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Pet Sins November 2005

'Unnatural parents' - media stereotypes of adoption

I was really pleased to see the article Social attitudes concerning adoption, since I am an adoptive mother. I agree that there is a stigma against adoption. Even the language used to describe adoption is derogatory -- I often hear of an adoptee's birth parents being referred to as the "natural" parents. So what are adoptive parents, "unnatural?"

I believe that the media plays a big part in negative attitudes toward adoption. Did you ever notice that when an adopted child commits a heinous crime, like killing his or her parents, it's always mentioned that she or he is adopted? Adopted children are often depicted as miserable souls desperately in search of their "real" parents, when in fact many adopted children have little or no desire to meet their birth parents.

I believe that adoption is a wonderful way to build a family. True, some adoptions don't work out, but most do. Unfortunately, there are restrictions on adoption in many instances that are prohibitive. For example, some agencies do not let single people or those over forty adopt. Also, the cost can be prohibitive. I would love to adopt another baby, but an agency I looked at that specialized in African American infants charges $9,000.00! Not many people can afford that, including myself.


We've often been told that child adoption is 'unnatural' and that parents can never love a non-biological child as much as they love "their own" biological child. Proponents of this view can cite the example of a lion who kill all the cubs sired by the previous alpha male when he takes over the pride - it is only 'natural' that someone would only want to care for his own 'natural' offspring. They argue the evil step-parent of fairy tales is biologically programmed to be hate step-children, i.e. non-biological children. But there are other examples to the contrary that don't get as much public exposure..

For example, I was watching an Animal Planet program about koalas. They were talking about the first recorded pair of identical twin koalas. The show mentioned that almost all twin koalas found in nature turn out to be non-biological siblings - one of the babies is invaribly adopted. What intrigues me about this statement is it implies the existence of child adoption in 'the natural world', which is contrary to what the general public thinks..