Will & Kristen’s TV Movie ‘A Deadly Adoption’ Is No Laughing Matter

A deadly Adoption

Every day at the Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI), we search the news to stay current on issues relating to adoption and foster care adoption in order to keep our community and the general public informed about matters impacting this large and diverse group of people.  We recognize that news coverage and popular entertainment drive awareness, shape perceptions, and ultimately have the ability to influence positive or negative change. The news in this area runs a broad spectrum; some headlines raise an eyebrow, others make us smile, and still others remind us of the many changes that are needed in the system that transacts adoption.  Some stories are simply bittersweet, a word that in many ways most aptly defines the reality of many adoption experiences.

This week though we find ourselves tracking a story that leaves us with heaviness and frustration. There has been quite a buzz surrounding the pending Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig Lifetime movie. Fans of the comedy duo were initially disappointed to learn in April that the movie would be shelved, yet are now seemingly revived by a Hollywood billboard that announced the film would air in June. Speculation continues surrounding the film’s airing, an ancillary detail within the broader and more important issues this film confronts us with. Regardless of whether or not it airs or if this was some colossal prank, and regardless of the leading characters, the very idea behind the film titled A Deadly Adoption is egregious.

DAI is passionate about reframing the conversation in adoption to make certain that popular culture does not perpetuate the many stigmas we work so hard to combat. And so, we wished to share some thoughts on this particular movie hype.

Right now in the United States the most recent statistics indicate that there are approximately 2 million children who joined their families through adoption. Over 400,000 children call foster care home and 101,840 children are waiting in foster care for a permanent adoptive family.

Right now in the United States some persons who were born internationally and adopted by US citizens as children have been deported, or are facing deportation, as adults. This happens when the individuals that transacted their adoptions did not, for whatever reason, file the necessary paperwork to ensure their citizenship.

Some children who have been adopted are sent away to live with other families through unregulated channels by their adoptive parents for a variety of reasons. Dubbed ‘rehoming’, this chilling practice has led to abuse and exploitation in a manner tantamount to child trafficking.

Members of the LGBT community continue to fight for the simple right to be treated just like their heterosexual counterparts and evaluated as prospective foster and adoptive parents based on their qualifications, not their sexual orientation or gender identity. This discrimination limits opportunities for children to join potentially qualified families and continues in light of the fact that over 23,000 children exited foster care last year without a permanent family.

Adopted persons who long for their original information advocate for the right to see their actual birth certificate, and have been successful so far in more than two dozen states in having that basic human right restored. Meanwhile, birth parents and adopted persons that have lost each other through closed systems are reconnecting every day.

These experiences, as well as research in adoption that seeks to expand best practices, finds more and more families realizing that openness is a healthier way for adoption, with birth and adoptive families staying connected over time. These relationships can sometimes be complex and difficult, yet offer a richness that is not available through a closed and secretive system.

There can be pain in adoption because for many, at the heart of it, is loss. Every day people struggle with the reality of impaired fertility, wondering if or how they will know the joy of parenthood. First/birth parents know the longing for a child that exists yet whom they do not parent, even if they stay in contact over time. Adopted people navigate the unique, and at times, complicated experience of knowing there is fundamental loss in gaining an adoptive family.

The world of adoption can be beautiful and it can be painful; most often, this world is a combination of the two. Some of this may seem like a plot to another made for TV movie. There is the dramatic fairy tale and the dramatic nightmare; but it is the ‘in between spaces’ where most of us live.

None of these experiences though have a place in mockery, regardless of the parody’s intent.

A Deadly Adoption, if it airs, will join a host of other movies on a variety of networks that highlight adoption in a way that undermines adoption and ultimately hurts children and families. The reality of the aggressions against and misrepresentations of the adoption community in the media is old news. There is something even more disturbing though about what appears to be a blatant caricature of an entertainment genre, at the expense of the adoption experience. Movies such as this, or even parodies of them, with unrealistic and melodramatic interpretations of concepts in adoption, continue to promote unrealistic and unhealthy views of adoption. This makes it all the more difficult to influence needed policy, practice and perceptions that keep children and families strong.

It’s exhausting when your life experience, whatever that may be, is the punch line to a joke. But when children and families lives and well being are impacted by that, it’s disgraceful. Most certainly, we are not laughing about this. And we hope no one else is either.

Photo from Fresh til Death TV; used under Creative Commons 4.0 license