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Media Coverage of Adoption -- It's Not Just About Madonna

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I really try to save my blogging for more political things, but sometimes I have to speak up when the media get out of control with their coverage of adoption.

This week, the Washington Post wrote this headline, "Maryland Woman is Charged in Death of Two Girls: Children Were Found in Adoptive Mother's Freezer Last Year" (emphasis added).

This is a horrible story. But can you tell me why it's important to the narrative that the woman was their mother by adoption? Is the Washington Post suggesting this was somehow more heinous because the mother had adopted them? That it would have been less horrible if the crime had been committed by a biological parent? This sort of writing is one of my pet peeves as a mother by adoption -- the fact that the children were adopted is irrelevant to the story, so why mention it?

When I've asked reporters that, they say, "well, it's an additional fact and we like to include as many facts a possible." That's nice, but as a journalist and an attorney, I like facts, too -- if they're relevant. The not-so-subtle inference in many if these stories is that somehow families by adoption are suspect. If there is another reason to include the information about how a family is formed, then why not include it in each story?

And don't get me started on this whole Madonna brouhaha. Pop culture media loves to mock celebrities who want to adopt children from countries. CNN has been having a discussion about why there isn't more of an effort to have celebrities set an example for the rest of us by "adopting American."

To say I was insulted is an understatement. Where does the media get off telling families where and who they should adopt children from? Really, if they want to go down this road, then I want to see coverage about all the celebrities who have used extensive fertility treatment to have bio kids. Or, if they're looking for a real discussion, not a sensational one, let's talk about the realities of adoption here and abroad, plus how each family should be entitled to determine for themselves what's best when making a family.

I agree with one thing CNN is suggesting -- it is time for a serious look at the adoption process in this country, but to suggest that there are half a million kids ready for adoptive homes is inaccurate. While there may be that many children in foster care, the point of the foster care system, while far from perfect, is to ultimately reunite families and keep them together, not to be a feeder system for adoption.

As for the critics who are pointing and yelling at Madonna for heading back to Malawi for another child, I've got news for you. PunditGirl talks all the time about her wish that she had a sibling from China and wishes there were other people in our family who are Asian and "look like her" (there are, but they live thousands of miles away). At nine, she longs for more of a daily connection to her birth culture. We're doing the best that we can, making sure she learns Chinese language and culture and that we actively cultivate friends who also have Asian children. But at the end of the day, it's not enough for her.

In light of our "advancing ages," there isn't another sibling in PunditGirl's future. But if we were a tad younger, I think it would be a good thing for her and would help give her more of the connection she's searching for.

Given the fact that Madonna already has a child from Malawi, she's actually doing a responsible thing by making a choice to adopt from the same country as her son, David. But I guess that's not a sensational enough story for the tabloids.

Joanne Bamberger usually reserves her blogging for political at her place, PunditMom, as well as at BlogHer, where she is a News & Politics Contributing Editor, and MOMocrats. As the mother of the incredible PunditGirl, she occasionally has to rant about how corporate media covers adoption.

Photo by PunditMom