Thursday, January 19, 2017

Published! Adoption at the Movies is available on Amazon!

Hey everyone! Adoption at the Movies is now a published book! Get your copy here!

Here's what some leading voices are saying:

Adoption at the Movies does two huge favors for adoptive parents. First, it reveals the whys and hows of having tough conversations with our kids. Second, through previews it guides us through how to best use films as conversation starters that can foster intimacy and trust, while alerting us to potential hazards. This way parents can make good decisions about what to see and what to wait on. I wish I'd had this guide from Day 1 as an adoptive parent to my children. (Lori Holden of LavenderLuz.com, author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.)

Adoption at the Movies takes your cinema entertainment and transforms it into a powerful tool to help your adoptive child to thrive in life. (Darren Fink, Co-Founder, Transfiguring Adoption)

This book is comprehensive and thoughtful, a true resource for parents who wish to use films as a springboard for positive and helpful dialogue about adoption with their children. Addison has done the hard work for us, analyzing the most applicable stories of our day and guiding us through the potential of each film in helping our adopted children process their own stories. (Christina Matanick, creator of ReMoved film)

Movies have that magical ability to transport us to a different place and see things in new ways. They can be a useful, and sometimes less painful, vehicle for gaining insight into important life issues. With Addison Cooper's guidance, adoptive families can easily choose films to help them initiate important conversations in a non-threatening manner. Building on his popular Adoption at the Movies blog, Cooper's new book (of the same name) organizes 63 movies into four main categories. Alphabetical, age, and topic indexes add to the book's usability. Adoptive families and professionals who work with them will find this to be a welcome resource. (Linda May Grobman, MSW, LSW, ACSW, Publisher/Editor of The New Social Worker Magazine)

Open communication is vital to the well-being of any family, but parents through adoption may struggle to introduce the subject. Adoption at the Movies can help parents get past this stumbling block. When you watch a film with an adoption theme, the topic is already on the table, er, screen, so the conversation can unfold naturally. Cooper's clear-eyed assessments of dozens of films, including excellent discussion questions, should lead to many enjoyable evenings-and many more hours of healthy conversation-in any family formed through adoption. (Eve Gilman, editor of Adoptive Families magazine)

Adoption at the Movies is a well-researched and accessible resource for all adoptive families who watch films together. Addison Cooper shows how many films aimed at children are essentially about absent or neglectful caregivers, loss and the search for belonging and why these themes may trigger difficult feelings in adopted children. His book gives parents the tools not only to make informed decisions and to prepare before watching a film but it suggests ways in which each film can be used as a starting point for a significant conversation. It is great to read something that not only forewarns but forearms too and which encourages families to explore themes and difficulties together and to use films as a resource. The book is easy to use, packed with popular films and appropriate to a wide age range. I wish I'd read it at the start of our journey as an adoptive family but I'll certainly be using it now. (Sally Donovan, author of No Matter What)


Adoption at the Movies is a great resource for any parent, educator or mentor who works with youth; and it's a comprehensive, must-have resource for foster and adoptive parents.
The author provides discussion topics and activities, which will help make the most out of any family movie night.
(Yasmin Mistry Director, Foster Care Film & Community Engagement Project (FCFCEP))

Get your copy here!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stuart Little Adoption Movie Review

Eleanor and Frederick Little have gone to an orphanage, hoping to adopt a child to be a brother to their young son George. They are surprised to find that they fall in love with an anthropomorphic mouse named Stuart. Wise and kind, Stuart warms the Littles’ hearts, and they decide to take him to their home. While their extended family is largely supportive, George refuses to accept Stuart as a brother, and the family cat, Snowbell, sets plans in motion to have Stuart removed from the home. Although George eventually calls Stuart a brother, Snowbell contacts a gang of criminal cats who hire two mice to pretend to be Stuart’s parents. They explain that they gave Stuart up for adoption because of their poverty, but say that now, they have come to reclaim him. The Littles somberly let Stuart go, believing that he will be better with his supposed parents. Shortly after Stuart leaves, the Littles learn that Stuart’s birthparents died years ago. Realizing that they have been tricked into turning Stuart over to kidnappers, they set off to find him. Stuart realizes his predicament as well, but when he returns home, the Little house is empty except for Snowbell. Snowbell sends Stuart away again, telling him that the Littles are much happier without him. Eventually, Snowbell has a change of heart. He and Stuart help each other escape from the gang of cats that are now after both of them, and they return to the Little home where they can now begin their lives as a happy family.

