attention because it involves adoption.  And the media love to sensationalize stories about adoptive families.  I don’t have the energy to get up on this soapbox for too long again, but it’s just a fact — when children are hurt or neglected or abandoned by biological parents, the stories might get a little play, but not for long.  But make that family an adoptive family, and that changes the whole calculus of its purported newsworthiness because people still like to stare at families like mine, both in real life and on cable news.

You can read more about my take on Artyom’s story at my new column at CafeMom’s The Stir, called Speaker of the House!

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8 Responses to “The Media’s Slant on Russian Adoptee Story is Getting on My Last Nerve”

  1. Julie Pippert Says:

    I see your point, but I think that this has more to do with our shock and horror at the idea that instead of contacting the agency and working out a safe and okay way to handle this, the mother put the child on an airplane to a foreign country by himself the way she did. It’s horrifying. So much so that it stands out, and that is why I think it’s getting attention. My news gives a lot of attention to stand out stories about kids, regardless of how they came into the family. In fact, they seem to thrive on horror stories about kids. I can’t even watch local news in the morning any longer. Thus, perhaps my POV is different because I do hear about it so much.

  2. OmegaMom Says:

    I think one reason they pay so much attention to Adoptions Gone Wrong is that everyone knows that adoptive parents are screened and vetted left, right, back, forth. So it’s a “man bites dog” kind of story: how amazing and horrible that someone who went through all that screening behaved that way! People who have kids biologically aren’t screened, so you’re getting the “normal” percentage of bad folks who can’t handle being parents.

    Does that make sense?

  3. jodifur Says:

    Children are abused and neglected and abandoned all the time, you are right, and it is horrible. Thank you for drawing attention to it.

    Children are not sweaters, you can not return them.

  4. Daisy Says:

    I continue to be shocked by bad parenting – I hope I never lose that shock. It’s the shock and the caring that prompt me to call CPS when I see drug use in a home or suspect abuse and neglect.

    Watching kids grow emotionally is one of the delights of my job (teaching). Watching them get hurt is one of the biggest heartbreaks.

  5. Tonya Says:

    I do agree, I think the media weighs much harder on adoptive families and seems to insinuate that folks who are adopting are doing so with ulterior motives. And it seems like the only time a biological family abuse situation comes to the attention of the media is if the child winds up dead, which is just perfect timing since the victim can no longer be saved. I have personal experience with the whole bio-family abuse business and I have to say that in all actuality a child who is adopted has more rights, more programs, and more representation than those bio kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that abuse of adopted children doesn’t exist (as this case clearly shows us) but I think the media is missing the forest for the trees here. Why don’t they concentrate on abuse/neglect as a whole rather than stigmatizing a certain group of folks (adopters), who, on the whole, are loving, caring parents.

  6. Emily Says:

    Actually I think the attention is on because this imperils other international adoptions in Russia and other places. It’s not just the media here that overreacts it is also the other countries.

  7. Anonymouse Says:

    Re: “And I’ve ranted before about how the media covers adoption-related stories — that somehow parents who decide to adopt are more suspect in their desires and motivations than those who choose to (or are able to) have children the “old-fashioned” way.”

    Of course, that same media is often just as horrid to people who can’t have children and spend thousands of dollars on various fertility treatments. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  8. Melody Says:

    As biological mother to one son and mother by the gift of adoption to 3 sons (who were severely abused as infants and had fallen through the crack of our society’s system), I stand upon the soapbox with you.

    Thank you for writing.

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