Lisa Ling tackles the topic of open adoption

We were aghast, those of us living in (or hoping to live in) open adoptions, at what The Today Show experts said about open adoption last month.

Lisa Ling, a journalist I have long respected, will soon tackle the same topic on the Oprah Winfrey Network in her series, Our America with Lisa Ling.

Or maybe she already has. I haven’t been able to find information on the actual show,* but Deleted Scenes from an episode called “Open Adoption” is readily available (3½ minutes).

Deleted Scenes: Open Adoption. Oprah Winfrey Network description: Fewer than 1% of pregnant teens entrust their child to adoption but those that do often choose open adoption, an arrangement that allows the biological parents to be a part of their child’s life and gives a new definition of family.

I am impressed right off the bat because unlike The Today Show, Lisa Ling finds and asks people who have actual experience with open adoption.

Deleted Scenes features an adoption constellation that includes Sophie, a teen mom who has placed, her mother, Lisa, and Katie and Ben, baby Theo’s adoptive parents. I pulled some quotes:

  • “Open adoption is not as scary as people think.” — Sophie
  • Today, this is how most adoptions work. Ninety percent of them are open.” — Lisa Ling
  • “It’s very clear who the parents are. We are the parents. But it’s equally important that our children know where they come from.” — Ben, Theo’s adoptive dad
  • “When kids grow up they start asking questions with answers that can’t be worked out ahead of time.” — Lisa Ling. The report acknowledges that Theo will grow up and participate in his own adoption.

I did notice that a few of the statements presented are only partly or situationally correct.

  • “You have the right to be able to choose how often you see him.”   Sophie says this, and it may be true for her, but “rights” are not defined and protected in all states. Parties entering into an open adoption agreement are certainly able to come up with their own terms, but in many cases the first parents’ rights to make decisions are terminated when their parental rights are. Honoring the agreement is then up to the adopting parents, sometimes with the backing of the court and sometimes not.
  • “Before papers are signed, families agree on a visitation schedule, which guarantees the bio parents the right to see their child.”   Lisa Ling states this in a voiceover, which is true up to the word “guarantee.”

Deleted Scenes shows adoption in a favorable light, even as it touches on some of the pain:

  • “For a mother to give up her child is very, very unnatural and is a pain process, deeply…something [Sophie] may not even be able to understand at the age of 16.” — Lisa, Theo’s birth grandmother

Is the piece balanced? As I watched, I imagined how it would strike some of my first parent or adoptee friends, balance being in the eye of the beholder.

What do you think of Deleted Scenes? Does it make you want to watch the actual episode?

Lisa Ling closes Deleted Scenes with this notion: “Although complex at times, this new definition of family feels natural.”

UPDATED: AmFam says below that these deleted scenes are from a recently-aired episode about teen mothers. I found a 5-minute excerpt called Teen Mom Nation.


12 thoughts on “Lisa Ling tackles the topic of open adoption”

  1. This totally brings out the scientist in me that wants to assemble people who have done it both ways and compare and contrast their experiences and the life outcomes and such. It’s such a fascinating topic, with so many facets…

    I generally find Lisa Ling to be extremely opinionated? biased? slanted? (I don’t know the right word exactly, but her pieces are definitely her views presented as journalistically objective), so I’m glad that this seems favorable towards open adoption.

  2. OWN has a new adoption related show called…wait for it…”I’m Having Their Baby”…my guess is that the deleted scenes is from that show.

    The name sends chills down my spine and the entire concept of showing this part of adoption is abhorent to me as the adoptee’s privacy is shattered before they are even born. It exploits both mother and child. Think about all the ways this can be used against the child growing up and then the impact of watching it.

    Here is the description from OWN:

    “I’m Having Their Baby”
    “I’m Having Their Baby” follows would-be moms as they make the most difficult decision of their lives – whether or not to place their babies for adoption. They want better lives for their unborn children and brighter futures for themselves. The cameras follow these women in these docu-series as they search for potential adoptive parents, make their birth and transfer plans and ultimately struggle to go through with their decision.

