I was recently contacted by a representative of a television network. I assume they got my email address from my blog or one of the various letters I’ve written in support of adoption reform. This person asked me to post an announcement soliciting adoptees and birth families for the network’s upcoming show. Here is my response.
I’m afraid I must decline. My blog is a public service dedicated to helping adoptees and their relatives help themselves. No matter how tactfully shows like yours are done, in the end search and reunion is a very private matter and the participants are not necessarily benefitted by having it turned into a public affair. Also, such shows exist to turn a profit for the channel and its advertisers. What you are asking for is free marketing from me and a chance to target my readership.
I hope you will reconsider your idea. Adoption is not a reality TV show. It is painfully real for those of us who experience it. I suggest you revise the show to highlight the denial of adult adoptees’ civil rights. This is a different matter than search and reunion, although the two are often conflated by the adoption industry and, in turn, the media and the public. Every day adult adoptees are denied driver’s licenses, passports, and other basics of citizenship because our original birth certificates are sealed in most states. We are forced to pay excessive fees only to find information is missing or mysteriously unavailable. Post-adoption “services” like registries and intermediaries have become yet another way for agencies and individuals to profit from adoption. That would be a far better topic upon which to shine your cameras than someone’s private reunion.
Thank you for your correspondence, and best of luck.
I’m sure some people truly believe promotions like this will help us. After all, isn’t it a positive thing to highlight reunions between adoptees and their birth families? Except there’s a fine line between help and exploitation, and I cannot help but think that most of the time things end up on the exploitation side.
For example, I hear around the adoption water cooler that this particular TV producer and others have been harvesting email addresses from online adoption search and support groups. This same tactic has been used by phony search firms trying to lure folks into spending thousands on their so-called “services,” and it is predation upon a vulnerable group of people who have already been exploited by the adoption industry. So no, I’m not going to advocate that adoptees or birth relatives put themselves into the hands of intermediaries, whether those intermediaries are state-based services or television producers.
The observer effect is when the act of observing affects the phenomenon being observed. Everyone not involved in adoption should step aside and let adoptees, birth mothers and their relatives interact without interference. Because any third party, no matter how benign the intent, will alter what is already a delicate process.
Over at FirstMotherForum there’s been a discussion about skewed statistics on the number of birth mothers who refuse contact, and whether intermediaries are doing more harm than good. If you’re searching, steer clear of anyone who asks for your cold hard cash. You are much better off with the generosity of a search angel–the ones who volunteer for the job because they’ve been through it themselves. And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.