Thursday, December 17, 2009

More on "Find My Family": Commenting on the Comments!

Oh how I love comments! My blog readers are such an awesome group! I wanted to keep this conversation going a little bit longer and make sure that some of these comments got read - so here are some really insightful ones, along with my thoughts:

Maru said...

There's one episode you didn't mention, the one about Scott & Sandy Steinpas, a couple searching for the daughter they "gave up" (I hate this term) when they were just teenagers. This was the very first episode, and the only one I truly liked. It showed the deep love they felt when they made the difficult decision of making an adoption plan for their daughter. Some people don't understand that this is a loving decision, not a selfish one. I'm glad the show made this episode so special.

I don't like the fact that the cohosts don't use respectful adoption language. However, I've seen the adoptees use the appropriate terms - they say birth family, birth mom, etc.

I don't really like the show 100%, but it brings a lot of insight. I can only wonder about the things that will go through my daughter's mind once she's old enough and wants to know more, or meet her birth parents. I wonder if she'll have the same feelings of the adoptees that have been on the show.
Thank you for finding their names for me Maru! I did want to write about this first episode, but couldn't remember/find their names, so I ended up not saying what I intended. I liked a lot of things about this episode and the part that struck me the most is that after placing their daughter for adoption, the birth/first parents got married, had four other children and are still happily together after over 20 years. I could not help but wonder how this would rock some people's opinions about young couples and their ability to raise their child together.

Also, this episode was the beginning of my issue with the hosts because I thought it was pretty obvious that the adopted daughter had NOT been looking for her birth parents. She said she thought about it and that her adoptive father had encouraged it - but she hadn't done so yet. Obviously she had her reasons - but all of a sudden there was Tim Green at her door with the "exciting" news that her "mom and dad" had been looking for her! I felt like the poor girl looked shell shocked through most of the reunion process. This is one of the many reasons that I feel like some kind of "professional" would  be better suited as the host. Reunions are wonderful on TV, but in reality that can bring up all kinds of complicated mixed feelings. Another example was in the episode involving the sibling reunion of Ashley, David, and Danielle. Ashley made it clear that she did not want to meet her biological parents - I can't help but wonder how that has played out now that she is trying to have a relationship with her brother and sister.

And as far as using "respectful adoption language"  - I can understand how that might be difficult for the hosts given that even the adoption community can not always agree on terms like bio, birth, first, etc. But I also agree that just assuming that everyone should be called "mom" or "dad" is oversimplifying things and potentially risky for some participants who may not feel like that label is appropriate. Overall, I think the hosts could ask participants what terms they prefer and maybe do some public education about positive adoption language in the process!

Which leads to a question:
Annie said...
Are the adoptive parents ever included in the "reunion"? My adopted children's mothers are all dead, but I picture myself being present if we are ever able to get them together with their biological families. I'd feel like being left out of that would kill me, somehow.
So far, the adoptive parents have not been involved in the actual "reunion under the family tree" moment. But they have been present in some of the adopee's "before" footage talking about their experience growing up as adopted children. And, there have been some featured in the "after" scenes where the reunited family members meet with extended family. It has been different for each family - I'm guessing that some adoptive parents (or perhaps the biological family members) have had mixed feelings about the reunions. Personally, I think that it may be difficult for the adopted person and the reunited family members to feel "free" in their reactions if the adoptive family was also there at that moment. Loyalty conflicts run deep for a lot of people in adoption situations and I actually think the way the show handles it is appropriate in that regard. I think that moment is for the seperated family members. Then, the rest of the families (on both sides) can be incorporated. (This might be completely different if the adopted persons were still children when being reunited, then I'd probably advocate for their adoptive parents to be present - assuming they were supportive and not territorial.)

Snarky Mom said...

