Adoption Beat

May 31, 2009

It must be hard to love an adopted child

Filed under: Uncategorized — adoptionbeat @ 1:40 am
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Bonnie Miller Rubin, who I have been told is an adoptive mom, writes in the Chicago Tribune expressing how adoption advocates are offended by a tagline promoting a new Warner Bros. movie, Orphan.

Read the article here:,0,663858.story

”Particularly offensive, say advocates, is the tagline in the trailer: ‘It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own.’” Adoptive parents are worried about how their children may react to seeing this trailer in theaters.

It’s hard for me, as an adoptee, to see how people get so up in arms about the suggestion that somehow adoptees are, possibly, not so lovable. After all, if we ask questions about how we came to be adopted, we are shushed and sometimes called “ungrateful” for our privileged status because we even ask such questions. And I have to wonder why Rubin does not cite the reaction of anyone who is adopted in her article. My initial reaction to that omission as a journalist, much less as an adoptee, is that her reporting is incomplete. It’s not like there aren’t millions of adoptees over the age of 21 that she could have asked to comment.

Movies are a make-believe media. The newspaper is not. And yet, adoption most often makes its way into the news or op-ed pages of the newspaper when adoption is a factor, contributing or not, to some drama. Or it is presented as a warm, fuzzy story about creating a happy family without being counterbalanced by the fact that one family had to be torn apart to create another. Other warm, fuzzy stories tell of adoptees and families of origin who search successfully but rarely hint of the resistance searchers face, and never tell that search was necessary only because the truth is not available to most adoptees and never to the family of origin in sealed records states.

I have to believe that most of us grow up with loving adoptive families who accept us as we are and do not try to make us over in our adoptive parents’ image. But I know of situations where that is not true. So do we all. Just like the “thousand stories in the Naked City” there are thousands of adoption stories, some of which are horror stories.

The orphan in popular culture has been an object of pity and ridicule long before movies were invented. In praise of such stories, they usually feature the adoptee perspective. The classic children’s fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling,” tells the story of a swan, who somehow comes to be hatched along with a clutch of ducks only to be teased unmercifully by his siblings as ugly and awkward until adulthood transforms him into a beautiful swan. My friend and colleague, Dennis, wrote his doctoral thesis on this subject. Not surprisingly, he grew up in foster care after a failed adoption.

But the angst felt by persons who are transported into alien cultures by way of adoption is grist for the screenwriter’s mill. My favorite was the Star Trek character Worf, a Klingon orphaned by war and rescued by the Federation equivalent of a GI, who, with his wife, reared Worf as his own child. I’m sure that some future Star Trek will explore the development of an Intergalactic treaty that forbids the adoption of alien offspring outside their native culture. I often wonder if the writer who developed that story line was a transracial adoptee. I prefer Worf to the Ugly Duckling because Worf has post adoption issues that make him more believable as an adoptee in my experience.

Humans as a species have very ambiguous feelings about adoption. I like to start with Jesus of Nazareth who was adopted by his mother’s husband, Joseph, and raised as his son but with full knowledge of his ancestry. Indeed, without knowledge of his paternity, Jesus would probably not have followed the path in life that led him to be crucified. I have always found it puzzling that the Roman Catholic Church has been so insistent on keeping secret the true origins of a child adopted through its social service arm. But, of course, the children for whom they arrange adoption were not born to virgins. I guess that makes a big difference.

None of the church-sponsored adoption agencies escape censure on this point, not even Jewish Social Services even though it has an example of Moses, whose Egyptian adoptive mother did not hide from him the fact that he was a Hebrew child and, if Cecile B. DeMille can be believed, she followed him out of Egypt.

Society has generally regarded adopted children as some kind of second-class child substitute. If a Royal couple adopted a child, he or she would not inherit the throne. If you apply for admission to a prestigious genealogical group such as DAR, you must be related by blood to your Revolutionary War ancestor, no matter who reared you. We are indeed separate and unequal.

While I give credit to adoptive parents for pointing out how wrong it is to have a movie slap us in the face with evidence of how society regards us, I would rather they all worked alongside us to change how we are regarded legally. I would rather they insisted on enforceable open adoption. Adoptive parents are not legally bound to have our names changed when we are adopted so we could be allowed to retain our own identities, or at least given a choice when we are older.



  1. Yes, I’d also like to know why it is that very few articles about adoption EVER include interviews with adult adoptees. Interviews with adoptive parents of minor children is the norm, as if adoptees cease to exist or adoption ceases to be a factor in our lives when we hit adulthood. Nothing could be further from the truth. I too would like to see adoptive parents as well as those journalists reporting on adoption including the viewpoints of adult adoptees in their discussions and articles.

    Comment by Triona Guidry — June 2, 2009 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  2. any updates coming ?

    Comment by girl pee jean — July 24, 2009 @ 8:27 am | Reply

  3. I watched TNG many, many, many years ago and completely missed that part of his storyline.

    LOL about some of your Jesus/Moses observations.

    Comment by Lavender Luz — August 14, 2009 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

  4. Ann, your blog is very informative. It should be widely read. I, too, was offended by the trailor of this movie. Far too much emphasis on the bad adoptee and not enough input from real adoptees.

    Comment by legitimatebastard — March 27, 2010 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

    • Thank you, Joan. If I just had the time and energy to keep it up! But I’m to busy with my legislative watch.

      Comment by adoptionbeat — March 27, 2010 @ 7:08 pm | Reply

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    Comment by Gold — October 18, 2012 @ 10:51 am | Reply

    • First I’ve heard.

      Comment by adoptionbeat — October 18, 2012 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

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    Comment by Van — December 7, 2012 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I haven’t posted much lately and I need to.

      Comment by adoptionbeat — February 3, 2013 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

  7. Thanks for finally talking about >It must be hard to love an adopted child Adoption Beat <Loved it!

    Comment by Sheree — February 2, 2013 @ 11:18 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for commenting. Feel free to share the link.

      Comment by adoptionbeat — February 3, 2013 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

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