 

The Adoption Connection

The Littles adopt Stuart; although they and their extended family embrace him, their son George (and their pet) are initially very unhappy to have Stuart in their family. Stuart knows nothing about his birth parents, and expresses a loneliness for them. The Littles try to learn about them for him. In a development similar to Annie, Stuart is kidnapped by two adults pretending to be his long-lost parents.  


Strong Points

Stuart is consistently positive; he is loved by the Littles, and is eventually embraced by the whole family.

Snowbell eventually declares that family doesn’t have to look alike.


Challenges

Stuart’s adoption from the orphanage by a family who had met him only minutes earlier isn’t how adoption typically works in the US, and could confuse some younger viewers. I also noticed that the adoption agency did not make any home visits to the Little home; had they done so, they probably would not have placed a mouse in a home with a pet cat.

Some viewers could be triggered when Stuart is effectively kidnapped from his adoptive family by people pretending to be his birthparents. This could touch on issues of longing for absent birthparents, and it could also touch on fears of being abducted by birthparents. It’s also concerning how quickly the Littles handed him over, without even any official notice.

George is initially unkind to Stuart, saying that Stuart is not his brother. He only seems to come around when Stuart performs well in a race.

The orphanage director, Mrs. Keeper, cautions the Littles that adoption outside of the species rarely works out.

Snowbell seems to intend to let Stuart drown.

After Stuart is rejected by George, he asks the Littles about his birth family; Mrs. Little’s initial reaction is to tearfully bemoan the fact that Stuart must hate her and her husband. Their feelings are believable and eventually they do look for the information that Stuart is missing, but I wish their first reaction to him asking about his birthfamily wasn’t quite so negative.

Stuart’s imposter birthparents tell the Littles that, although Stuart might feel like part of their family, he actually is not.

Stuart takes responsibility for the feelings of his adoptive brother and adoptive parents. When he believes he is living with his birthparents, he promises that he will take care of them.


Recommendations

Although Mr. and Mrs. Little do love Stuart, there’s a lot of concerning stuff here. His brother rejects him. The family pet tries to get him killed by mobsters. Stuart is kidnapped by people posing as his birthparents. We learn that Stuart’s actual birthparents were killed when they were crushed by cans in a grocery accident. Stuart’s adoption agency places him without even visiting the home, and this puts Stuart in danger. Although this could be a lighthearted film for some viewers, it’s probably a safe one to skip for most adoptive families.


Questions for Discussion

What makes family, family?

Why did George eventually change his mind about Stuart? Why did Snowbell?


In what ways was Stuart’s adoption like your adoption? In which ways was it different? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Top 13 Posts of 2016

Thanks for being part of a great year at Adoption at the Movies. As 2016 comes to a close, I’m excited for the launch of our very own book, Adoption at the Movies, coming January 19 from Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Get your copy here!   Also, I’m excited for the 4th Annual Adoption at the Movies Awards, coming February 21 – look for the nominees and voting info soon!

To wrap up the year, here are the Top 13 Most-Viewed Posts of the Year!  You’ll see a wealth of animation (and Disney dominated), along with this year’s Awards, a kids' TV show, and an offering from Netflix. How many of these have you seen? Which haven’t you seen yet? Which was your favorite?







Here we go – the top posts of the year!
 