I have the unique perspective of 3 separate angles- an adoptee, an adoptive mother and a social worker. The main thing that bothers me about this show? The name. Find my Family. I'm someone who happens to strongly believe that biology does make a family. I'm not discounting the importance of biology and/or knowing where you come from. However, MY family includes the parents who adopted me as an infant, the brothers who tortured me for years before becoming my greatest supporters and my sister who is still one of my best friends. That is my family. The 15 year old girl who got pregnant by her 21 year old boyfriend? They are my biology and genetic heritage. That's not to say that I don't value them, I do. I'm grateful that they chose life for me, I'm grateful that they gave me up so I could have a better life than they could provide at that time. But that doesn't make them my family. My parents were incredibly supportive when I found my biological parents by accident. They have never been anything but open, honest and supportive since I was a mere baby. I've always known I was adopted, it was never a secret or a shameful thing in our home. My brothers and sister are not biological children of my parents either. Doesn't make them any less my family. I have met my bio parents and my bio siblings that they have together. They were gung-ho on folding me right back into the family like I had been stolen away from them instead of willingly surrendered for adoption. It was awkward at best. The relationship never developed and I'm fine with that.

As an adoptive parent, I would love to encourage my boys to know their birth parents. Unfortunately, that isn't possible for safety reasons. But if one day, as an adult, my son wants to find his bio mother I will support him. I will encourage him to read the case file that I have kept for him so he is fully informed before jumping feet first into a situation that might be less than ideal. I would never try and prevent him from knowing his heritage. I would never try and stop him from meeting his birth mother. After all, I owe her a great debt of gratitude for giving birth to one of the funniest, smartest, most loving children I've ever met. We pray for her every single night, and my son has a picture of the two of them together on his nightstand. I will never say a negative word about her. She gave him life.

Sorry, I wrote a book. This show just rubs me the wrong way. I'm all for reunion shows, I love The Locator. But the premise that biology makes a family just bugs me to death, as you can probably tell. Ha!
Thanks for the book comment Snarky Mom!
I was SO, SO hoping to hear something from people like Snarky Mom - because she can see things from mulitple sides. That doesn't mean that I think everyone should think like she does, just that she has lived it from perspectives that I can only wonder about and I think there is some weight in that which should be respected.

And, if you wanted some proof that the adoptee experience can vary greatly, Jae Ran and Melissa left comments to represent the other side of the coin:

Melissa had just posted her opinions about the show the night before I did. She is also an adoptee and foster/(hopefully)adoptive parent. You can read her post here and she commented the following:
Melissa said...

Yep, we can agree to disagree on this one. I like the sappy. The good news is we do agree on all the important stuff so that's a good thing. :o)

I think it's funny how so many people say, "The show makes me cry" but diss the hosts for crying. They are THERE giving the news.. it's momentous and they understand because of personal experience. Genuinely happy and digging their jobs.. Lucky ducks..

Speaking of Ducks, Lisa is cool (I couldn't help myself).

I think everyone is over thinking the whole thing. It's gotta have a cheese factor (it's TV, right?) but it accomplishes something amazing. I've searched for a decade with hardly any info to show for it. I am delighted for everyone on the show. The End. :o)
I completely understand why the hosts may tear up - I have had a moment or two of tears in front of clients in my job as well and don't think its all together a terrible thing. My issue is I think their tears are more about "them" and their experiences than about the participants at times. When I get emotional with someone in a serious situation, it should be because I am happy/sad/excited with them... not because I think they should be happy/sad/excited. Overall, I like cheese when it applies to situations where happiness is pretty much going to be the only emotion (think: Extreme Home Makeover - bring the cheesy!) but in adoption reunion there are so many other emotions that I don't think the current hosts are all that adept at dealing with appropriately. Maybe with some training and experience they'll do just fine...

And yes... Ducks are cool... ;)
I couldn't agree more Jae Ran - especially when it comes to the role of social workers (and other professionals) in supporting children/adults who have been adopted. There is no 'one size fits all' reaction to adoption - and no one's feelings should be more "normal" or "appropriate". Feelings are what they are - and are generally based on a million variables within a person's temperment, life experiences and environment. I am sad to say that I don't think we (SWers) are as 'evolved' as I'd previous thought about this subject.
Jae Ran said...

Thank you for this "review" of FMF. I have been hesitant to watch for many of the same reasons you stated. Now I think I will give it a chance.

I am also social worker, who worked in adoptions (foster care adoptions) before going back to graduate school, and I am also a person who was adopted as a child.

