How Realistic was Parenthood’s Adoption Storyline?

NBC’s Parenthood finished its third season on Tuesday with a big wedding, and an engagement, but at Adoption STAR we were focused on two characters (Julia and Joel) becoming foster parents.

Julia and Joel’s adoption journey has been prevalent throughout the season, and the show tackled a lot of interesting topics. The season started with Julia and Joel already frustrated that they had not been selected by an expecting mother yet, and they were constantly tinkering with their video adoption profile. There was even a scene where Julia continually referenced Lady Gaga in the video profile in an attempt to relate to a young woman.

While waiting to be selected by an expecting parent can be a stressful and trying time, Adoption STAR Family advocates stress to prospective adoptive parents to be themselves in their profile. There is no way in knowing what an expecting parent may be attracted to in a profile. It may be that you have a nice yard, or your family dog, or one of a million other things. The key is to be yourselves.

While waiting to be matched, Julia met a young woman at her work (Zoe) who it turns out was pregnant and was making an adoption plan. Julia and Zoe eventually forged a relationship and within a few weeks, Julia blurted out “I want to adopt your child.”

While this is very unorthodox, private adoptions happen all of the time, but Zoe was not prepared for an open adoption and ran off. Over the next few weeks Zoe and Julia created a stronger friendship and after Zoe met Julia’s husband Joel and their daughter, she decided they were the right family for her child.

As I said above, this is a very unorthodox way of growing your family through adoption, but I think it served a realistic point; that relationships, including adoption relationships, grow with time. In an open adoption, there must be a period where the adoptive family and birth family get to know each other, trust each other, and become comfortable with the relationship.

Because Parenthood is a TV drama there had to be some bumps along the way, and the birth father (Zoe’s ex-boyfriend) created a big bump when he asked for money before signing the adoption papers. I was glad to see that the show didn’t make Julia and Joel desperate enough to consider making this type of transaction. The show played it off as the entirely illegal act that it is, and the adoption was put on hold until Zoe convinced the birth father to agree to sign the papers.

Once this hurdle was cleared, Zoe’s baby was nearly due, and she began to have conflicting feelings about the adoption plan. Zoe felt committed and almost indebted to Julia and Joel but the closer it got to the due date, the more she began to back away from their family.

This relationship began to take on the feeling of a kinship adoption because Zoe was living with Julia and Joel and had nowhere else to turn. The show never showed Zoe going to any counseling, and for that matter there were never any adoption attorneys involved in the adoption. While Julia is a corporate lawyer, adoption regulations are very specific and Adoption STAR always recommends that clients use attorneys who have great experience with adoption law.

All of this brings us to last week, when Zoe gave birth to a boy. Despite her growing doubts about the adoption plan, it seemed as if she was still committed to surrendering her child to Julia and Joel. After giving birth she wouldn’t even look at her son, telling Julia to hold him instead. However the final scene of the episode showed Zoe holding her son in the hospital nursery, while Julia looked on, knowing that Zoe would keep her son.

The Zoe story line wrapped up this week when she showed up at Julia’s house and told her and Joel that she is keeping the child and that her mother was going to help her raise him. Julia and Joel took this as well as they possibly could.

It’s important to remember that until the surrenders are signed the birth parents still have the right to decide to parent their child. In New York, a birth parent can revoke their surrender up to 30 days later. In this situation, the case would go to court, where a judge would decide what is in the child’s best interest.  While this is not a common occurrence, it’s important to keep this in the back of your mind, and be respectful of any decision made.

After Zoe decided to parent her son, Julia and Joel decided to not waste any time in trying to adopt again, this time with an agency. They even agreed to look into fostering a child who they could possibly adopt, though Julia expressed concerns about welcoming a child into their home and losing him/her as well.  The episode ended with Julia and Joel fostering a young boy (who looked to be 7-10 years old) whose mother had been imprisoned.

The ending of the episode seemed rather odd to me. The entire season Julia and Joel had been attempting to adopt a newborn and in the span of one episode, found out they would not be adopting the child they thought they would, decided to think about fostering to adopt, and welcomed a 7-10 year old boy into their house. Because it’s a television show you can assume that Julia and talked about foster care and adopting an older child, but it would have been nice to see this conversation.

The Parenthood season may be finished, but Julia and Joel’s adoption journey is just beginning (especially if the show get’s picked up for a fifth season.) I’m interested to see how bringing in a foster child will change the dynamics of Julia and Joel’s family.

What did everyone else think about the adoption storyline during the fourth season of Parenthood?