NPRGate and the Adoption Triad

Last week NPR aired a story about transracial adoption and the Melissa Harris-Perry gaffe. NPR generated almost as much controversy for failing to include any transracially adopted adults in its segment as Ms. Harris-Perry did for offering up for mockery a picture of Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney and his transracially adopted grandson.

The NPR piece has been criticized for only including interviews with parents who adopted transracially and excluding the voices of adults or older children who were adopted transracially. The response on the internet was understandably swift and sustained. Commentators shrewdly pointed to the power dynamics of adoption, observing: “Always handing the microphone to adoptive parents means that those most privileged in adoption direct the narrative.” @nicolecallahan

I frame my critique of the NPR piece like this: We place the adopted person at the top of the adoption triad because the child, who will grow to be an adult, needs to be the focus. The emphasis on the adopted person is critically important when he or she is a child, because he or she cannot speak for herself. But that emphasis must not fade as the child goes through life. Our adoption community needs to make sure that there is space for the voices and opinions of adopted people. Their stories can and should be complemented, but not eclipsed, by those of birth families and adoptive families.