I have a different opinion as snarkymom, in the sense that while I value my adoptive family relationship, I very much consider it a loss that I do not know my biological family. I have spent the last 10 years searching for them.

While some, like snarkymom, may have "reunited" with their bio family and decided or felt that it didn't mean much, I know of many who have had the opposite experience.

I don't want adoptive parents to read only perspectives like those of snarkymom, because they might think that her situation is the only one and feel a sense of "relief" because then they don't have to support a birth family search for their child (I'm not saying this is what snarkymom is saying, but I have known adoptive parents who look for any reason at all to not have to support birth family search/contact).

Adoptive parents will never know if their adopted child will be the one who feels a deep need to be connected to their birth family; and if if s/he does, it does not mean that the adoptive parents somehow failed or that the child doesn't love his/her adoptive parents. Some adopted persons just have have that desire to know their birth family.

I often hear others say, "well, it didn't matter to me" and think that somehow there is something wrong with me or other adoptees who want to make that connection. But, there is nothing wrong with me for wanting to make that connection. I hope that those adoptees who want to be reunited with their birth families don't become "pathologized" for this desire, especially by social workers.

Which was further evidenced by Annieology's comment, which literally left me banging my head on my desk:
annieology said...

My biggest hate of foster care has been the "requirement" that we have no contact whatsoever with the birth family. Of course I realize that there are issues of safety in some cases, although with 20 + kids having gone through our home, I have only been concerned about 1 bio dad and not because he felt one way or another about the kids, but they were a tool to control their mother.

Me and Mama [her children's birth mom] were kept apart for two years, then of course there was another year of resentment when we did meet, finally the last two years have been friendly and eye opening. It is ONLY because of that relationship that the kids have some hope of getting out of foster care.

I do believe that both of us are a necessary part of the childrens lives. They would NOT be here had she not made the choice to bring them into the world. Now that I've "won" that doesn't change. And "winning" is the vibe that I get from the social workers at our agency.

However, they weren't sitting in a 8x10 room watching a girl sign over her rights to her children while 1/2 a dozen lawyers and witnesses crowded around. Trying to reassure her that we were also a victim of this process. That regardless of what the official paperwork said she would have to trust us to do the right thing for our children.

It was not a win. For anyone.

We will keep in contact with her. We will allow her as much access as she wants as long as there is no physical danger to the children. We hope that she wants to be involved, there are times she is and times she isn't, which we understand....She will be a part of our family forever.

I will go back to posting on my own blog now. :)
Even after I picked my jaw back up off the floor, I still haven't been able to get over the idea that there is a RULE preventing contact between foster and biological families. This is not the case where I practice child welfare - in fact, our state recently started a new expediated reunification process where the foster parents are instrumental in working with biological parents to have their children returned home. Annie and I had twittered about this subject a couple of weeks ago and I couldn't believe that her caseworker told her never to mention the biological parents because her children "were young and wouldn't know any different". I'll give you all a minute to stop screaming/hyperventilating/freaking out...

But here's the best point in Annie's whole post comment:

"It was not a win. For anyone."

Unless you have watched a mother sign away her rights or stood in a courtroom and listened to a judge declare that a parent's rights be terminated, while the parent stands right in front of you - you can not understand that their are no winners when a parent can not or chooses not to parent their child. It is a tragedy. Even if that child will go on to be loved, cared for, and adopted by another wonderful set of parents - we as a society have failed that first family. Please don't misunderstand - I understand that sometimes it is neccesary. I absolutely believe and have advocated for that scenario in the past. However, it still does not make it right or easy or something to celebrate. It is sad. Nobody wins.

To wrap it all up, here's one last comment:
Ash H. said...
I don't have any harsh feelings about it because I love the sole reason it exists: to reunite. I do find it a tad cheesy and the silly hosts cry more than the families! It's all worth it when the reunited family members embrace under that family tree - that is what I wait for during each show, and that is when my tears flow.
I hope that I made it clear in my previous post, but let me make it so now - while I take issues on some of the finer details, I am thankful that this show exists for the sole reason that it is facillitating reunions.

That moment, when participants come face to face with each other, is magic.


