Recently there has been a lot of attention on adoption be it in the actual media (news) or mainstream television (Glee, Modern Family, and Grey’s Anatomy have all ran adoption story lines). Unfortunately, some of these storylines have been false (or embellished) and have enabled the stereotypes that adoptive parents and children face on a daily (yes daily) basis to fester.
I’ll start with Glee- because honestly, Fox upset me so much with their decision to re-visit their “fictitious” adoption story line with Quinn and Puck that it honestly was 99% of the reason I opted to start this “sub-series”. As we all know, Quinn and Puck placed their baby (Beth) for adoption during the first season of Glee. While the story line was rushed and made it seem like the adoption process was merely a few papers done at the hospital, it was said and done quickly and not revisited- fine. This season, Beth and her Adoptive Mother are back at West McKinley High, and Quinn has decided she’s “getting full custody back”. This is a Big Fat Lie and misconception about adoption. Adoption is forever people: F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Once an adoption is finalized, it’s just that- final. Once E’s adoption was finalized, for example, a new birth certificate was issued with mine and A’s name listed as the parents. Her original birth certificate with Sam’s* name was destroyed and records sealed for 99 years! This story line has upset the adoption community so much so that there is actually a change.org petition going around requesting Fox air a PSA regarding adoption.
Think about this- the target demographic of Glee includes young adolescents who may be facing a situation where they need to make an adoption plan. If they are being influenced to believe that adoption is a “temporary” thing- and when they get older or decide they’re ready they can come back and “take” the baby they placed, it’s going to be a harsh, harsh reality for them.
Additionally- I think this is one question that A & I get all the time. “What if her birth mother wants her back?”. Well, and excuse my bluntness, it won’t happen. Once a parent signs away parental rights (and the state mandated revocation period has elapsed) it’s done. It’s a permanent decision.
Not related to this stereotype, but I would like to mention Grey’s Anatomy story line as a comparison to how ABC is handeling adoption vs. Fox. Again, their initial win of custody of their adoptive child Zola (temporary guardianship) was rushed and quick, but obtaining temporary guardianship or temporary custody typically does not require the same documentation as an adoption as it’s normally a step along the way to a formal adoption. However, a very REAL aspect of the story was the removal of Zola from their custody due to job/marriage issues. This is real people. Again, when you bring your baby home from the hospital that you birthed- no one cares if the next day you are fired, file for divorce, lie, cheat, or steal. When you are adopting, and something like this happens it can absolutely jeopardize the adoption and absolutely cause you to lose your child- as we’re seeing on Grey’s Anatomy now. I’m not saying this situation is being handled true to life- but I do appreciate that they are showing the nitty-gritty side of adoption.
To summarize the stereotype: “A birth parent can take back their child at any point” is absolutely and completely false. An adoption is a permanent legal proceeding and it is not just “wiped” away at the will of a birth parent who’s changed their mind (outside of the states revocation period)*.
*Note- there are some extenuating circumstances to this (for example if a birth parent was placed under undue influence to place their child, however even this can have a statute of limitations.) This is also a very rare and subjective item often requiring lengthy legal proceedings but is not as common as Lifetime Movie Network would have you thinking it is.