Adoption Beat

July 16, 2010

Late to the party, still worth reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — adoptionbeat @ 10:17 am
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I invite you to check out Jackson Adam’s piece in the Illinois Times:
http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-7517-birth-records-opened-but-not-enough.html.

I was surprised to be contacted months after the bill passed the Illinois Senate but delighted to speak with a journalist who gave every sign of not having already made up his mind. That is  something that Triona Guidry, point person for Adoption Reform Illinois had to contend with from so-called professional news organizations such as AP when the bill was in the works. When I went to journalism school, I was taught that reporters were supposed to be unbiased or, failing that, fair and balanced. It was the reporter’s job to present all sides to an issue to the best of his/her ability.

Since I have been on the other side of the news desk where adoption reform is concerned, I have been appalled by some of the stories I have read and mightily disappointed that major news organizations show little or no interest in hearing about this issue from the perspective of those whose life it changed profoundly and permanently.

At one time, I might have believed that a reporter would have difficulty identifying a parent who surrendered a child, or possibly even identifying an adult adoptee to interview. I might have believed that sources available were unwilling to be quoted and/or identified. But now I know this is not true. And I’ve known that for some time.

Over the years, I have suggested to adoption reform activists that they make themselves known to their local media. One idea is to fill out a Rolodex card with your name, triad position and contact information and send it to local editors and news directors with a brief note saying that you are always happy to answer the media’s questions about adoption issues from your point of view as someone intimately involved in the process. I still think it is a good idea.

Illinois was a particularly disappointing loss for reformers who successfully defeated the forerunner to this bill two years earlier with an effective and well-targeted public information campaign. Had we been able to get our act together this time around, some think it might have worked again.  But we will never know because that’s how it is with opportunities once lost.

But it does serve to remind those of us who work for adoption reform, and those of us who report it, that apathy condemns us to fail.  Reporters who were happy to parrot the bill’s sponsor were described among those of us who saw through the propaganda as having “drunk the Kool-Aide” and there was plenty of it to go around.

Adoption has a warm, fuzzy image, more appropriately descriptive of pet adoption. How I wish the animal welfare folks had not hitched their wagon to that star. I have adopted, or been adopted by, many pets over the years. It’s not the same as human adoption but it is often treated about the same way by reporters.

Adopting a pet from a shelter, or taking in a stray instead of taking it to the shelter, may very well be saving that pet’s life. We have slightly better support mechanisms for human orphans. One of the biggest differences between pets and children involved in adoption is that most of the pets really are orphans. Most adopted persons were not.

Adoption of a child is both a joyous and a tragic occurrence in most instances.  But unless you have been one of those children, or one of those parents who surrendered a child, you may never think about the tragic side of it at all.

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