  1. My husband and I are in the process of adopting a large sibling group. I have asked numerous times about if there is biological family that would be appropriate to keep in contact with (specifically that they have paternal half siblings, but also aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc) and have been blown off every time. The caseworker refuses to give me any info. I hope to be able to get it from the file before finalization so that as time goes on it is something we can look into.

  2. I wanted to clarify my earlier comment. I was rushing with 2 kids screaming and my mind was scattered, as usual. I think it came across differently than I intended, especially to Jae Ran.

    It was implied that I reunited with my bio family and decided that it didn't mean much and that's not true. I was excited to meet them, to hear about their history together, to hear about her pregnancy with me, etc. But there were problems from the very beginning. BIG problems. I wrote a series of posts on my blog about how the reunion came to be- they showed up out of the blue at my house one day- and the problems that we faced.

    So please, before you judge me and my reactions, go read my posts and maybe you will understand my perspective a little bit better.

    I would never EVER try to discourage my sons from finding their birth families if they felt the need. EVER. We would be in contact with my oldests birth mother now if she hadn't tried to kidnap my child from his daycare. She became a safety threat and we had to move 2 hours away to feel safe.

    I am often really amazed at just how different some reactions can be with regards to adoptees searching and then finding their birth families. I never gave it much thought and they fell into my lap on accident. A good friend of mine was desperate to find her birth family, searched for 8 years, found them and they wanted nothing to do with her. Another friend of mine had no desire to find her family, they searched her out and they have a fabulous relationship today.

    I do still have contact with my birth family. We don't visit, but we email, we are facebook friends and I send her pics of the kids. It's enough. We have boundaries now, set by me and they now respect those boundaries.

    I just wanted to clarify. I'm not some heartless monster who threw away a relationship with her birth family.

  3. For some odd reason reading all this today makes me glad my children's bio-parents are deceased.... Then, of course, I feel guilty about that. On some level I love those moms because they gave birth to these amazing children. I said that once to Sergei and the look on his face was a mix of horror and pity. Then settled into "you don't know what you are talking about"....and I realize that he remembers the abusive mom, the mom who threw an ax at him and broke his nose, the mom who locked him out of the house in the snow. Yes; it is a tragedy.....but I do think that sometimes too much effort is made to reunite families where the parents are so damaged themselves that they are incapable of parenting without damaging the children.

    Also, adoptive parents are PARENTS with all the emotion and love of bio-parents. The big surprise for me was realizing that there was NO DIFFERENCE in the way I felt for my bio children and my adopted children. Evidenced by the bizarre time or two that I have opened my mouth in some lively conversation to share memories of my pregnancy or childbirth experiences with one of them only to realize that I have an odd memory lapse!

    I don't know how I would feel if they were grown up and searching for birth parents. Perhaps they could love two moms in the same way I love all my children. I don't know....

  4. Snarkymom - you did not come off that way. It seems to me that there are all sorts of people in the world - even in a much smaller setting - an office or a church. Some of them you are going to love, some of them you are going to dislike at first glance; some you resonate with; others have values you do not share or don't respect. Genetics doesn't change that magically. The only thing I shared with my bio brother with whom I grew up with in a warm and happy home were the memories of that warm and happy home. We never would have had a thing to say to one another otherwise. My adopted kids, a couple of them, are far closer than my brother and I ever dreamed of being.

    I worry that some people adopted as infants, and parents who gave up a child at adoption think there is some magic that will make them relate perfectly to one another. I would think that sometimes it "works"; other times it will be a nightmare.

  5. Snarky Mom, thanks for the invitation to read about your experience, and I do not think you are a "heartless monster who threw away a relationship with her birth family." And, even if you did decide not to have a relationship with your birth family I would not think you were a bad person.

    Just as I would hope you would not think I or anyone else who does want to have a relationship with birth families were "bad."

    Comments are really a tough way to communicate. You can never get the whole story or read the tone. So, I am sorry you feel I was being judgmental.

    I agree with you that it is amazing how different each of us reacts to our adoption experiences. I have friends who traveled across the globe in search of their bith families and after meeting them decided not to continue a relationship with them. I have other friends who have been rejected by their birth families after a reunion. I understand that it is complicated and that reunion shows and the media often represent a very skewed portrayal of a birth family reunion and relationship.

