Eye on the media

We watch so you won’t have to.™ (Blame Harlow’s Monkey for the link.)

Friday’s episode of the View focused on international adoption.  I don’t watch the View because I would rather have a root canal.  My mother won’t watch the View because it is “too stupid.”  Yet I watched Friday.  So you wouldn’t have to.  Half an hour of my life, gone forever.  (Feel free to send cash in appreciation.)

The View started with an intro about celebrities adopting, and then proceeded to “regular folk” who adopt.  Adam Pertman was also a guest.  The five adoptive parents featured were all white.  No surprise there.  There was a straight couple (adopted a black boy from foster care and a boy from Haiti, also had two bio daughters), a single woman (Guatemala) and a gay male couple (boy and a girl from Guatemala).

I was glad to see a gay male couple.  But why not feature an adult adoptee adoption professional instead of Pertman, who seems to be everywhere?  (Maybe I should be grateful it wasn’t Elizabeth Bartholet.)

And where were the people of color?  This struck me as especially funny given that two of the three hosts were African American.  I was also dismayed to see that one of the adoptive parents was somebody who spreads her privilege around the internet.  But whatever.

Pertman did most of the talking.  Here are the questions as I remember them and some of the more notable answers:

Are regular people getting children from overseas at the same rate as celebrities?  Is it that easy?

Why do parents turn to international adoption when there are kids here?

Pertman said that there aren’t a lot of babies available domestically and that people who have biological children aren’t asked those sort of questions.  He mentioned “ethnic reasons,” reasons of ease and financial reasons.

What countries are the easiest to adopt from?

Pertman said it depends on your age, age of the child, time when you adopt, so it’s important to get current information.

What about the kid who was “returned” to Russia?

Pertman likened this to “man bites dog.”  He said it was a story because people “don’t return their kids.”

What about Haiti?

Pertman:  Processes are being put into place to make sure these kids really are orphans.  Pardon me while I snort, see the U.S. definition of “orphan.”

Are there countries that won’t let Americans adopt?

Pertman again:  Western Europe, Latin America, most of Africa. 

Why did you adopt? (asked of the straight couple)

The woman answered all of the questions.  She said that they adopted because they kept hearing stories about how many children were in foster care.  She said they felt “called” to do this and wanted to give a home to a kid who didn’t have one.

How old was your child? (asked of the straight couple)

Adoptive mother: He came home at six months old.

Why did you go internationally? (asked of the straight couple)

She responded that it was because they had a tough time in the foster care system and didn’t feel like they could do it again.  She also mentioned that they didn’t want their older son to be the only brown face in their family.

(Photograph displayed on screen:  The two black sons holding a banner that reads “All you need is love” out in a field.  In the distance, the couple sits with their two white daughters on a sofa.)

What is the cost for adopting internationally vs. foster care?

The woman said through foster care it is free.  Pertman said international adoption ranges from 20 to 50 thousand dollars.

How is it like raising black kids when you’re white? (asked of the straight couple)

She described it as a “challenge” and said that adopting transracially is something you have to be intentional about.  She added that it was important that their kids feel like part of the black community and that you can no longer stay in your “safe” (comfortable) environment.

Did you have any difficulty adopting? (asked of the single woman)

Adoptive parent:  I went three times.

How long did it take? (asked of the single woman)

Did you consider other options? (asked of the single woman)

She talked about turning forty without finding Mr. Right.  She said that instead of the “craving” diminishing, it felt like it was getting closer and closer.

Is it difficult to adopt as a single? (asked of the single woman)

Adoptive parent:  There were only certain countries open to me.  Pertman mentioned Colombia, Russia.  China no longer allows single parents to adopt.  He says adopting domestically in the U.S. is probably the easiest, particularly if you’re gay or single.

How limited were your adoptions as a gay couple? (asked of the gay couple)

Adoptive parent:  Pretty limited, we could have gone domestic or with surrogacy.

He talked about how Guatemala allows single-parent adoption, sort of like “don’t ask don’t tell.” His partner was included in the homestudy process.  Once the children arrived in the U.S., they were re-adopted by the partner.

He also noted “Guatemalan kids are amazingly beautiful.”

Are there countries that are “more intolerant than we are”? (with regard to adoption by gays and lesbians)

Interesting phrasing.  Pertman said South Africa is the only country that allows gay people to adopt.

Why did some countries shut down?

Pertman said that with Guatemala, there was a lot of corruption “alleged.”  I found that troubling.  He went on to say “Russia has threatened to close because they say, ‘oh, Americans  are abusing our children.’  There is no evidence of that happening in any real way, man bites dog.”

(Russian authorities recently stated that 17 adopted children were killed by their U.S. adoptive parents.  A recent news report adds to that number.)

What challenges couples face when they adopt a child who is not a newborn?

Pertman:  Dealing with the older child developmentally, being institutionalized, foster care might mean abused or neglected.  He added the “really, really good news” is that they advance quickly once in the home.

Are American children ever adopted intercountry?

Pertman said this is one of the “great untold stories” and said it’s a hundred or so a year to Canada and Scandinavian countries.

I think the final question was something about what prospective parents should do when they start to consider adoption.  Pertman said that they should educate themselves.  Talk to other parents, read websites, get info from agencies and attorneys.  Consider whether they could be parents to older children or parent children of another ethnicity.  He said they should be “thoughtful as consumers,” but added that he didn’t mean consumers of kids, but of information.

