Baby boomers like me just need to turn on their televisions to catch a glimpse of changing attitudes toward adoption. When I was growing up, my twin sister and I would head home from school to our next-door neighbor’s finished basement “rec” room, where we would munch on Scooter Pies and watch reruns of “Father Knows Best.” Robert Young, Jane Wyatt, and their three perfect kids were as much like our real life families as Hogwarts resembles a contemporary middle school, yet they represented what a family in the 1950’s and 1960’s was supposed to be. Any family that did not fit into a tightly defined mold consisting of a husband, wife, and three or so children was scandalous. Adoption was considered shameful, and I remember hearing whispered comments that a classmate was adopted.
Still a sucker for television, I am now a devotee of “Modern Family,” or should I say “Two Fathers Know Best.” Talk about changing attitudes toward adoption! At the center of “Modern Family” are three families, including a gay couple and their adopted daughter. It is refreshing that this sitcom treats adoption as an accepted, even beautiful, way to become a family. The two dads are doting parents and the entire extended family, which also includes a quirky stepfather-stepson relationship, is devoted to their adopted member.
The shift in TV imagery represents a shift in societal attitudes toward family formation. Adoption is out of the closet and has become part of mainstream American family life. With greater acceptance and normalization has come respect for birth parents and adoptive families, as well as an opening up of the adoption process.