    That said, your comment did rub me as being dismissive of adoptees who wanted to search. I'm sorry if I misread your view. And I am not going to take it personally if your last paragraph was directed towards me specifically. I was judging based on your specific comment, not on you as a person.

  6. Thank you so much for this paragraph:
    "Unless you have watched a mother sign away her rights or stood in a courtroom and listened to a judge declare that a parent's rights be terminated, while the parent stands right in front of you - you can not understand that their are no winners when a parent can not or chooses not to parent their child. It is a tragedy. Even if that child will go on to be loved, cared for, and adopted by another wonderful set of parents - we as a society have failed that first family. Please don't misunderstand - I understand that sometimes it is neccesary. I absolutely believe and have advocated for that scenario in the past. However, it still does not make it right or easy or something to celebrate. It is sad. Nobody wins."
    I would also add that unless you ARE that mother who signed away her rights to a child, then you pretty much get what a tragedy it is. I never had to watch someone else do it.. living through that process once was more than enough!

    I would also liek to add that while I too, have been kind of amused by Tim's tears.. you do realize that both the hosts are also adoptee themselves? AS a mother who relinquished to a closed adoption and thenh found and reunited with my son, it is 100% impossible for me NOT to cry when I see, hear or watch another reunion: The emotions from my own situation are indeed too much and they come forth. I do beleive, that however sappy it might seem, the tears are real..and well, that's what reunions DO to some people!

  7. In Snarky Mom's defense--she is amazing. I've stalked her blog for sometime now and can say she has very interesting insights from many angles. I, personally, do not need a replacement family (mine totally rocks) but would like to meet my birth mom just the same. Most people would (in my view) and my family stands behind me.

    Some don't like the name, "Find My Family" but I think it's better than "Find My DNA Match" (and it's a takeoff on an Australian hit--blame it on the Aussies..LOL). I the show is a poster child for open adoption (IF and WHEN it's safe and appropriate, of course).
    Everyone has good points and I think it's fair to say we can all agree to disagree. :o)

  8. we have a Haitian born son whose birth parents(most likely) died of HIV, and another son we adopted in Arkansas, we adore his birth mother, shes wonderful and special, its very open now that shes stationed in our area with the Air Force, and we wish we could adopt her too-so 2 very different adoptions, along with bio kids and foster kids any case, i once read a quote, i wish i could remember the exact words or the author, but he basically said "adoption is the only american tragedy we are expected to be celebrate" isnt that so true? sad, yet happy. tragic for one family, a gift to another... something to think about.

  9. Thanks for the excellent round up. I wish you'd written it before before I wrote my Wednesday BlogHer post on why I won't watch Find My Family at all, because I would have loved to include it. (I won't watch the show because my birth son wasn't told he was adopted -- as far as I know -- so what's the point?)

    Post is here:

    Again, thank you for such thorough and thoughtful coverage.

  10. ...sorry, I meant I wish I'd found your original post sooner, not that you should have written this one sooner!

  11. I am so glad that everyone is commenting! And that all our comments are respectful and understanding. :)

    Just for the record, I love Snarkymom and certainly didn't think she would dismiss the need for some adoptees to search for their biological family. But I'm glad she took the time to clear it up on her own. Like I said before - everyone has their own feelings about reunions, what is important that we all respect their right to choose their own path. Its THEIR life!

    Rock on Bloggy Friends.

  12. Yes, in our state as well, if you are a foster parent or adopt from foster care, contact with the bio parents is discouraged, and not allowed after adoption. I have never even seen my adopted son's bio parents. Visits were already stopped when he came to our home. I was promised pictures of his bio parents, but never given them, despite reminding the worker. The best I have is a physical description I got because I called his first caseworker and asked her to describe the parents. Also, he has 2 half-siblings in another state, but I have no names or even ages. I will support him if he wants to find his bio family someday, but I think with the lack of info we have, it is going to be very hard, if not impossible for him. It makes me very sad.


Join in the conversation! Please leave a comment!