Adoption in the Media and Entertainment: Books, Television, and Movies

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Adoption takes on many different meanings depending on how adoption is portrayed and how it’s perceived by people. Media—including books, television, movies, songs, and news articles—often plays a significant role in how we shape our opinions how it impacts our lives.  

Unfortunately, mass media may not always provide a positive or even truthful message about adoption. However, as an adoptive parent you can use the media to your advantage, by talking about specific movies, books or news articles. There are tools you can embrace that we deal with all the time, and they provide openings for valuable discussions.  

However, not all topics will be portrayed in a positive or even accurate way. For example, The Blind Side promotes a wonderful—and factual—adoption story, while the horror movie Orphan only fanned the flames of negative stereotypes. 
Some Suggested Children’s Books

Below are several children’s books that
provide great stories about adoption—you
can find them in our library at
www.wifostercareandadoption.org.

Abby, by Jeannette Caines

Benjamin Bear Gets a New Family,
by Deborah Berry Joy

I’m Brown and My Sister Isn’t,
by Robbie O’Shea

The Family Book, by Todd Parr

In My Heart, by Molly Bang

A Mother for Choco, by Keiko Kasza

My Adopted Child, There's No One
Like You
, by Dr. Kevin Leman &
Kevin Leman II

My New Family, by Pat Thomas

My Family Is Forever, by Nancy Carlson

Over the Moon, by Karen Katz

Rosie's Family: An Adoption Story, by
L. Rosove

We Belong Together: A Book About
Adoption and Families,
by Todd Parr

Welcome Home, Forever Child,
by C. Mitchell

You're Not My Real Mother, by
Molly Friedrich  

Following are some recommendations to get you started in thinking about media and adoption.

Books
When children are toddlers and preschool age, parents often look to children’s books that offer positive and uplifting stories on adoption. 

These storybooks provide gentle approaches that often focus on a family’s love for their child and have entertaining ways of explaining the journey of adoption. 

If you have older children, consider reading pre-school age books (or have them read the books to younger kids). They often take comfort in these stories and may have missed out on them in their earlier years.

Some books focus more on diversity within a family as well as the roles of family members. Identifying roles can be very helpful for children whose birth relatives are still part of their lives and it often helps kids to feel like they’re not the only one in a particular situation.

Television and Movies
When children become school-aged, they start to gain an understanding of what adoption means in their lives. TV and movies can provide great opportunities for you and your children to have discussions about adoption.

As mentioned previously, many stories portrayed on TV and in the movies can be inaccurate or carry a very negative tone. It’s good to be as informed as possible about the TV shows and movies your children are and could be watching. You may want to screen movies, books, and TV ahead of time, because even movie that don’t have adoption themes may cause emotional triggers in your child.

Questions to Ask
The article Choosing Adoption Themed Movies for Kids provides tips for when you’re choosing what movies may be best for their your children to watch, including assessing your child’s developmental stage and how it relates to their adoption story. 

The article also suggests asking yourself these questions:

  • Can my child separate fantasy from reality?
  • Does he/she understand that every adopted child has a different story?
  • Is my child currently going through issues related to his/her adoption?
  • Is my child comfortable asking questions about things he/she does not understand?
  • Is my child upset by difficult themes, such as the death of parents or being different?

Movies such as Stuart Little, Dinosaur, and Meet the Robinsons can be great springboards for discussing adoption with your child. Some children may be too young—or have developmental delays—to connect what happens in a movie to their own adoption story. And some of the movies and TV shows may trigger grief and loss issues. These reactions can still offer teachable moments to discuss with your child the realities of their adoption story. 

Movies for older children, such as The Blind Side, Martian Child, and Juno, can also present great learning experiences and create a healthy dialog between you and your children. Some questions you could ask include: 

  • “Did you feel adoption was realistically portrayed in the movie?” 
  • “How did that scene make you feel?” 

You can follow up your questions with facts about your child’s adoption story and the positive effects it has had on your family.

Adoption-Themed Movies

Annie, 1999
Antoine Fischer (not an adoption
movie, per se, but does offer
opportunities to talk about forever
families and birth families)
Babe, 1995
The Blind Side, 2009
The Country Bears, 2002
Dinosaur, 2000
Elf, 2003
Hotel for Dogs, 2009
Juno, 2007
Martian Child, 2007
Matilda, 1996
Meet the Robinsons, 2007
Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Kids, 2003
Snow Dogs, 2002
Stuart Little, 1999
Tarzan, 1999
Tarzan II, 2005

For an extensive list of adoption-related
movies, go to Adoption Healing.

At right are some adoption-themed movies that some people recommend. Each movie has its pros and cons, and we encourage you to research the movies on internet sites such as the Internet Movie Database and Screen It to make an informed decision in the best interest of your child. 

Some children may not be affected by the storyline in a TV show, movie or book. If your child doesn’t react or seems unmoved by something that really bothers you, take some time and bring it up with your child at a later date. 

For example, while you’re both doing an activity together, you could say something like, “By the way, I wondered what you thought about that scene in…?” 

This might give you an opportunity to assess whether or not your child was suppressing his feelings or whether he just didn’t feel very strongly way one or the other. 

Educating the Greater Community
Even though your child might not be affected by a negative portrayal of adoption in a movie, his or her peers, extended family members or neighbors might be affected. Maybe you can recommend one of the books or movies previously to help educate your community. 

Regardless of your children’s situation, movies and books involving adoption can create opportunities to check in with your kids, assess their reactions and can provide a good learning experience for all of you as a family. 

Resources

Mixed Media Messages about Adoption Issues
http://adoption.families.com/blog/mixed-media-messages-about-adoption-issues

The Internet Movie Database
www.imdb.com

Screen It: Entertainment Reviews for Parents
http://www.screenit.com

Adoption Movies
https://www.adoptionhealing.com/AdoptionMovies.html

Adoption at the Movies
http://www.adoptionlcsw.com/

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Coalition for Children | Youth | Families, formerly Adoption Resources of WI