Like the Dandelion Dust is based on a book written by an adoptive mother Karen Kingsbury.
The movie opens up with a scene involving intimate partner violence on a woman, Wendy Porter. Her husband Rip goes away to jail for abusing her, and while he is away Wendy finds out she is pregnant. Judging by the house alone, it seems like she does not have very much financial resources, living in a working class neighborhood. It is implied that Wendy relinquishes custody of her child while Rip is in jail.
A few years have passed and Rip gets out of jail and returns home to Wendy who tells him about the pregnancy and their son. Rip is devastated by the news and wants to obtain custody of their son. Legally, he is able to because he never signed relinquishing papers.
The adoptive parents, Jack and Molly Campbell, are disturbed by the news. In the story, the social worker thinks it is best to ease the son Joey into the home of the Porters slowly. “The first visit they are friends, the second visit they are the other mommy and daddy and the final visit Joey will be told the truth” Seriously? I really hope no social worker in real life would think that lying to a child about where they came from would be a good idea. Someone please explain how that would be in the best interest of the child?
Overall, the movie perpetuates the fear that adoptions will go horribly wrong after the placement of the child, that the birth parents will come back to ‘steal’ the child away from the adoptive family. It also uses negative language towards first/birth parents including ‘giving away’. Birth parents whom make an adoption plan do not give away their babies. By saying that they do, it insinuates the lack of value they have for the child. Mothers/parents make adoption plans for their babies (unless the state gets involved and takes them away, but that is an entirely different story) because they are not able to parent for a variety of reasons.
The misrepresentation of birth mothers in films about adoption are insulting to the mothers/parents who make difficult decision for their families.
Like Dandelion Dust attempts to dig into the emotional aspects of having no control over the disruption of one’s family. After Joey has visited the Porters a couple of times and the Campbell’s are fighting to keep custody of them, Wendy acknowledges the pain of Joey’s other mother Molly, “Somebody’s got to lose, and it’s not going to be us this time… we are his parents and it’s right for him to be with us”.
And of course, there has to be a scene between the fathers physically fighting after Jack tries to use his monetary power to buy out Rip. This scene also shows Jack’s vulnerability in the situation.
At this point, when both parents have met each other, I start to wonder what open adoption would look like for these families. With an open adoption arrangement Joey could stay with the Campbell parents -- the parents whom he has grown up with -- while maintaining contact with the Porters. And the Porters would be able to feel comfort knowing Joey’s well being and stay in contact with him. At the very least, the filmmakers could have shown them discussing it.
In the end, Wendy finalizes the adoption with the Campbell family, knowing it is what would be best for Joey. Before they depart, Wendy tells Molly,“I want Joey to know he has two mothers, one who loves him so much she couldn't let go. And one that loves him so much she had to“.
The DVD of the movie had several additional interviews from the filmmakers and writers. The author of the book which the movie is based on, Karen Kingsbury’s message about what she hopes viewers will walk away from the movie made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. She wants people to be interested in adoption to support orphans from other countries or ’suddenly’ for the first time be invested in the idea to adopt their own child.
Mrs. Kingsbury also shared her own adoption story. She and her husband adopted three sons from Haiti. She said, ”God always answers the financial prayer - that is never the reason not to adopt”. Really? What about those parents who don’t have the financial resources to financially provide for their children, whom ultimately end up in orphanages? What happened to their financial prayers? How fortunate Mrs. Kingsbury is to be able to afford to adopt 3 boys in addition to the 3 biological kids she already has. It doesn't take much reading about adoptions from orphanages to learn that not all children in orphanages are truly orphans (whose parents are deceased). Mrs. Kingsbury gives us no light into the story of her Haitian sons’ first families or how they became orphans - a crucial part of their story is missing.
Mrs. Kingsbury also says that she thinks everyone should consider adoption, she of course means everyone should adopt a child or three, like she did, but she doesn't seem to show interest in where these children come from. “Everyone has a role in adoption”, while she clearly ignores the birth/first families of the children.
One of the film producers, Kevin Downs shared his adoption story in an interview in a DVD extra. He says his wife didn't care where it comes from, she just wanted a baby. And that he and his wife ‘rescued’ the babies from the orphanages. Upon hearing that I shook my head in frustration. I really wish that people interested in adopting children get out of the mental framework that children in orphanages need rescuing. By doing so, I think they are feeding into the supply and demand of keeping orphanages grim. Read more here Good Intentions Are Not Enough.
(cross posted from http://invisiblemothers.wordpress.com/)