    “I’m Having Their Baby” is produced by executive producers Michael Rourke and Michelle Kongkasuwan for Hud:sun Media.

  3. Yes, I think that is the episode. As the daughter of a teen mom (who was nothing like those in the show) and an adoptive mom in an open adoption, I found the episode pretty *eh*. There was nothing new and there was a lot of the same old stereotypes presented in it. It could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better too.

  4. Makes you wonder what emotions surrogate mothers experience. A friend of mine has been a surrogate twice, I can’t imagine that. Nurturing and growing this precious life in you for 9 months, then, giving the baby to someone else…seems like it would feel similar to giving your “own” baby up for adoption…

  5. I agree with you that this short excerpt is better than the inexpert opinions offered recently on the Today Show. Like you, I admire the authentic sources. However, in my opinion, a 16 year-old firstmother and the adoptive parents who relinquished/adopted only a year ago simply do not have enough experience to speak beyond their own limited experiences. I was concerned to hear how they all (incorrectly, I might add) speak about adoption in certainties: rights and guarantees. I simply do not believe this excerpt’s claim that 90% of adoptions nowadays are open. The National Council For Adoption estimates the number of open adoptions nationwide at about 10%. Maybe some of the discrepancy can be explained away by differing definitions as to what constitutes an open adoption. But that is a mighty discrepancy to blame on mere semantics.

    I am disheartened to hear, or rather not to hear much mentioned about the certainties for the child, the child’s rights, guarantees to the child, access to original documents, etc. Little Theo is shown in the excerpt literally learning to stand on his own…and sadly, I think, figuratively as well.

    The last line of the excerpt that claims that this new way of building families feels “natural” left me with my mouth hanging open. No, I don’t believe that either. I would agree that open adoption is less weird than closed adoption. Nonetheless, there is nothing natural about mothers relinquishing their children to strangers. There is nothing natural about expecting babies to bond with complete strangers.

    Of course, I realize that this is simply a 3.5 minute excerpt from a whole that I presume offers a more complete picture. I would watch the entire show. However, I’d have to watch it when my own kids weren’t around. I’m the adoptee in the family, yet shows and documentaries about adoption spook my children into stoney silence.

  6. I’m so glad you chimed in, Torrejon. I was wondering what your thought on this would be.

    I agree with you about not only Sophie’s age, but also the newness of the adoption, that it doesn’t yet have its land legs. That it will surely evolve and change, as will the players’ thoughts about adoption. From a foggy place of trauma to a clearer place, hopefully of healing and integrating — but that’s not a given.

    I appreciate your other observations, as well.

  7. I DVR all of Lisa Ling’s shows because I think she typically does an excellent job and picks interesting topics but I’d avoided “Teen Mom Nation” based on the title because of my sensitive infertile heart 😉 Now that I know it has a partial adoption story line to it, I’ll check it out.

  8. Interesting. Certainly a better portrayal…or attempt…than the Today Show’s chop job.

    I have a thing for Lisa, I used to really like her…until she created ‘A Secret Society’ website and slotted miscarriage under that…even further…slotted miscarriage under the ‘pregnancy’ section, where women whose pregnancy ended had to then share that with still pregnant other women…all under the umbrella of, what Lisa implied ‘dirty little secrets’. I did not like that ‘Secret’ and ‘Miscarriage’ were used in the same sentence and were featured on ‘The View’, as a way to ‘sell’ her site. Regardless if she had had a miscarriage or not. I thought it was in very poor taste.

    I have been very disappointed in her ever since…probably because RPL is one of my war wounds. She has a powerful voice…but language/word choice is so very important. It’s great that she investigates issues that may not have come up before, but HOW it is presented is KEY.

    She still has some fine tuning to do.

    Words like ‘guarantee’ are troublesome…I will watch but will, undoubtedly, have more of a critical eye I think.

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