Overall, I was disappointed by this segment.  Although I fully expected to be.  Pertman appeared to be trying to present a very positive view of adoption, glossing over many issues.  In order to be a thoughtful consumer, I’d suggest people dig a little deeper.

Adoption disruption/dissolution is a huge problem, even if most people don’t use Torry Hansen’s method of putting the kid on a plane.  Abuse and murder of adopted children is similarly a serious issue and we need to discuss how parents can be better screened and prepared.  Establish support systems.  Provide training.  And follow-up.  Because the link above to the adoptive parents who killed their kid reports that the children were briefly removed from custody and then returned.

Unfortunately, abuse of children isn’t man bites dog.

The corruption inherent in any market-driven system also needs to be addressed.  Guatemala did not have “alleged” corruption.  There was proven corruption.  That is true for other countries as well.

Let’s address the issue of “saving” children as well.  I think it’s a great idea to want to help a child.  I’m just not so sure that motive is the best place to begin adoptive parenting.  Do parents move away from it?  I’m sure some do.  But I’m not at all comfortable with parents continuing to talk about their kids from this perspective as the children get older.

And where is the discussion about racism?  We hear that some parents adopt certain kids for “ethnic reasons.”  We hear it’s a challenge to parent black kids as white parents.  That prospective parents should consider if they could parent children of another ethnicity.  And that Guatemalan children are “amazingly beautiful.”

(I should note that all the kids are still very young.  Additionally, the View displayed photographs of them throughout the segment, which I am also not comfortable with.)

Okay, there you have the ten-minute wrap-up.  Please leave your money by the door.  Remember, it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it.

6 thoughts on “Eye on the media

  1. God bless you. I can’t believe you watched “The View.” Gross.

    It’s annoying that their adoption professional wasn’t an adoptee. It should not be that hard to find one.

    Sounds like they barely grazed the surface of corruption and ethical problems. Oh well, not surprising.

    I thought Time Magazine’s article on Russian adoptions was interesting, though.

  2. Spreading my privilege around the internet?

    I was bummed that there wasn’t time to talk about racism, too. It was a short segment, and I agree . . . disappointing. Many factors were left out.

    I had recommended an adult adoptee to the show’s producer as the expert. They went with Adam.

    I don’t recall anyone talking about saving children through adoption. I do recall that the last time I commented here, you retyped my comment to change my words. Seems like you’ve taken a few liberties in your recap, too.

    Though I’ll agree with the previous comment. God bless you for watching The View.

  3. I was also dismayed to see that one of the adoptive parents was somebody who spreads her privilege around the internet.

    ________________
    LOL, I wish I could think up stuff like that to say, like say, for example over at KAD/Nexus, it would have been perfect! Maybe you could link that so we could read her “retyped” comments

  4. Say, almost a fun set of comments.

    Personally I think your nuts for watching The View. Silly TV.

    I just spent several days with several hundred adoptive parents. I was amazed at how many I got along with. My past experiences with them have been horrible. Every cliche you can think of for an awful white adoptive parent.

    But I didn’t see this where I was and with those parents. Maybe we aren’t all as screwed up as it appears we are? I don’t know.

    I do believe that this whole mess comes down to what motivates people to adopt. Good point in that case. If people didn’t adopt, then we have a complete different set of issues, so I mean adoption, not providing for children which is of course more important.

    What motivated me to adopt was not to save anyone. It was simply to start a family. And we literally wanted as clean a slate as we could get. Who wants to raise someone else’s children all the while having to take THEIR input as to how to raise them? Why would I bother? Raise your own damned children. Ugh, but that’s how I thought at the time.

    But something happens to most people as time goes on. They care more about doing the right thing by their child than they ever remember why it was they adopted in the first place. It is a permanent level of responsibility and guilt and love that is a lot of work.

    I realize there have been many failures and I am not so surprised. Parents often fail. Mine did. I imagine trying to graft children to parents makes that even harder.

    Anyway, we are all too quick to judge. I was, and I may have been wrong.

    I’m no fan of this crazy experiment. Standing in a room with hundreds of white people and their not-white children is a surreal experience for anyone. Including me. It does not look right. It looks contrived. Even though all of those people love each other very much.

    Hm, looks like I am not contributing a damned thing here. Sorry. :)

  5. What motivated me to adopt was not to save anyone. It was simply to start a family. And we literally wanted as clean a slate as we could get. Who wants to raise someone else’s children all the while having to take THEIR input as to how to raise them? Why would I bother? Raise your own damned children. Ugh, but that’s how I thought at the time.

    But something happens to most people as time goes on. They care more about doing the right thing by their child than they ever remember why it was they adopted in the first place. It is a permanent level of responsibility and guilt and love that is a lot of work.

    This is where I get stuck. I think lots and lots of people enter into adoption with thought processes that do not benefit children. Agencies should be educating them, but often they are not. In many ways they collude with prospective adoptive parents, who are their clients.

    So with regard to the motive of helping children, I think some parents start at that point and move away from it. Because their kid is no longer an abstract charity case to them. But others do not. And the media reinforces this viewpoint by rewarding and promoting adoptive parents and their conception of themselves as good people who did a good deed by adopting. This is perhaps especially harmful with regard to white parents and kids of color.

    Part of the reason I follow popular media is because it gives a window into how issues are being portrayed. As with everything else, you see white people as the authority.

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