The adoption community is buzzing about the new ABC reality series, Find My Family, dedicated to reuniting adoptees with their birth families. I'll confess, I haven't watched the show yet, (I'm inclined to steer clear of anything "from the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"), but plenty of critiques of the show have been landing in my in-box.
ABC's exploitive new series will focus on the most extreme issues in adoption, and is sure to have an effect on how our children's teachers, extended family, and friends view and accept adoption...I encourage every family of an adopted child to prepare mentally for the public reaction, and the reaction of their children who may find themselves the sudden center of assumptions about their needs, desires, and personal feelings on their adoption.
After watching the first episode, Osborne published a follow-up review of the show from her perspective as an adult adoptee and adoptive parent. She summed up Find My Family this way:
I detest the invasive nature behind creating a series based on something so personal, and the simplistic presentation of a complex issue. As an adoptee, I didn't care for the show. But as an adoptive parent, I yearned to comfort the birth family. I've been given the privilege of mothering five amazing people, and someone else paid a very high price for that gift.
Elsewhere in the blogosphere, those who are fighting for open records access for adoptees are also questioning whether Find My Family will help or hurt their cause. Triona at the 73Adoptee Blog writes:
From what I understand, Find My Family only accepted searches they thought would succeed. That's similar to state-based intermediaries who only take on searches they think they can solve, because it skews their statistics to show more successful matches. In the case of a reality TV show, obviously there's no show if the search doesn't succeed. But what about those who don't luck out with getting their search done by a reality TV show? How many searches don't succeed? How many people become stuck for years if not decades? How many can't afford the fees for state-based services, or attorneys to assert their rights, or private investigators when the state services fail? What about reunions that don't turn out happy-happy?
More importantly, what about the civil rights of adoptees and birth mothers to access the records that pertain to them?
On the other hand, birthmother Lorraine Dusky gives the show high marks at the Birth Mother, First Mother Forum:
Let's hope that Find My Family builds a big audience and furthers the fight to make adopted people full and complete citizens with rights just like the rest of us. If adoptive parents really cared for the well-being of their children, they would be with us, fighting for open records. Alas, their numbers are few.
As an adoptive parent, I'm 100% in favor of open records for all adoptees, but it's hard for me to imagine that a reality TV show will do anything to further the cause. And frankly, the thought of a TV show prompting strangers and acquaintances to direct more questions and invasive comments in the direction of my family makes me feel weary.