From Hollywood to Downton Abbey… Adoption on the Screen

Adoption Portrayed on TV and in the Movies

For as long as it took adoption to change over the past hundred years, it has taken popular media even longer to catch on to accurate depictions of adoption in film and television. Until the television show Modern Family came out with Cam and Mitchell adopting internationally and then going through the process to adopt domestically, there was virtually no real currency regarding the issues around adoption on television.

Oscar nominated film Philomena is a “not to miss” movie. Based on a true story, this film describes one woman’s search for her adult child who was placed for adoption in the early 1950s under cruel circumstances at a time when adoptions were kept completely closed – despite the harm it did to both child and birth parent. It is not uncommon to hear similar stories about adoptions that took place in past decades.

modern family cast
“Modern Family” portrays adoption on television. (ABC)

Even the popular PBS series Downton Abbey recently dealt with the difficult choices a woman faced when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy in the 1920s. If a woman had money, she could theoretically choose to have an illegal and unsafe back-alley abortion and risk her own life or choose a secret and closed adoption, else risk complete scandal and shame… so the choices were not exactly equal or palatable. These intricate issues are deserving of more time than a TV program can offer. Even just scratching the surface of the complexities, the episodes have provoked thought on what it means for a woman to have reproductive freedom and autonomy.

Friends in Adoption is grateful that women facing unplanned pregnancies today have three safe and legal choices and that open adoption has dramatically evolved, with the goal of minimizing the loss of relationships for those in the circle of adoption. When the circle of love between families — birth and adoptive – is broadened for the sake of each child, adoption triumphs. Friends in Adoption is grateful, humbled, and proud to do the important work of promoting compassionate, kind, open adoption that considers the needs of each person in the adoption triad, and places the child as central to all decisions.

-Nan Pasquarello, Friends in Adoption Alumna