Adoption Beat

June 10, 2008

Is it relevant?

Filed under: Improving media coverage of adoption — adoptionbeat @ 11:01 pm

I read the Associated Press report on OregonLive:

The headline read “Man accused of killing adoptive mother brought back to Oregon on multiple charges.”

The rest of the story, a sad one, to be sure, is an example of news reporting that fails the “relevance” test. Matricide is a horrendous crime. For a person to kill the woman who gave him life or helped him to create a place for himself within her family through adoption is unthinkable. To distinguish this episode by emphasizing that the perpetrator was adopted seems, at this point, to be irrelevant.

The reporter mentions the fact of Gabriel Scott Riley’s adoption in the third graph, rather than the lede, but a headline writer chose to make it the most significant fact of the story. While it may turn out to be significant, the story does not make the case for that headline.

Compare that to another similar story that also describes matricide. In this case Rebecca D’Aoust was attacked and killed by her 14-year-old adopted daughter.

The headline reads: “Mother recalled as dedicated to children.” Yet, in this story, the fact of adoption is demonstrated to be relevant because the report says that D’Aoust and her husband “knew from the start that the youngest, Heather, came from a family with mental illness.”

Both mothers were school counselors. The D’Aoust’s, we learn, wanted a big family but nature did not cooperate so they adopted three girls, two of who are now in college. 

Riley, it appears, attempted to kill both his parents by setting fire to their home. Heather D’Aoust attacked her mother with a claw hammer.

What we know at this point is that both murderers were adopted and we might be excused for thinking that both were troubled psychologically but we only have evidence of that in one case. Based on the evidence offered, in only one case do we have any reason to link that psychological malfunction to the murderer’s biological family. But careless or insensitive reporting convicts adoption in both stories.




  1. […] (Des Plaines Public Library Staff) wrote an interesting post today. Here’s a quick excerpt: “For a person to kill the woman who gave him life or helped him to create a place for himself within her family through adoption is unthinkable. To distinguish this episode by emphasizing that the perpetrator was adopted seems …”

    Pingback by Adoption Rules, Issues, and News » Blog Archive » Is it relevant? — June 11, 2008 @ 12:24 am | Reply

  2. Forgive my delayed response. I’ve had some connection issues with the Internet that resulted in me not getting some of my mail.

    You know there are some folks out there who think that any adoptee who dares to question their origins or the process by which their original identify was revoked are crazy. Just today (9-27) I viewed a CNN report that discussed medical research showing that when pregnant women are subjected to stress, even for a short period, that the fetus is also. It certainly offers an explanation of why some adoptees might eventually develop psychological problems if their natural mothers were pressured to surrender them to adoption. Of course that would not be the only potential source of stress but I can see how the resulting angst could be a cause that contributed to producing that effect.

    Comment by adoptionbeat — September 27, 2008 @ 4:09 pm | Reply

  3. Or maybe growing up in the DARK, in a closed adoption with strangers is an emotionally unhealthy way to be raised.

    Maybe, just maybe, the most damaging aspect of adoption isn’t what we came to the adoption with, or who we were raised by, but the adoption itself.

    Pretending, lying, adjusting our feelings for adults, ignorant of our families or origin–isn’t that enough to make anyone nuts?!

    Comment by Sunny — June 1, 2009 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

    • You’re right! It is enough to make anyone nuts. Of course, we have to be careful who we say that to. We don’t want them to think we are crazy adoptees out there stalking our families of origin when we are just trying to find our way out of the dark without a flashlight!

      Comment by adoptionbeat — June 1, 2009 @ 6:48 pm | Reply

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