Wednesday, August 1, 2007

What's Adoption Got To Do With It.

Another adoption scandal in making news this week. A woman in Florida is accused of terribly mistreating 11 kids and disabled adults that she had adopted over the last decade-all while bilking the system for $3 million dollars. To make matters worse,as she was cruelly humiliating the children of adoption, she was she was showering her one biological child with love, attention and material goodies-alleged to be funded in part by the money that was supposed to be used to raise the children she adopted.

But is the real story about adoption? Or, did she happen upon a way to circumvent the system to the tune of $3 million? Was she just after the money? Or did she want to abuse kids? Perhaps adoption was the facilitator to her money-making scheme. After all, robbing a bank or embezzling from an employer might be more work.

We may never know the real answers to these questions, but we do know that yet another negative adoption story-that may not even be about adoption-reinforces many of the stereotypes that we have about adoption.

Many prospective adoptive parents fear that they will not be able to love their child of adoption as they would a biological child. Reading this horrendous story-conspicuously reported without speculation on other reasons-plays right into that fear-and may even discourage parents from adopting (unless they want the money!). It also 'reminds' people that families formed by adoption are at best 'flawed'.Couple that with the difficulty that the foster care systems that are already inundated with children they are struggling to find a home for and you get lots of kids without homes and more cemented and inaccurate biases against adoption, families formed through adoption and children of adoption.

The usual outcry from the adoption community is that the media never covers 'good' adoption stories-which is true. Unfortunately 'good' stories don't sell papers and magazines. For whatever reason, we like controversy and we like the horror stories. If we didn't the media would write about other things.

Still, this misses the point. The media-and all of us-need to question what this woman's (and others like her) motives are/were. If we dig a little deeper, we may find out that it is about the adoption system rather than about adopting children. The kids were merely a means to a very profitable end. By giving them nothing she was able to lavish her biological son with rewards.

As usual, Tom Cruise's famous line in Jerry McGuire, "show me the money" is likely where the real story-albeit probably less likely to sell papers-is.

Until we change what really needs changing-the system-we will continue to reinforce negative stereotypes and biases about adoption and the families who are touched by adoption.

Those biases don't do us or our kids any good. Make sure that when you talk about family formation with your kids-you focus on the reality and not the hype. Nip the biases in the bud and we can level the playing field for all families.

With Respect,

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