Saturday, January 22, 2005

Today show gets "adoption" story wrong

I saw a story on the Today show that made me very angry because they got the story wrong in a way that sensationalizes the story and does a disservice to the truth and to adoption. The Today show and MSNBC portray the story as an adopted child being ripped from its adopted home where it lived 3 years to be returned to its birth mother. Of course, this is a nightmare every potential adopted family thinks about. It is a nightmare that almost never happens. It didn't happen in this case. The adoption never happened. It was not an adopted child, but a child the family tried to adopt where they retained guardianship. A sad story yes, but not the story that the Today show and MS-NBC reported. Here is the MS-NBC story which is the way the Today show also portrayed it:

Here is a story that rings much more true from the Chicago Tribune: Story

I wrote to NBC to complain but only got a automated response. Here is the letter I wrote to NBC:

Subject: Disgusted by Sensationalized, inaccurate Today Show coverage of Evan Johnson Story

Dear Today Show Producers,

I was shocked to see on the Today show that an adopted 3 year old was taken from its adoptive home and reunited with his birth Mother. An adopted child being taken from its home is extremely rare. Before an adoption is finalized great care is taken to ensure that it is a final resolution of child's and the adoptive families status.

It is clear that Today Show and MS-NBC got the story wrong. The Chicago tribune story rings much more true:,1,7510119.story?coll=chi-newslocalchicago-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

The long standing guardianship described in the Tribune story is much different from an adoption. In fact, it appears that adoption was rejected when the child was less than 1 year old precisely because the permanent status of the child could not be guaranteed. While this story is indeed tragic and we can all question the wisdom of the decisions in this child's life, it is much different from an adoption falling apart. Adoptions are permanent. Guardianships, however long they last, may not be.

This kind sensational, inaccurate coverage is extremely damaging to families who might consider adoption and to children who can benefit from adoption. Family's have a right to know that finalized adoptions are almost never reversed. It is obviously extremely important that children and parents are confident their relationship is permanent. The importance of a feeling of permanence to children and families is the reason such great care is taken by legal authorities, social workers, and family's to make sure that adoptions are indeed final. The few times they have been reversed have been because of a long chain of extremely unlikely events.
I have been a foster parent and am an adoptive parent. It is very clear to foster parents, guardians, and adoptive parents that foster parent and guardianship relationships may be temporary, adoptions are permanent.

Portraying a long standing guardianship as an adoption to make the story more dramatic or exciting undermines the publics understanding of the reality of permanence in adoptive relationships. It may prevent prospective adoptive parents from considering adoption. It may leave children in foster care longer than they need to be.

I hope that Today and MS-NBC will work to correct the inaccurate impressions your story left. I hope you will have adoption advocates on your program to talk about how rarely finalized adoptions fall apart and how there are other defined relationships (foster care and guardianship) for situations where a permanent adoption is not possible. I hope you will let people know that adoption is a realistic, permanent and very loving way to build a family and raise child who can not be raised by his birth parents.

Ralph Galantine
San Jose, CA

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