11. The BFG

10. Lion




 
5. Moana


3. Storks


 


That’s it for 2016! Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sing Adoption Movie Review

Buster Moon fell in love with the theater as a young koala boy. His father worked for years at a car wash so that Buster could one day buy the town’s theater. Buster has operated the theater for years, but it is failing and in danger of repossession. In a desperate attempt to revive the theater, Buster launches a city-wide singing competition. When a typo makes the grand prize much larger than he intended, and much larger than he can afford, hundreds turn out to audition. What will happen when everyone realizes that Buster doesn’t have the money?

** SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY **



The Adoption Connection

No characters are adopted. Buster is in danger of losing his home, which was provided for him by his dad, who has since passed away. When he does lose his home and theater, he follows in his father’s footsteps by resuming his father’s car-washing business.  Another character has a difficult relationship with his dad; his dad is a criminal and is initially ashamed of his son’s artistic endeavors, telling him “you are nothing like me. Never have been, never will be.”  


Strong Points

The contestants in the singing competition show true care for each other and for Buster.  An estranged father comes back to his son.

Characters show perseverance and courage.


Challenges

One character’s dad says some hurtful things to him. Later, the character visits his dad in jail. A character briefly laments, “I’ve lost any chance of talking to my dad again.”

A gang of bears threatens the life of a cocky mouse.


Recommendations

 SING is mostly a positive, upbeat film for young audiences with a solid soundtrack. There are some opportunities for parents to point out characters’ forgiveness, courage, and perseverance. Kids whose parents have been incarcerated or criminally involved might struggle with a scene where a teenager fails to help in a getaway plan and later visits his surly dad in jail, and kids who have been emotionally shunned by a father figure might find some scenes difficult.  Outside of these issues, the film should work well for kids ages 7-12 or so.


Questions for Discussion

What role does music play in your life? What are your favorite songs? What songs have been important to you?

When have you kept trying, even though you wanted to give up? How did it go?

What is your dream job? What other jobs might you want to do before your dream job?


Why didn’t Buster give up? What friends can you count on?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Adoption Movie Review

The evil Galactic Empire has created a powerful weapon that can destroy entire planets. The Rebel Alliance has learned that there is a fatal flaw in the weapon. To create the chance for safety in the galaxy, they must obtain the plans to the weapon and get them into the right hands.

SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY



The Adoption Connection

There is some adoption relevance here. A young girl sees her mother killed and is separated from her father. She is raised by another man, who functions as an adoptive parent to her, but he abandons her. Later, she must advocate for her father’s character to people who intend to kill him, and although she is an effective advocate, her father does die in her arms.  
Here’s a more specific explanation, but feel free to skip it if you don’t want a full plot summary before seeing the film: The Galactic Empire has conscripted the services of the brilliant engineer Galen Erso. He does not believe in the Empire’s goals, but he is coerced into service. As his young daughter Jyn watches, Galen’s wife is shot and Galen is apprehended; soldiers are sent to find Jyn, but she escapes, and is later rescued and raised by Saw Gerrera, a radical opponent of the empire. Fifteen years later, Jyn has been left by Saw and captured by the Empire. The Rebel Alliance frees her in the hopes that she will lead them to her father, Galen Erso. They believe her father to be primarily responsible for the creation of the powerful Death Star weapon, and hope to find him and kill him to prevent the weapon from being finished. Galen has sent a secret message, however; he is covertly working against the Empire and has created a fatal flaw in the Death Star. Only Jyn knows that her father has done this; the rest of her compatriots believe him to be a villain. She eventually convinces some of her band of his innocence, but her traveling companion Cassian is assigned to assassinate him. The would-be assassin has second thoughts and does not assassinate him, but Galen is wounded in a bombing raid and dies in Jyn’s arms. Jyn and Cassian develop feelings for one another. Jyn confronts Saw for abandoning her after raising her.  


Strong Points

Jyn’s father is thought to be a villain, but he is secretly a good man. I like that this film gives hope that there can be redeeming qualities in long-lost relatives, even if those around you believe them to be all bad.
A character wisely implies that true peace cannot be won through compelling others into submission through fear.  

Although Jyn was not able to say goodbye to her mother, she was able to say goodbye to her father.


Challenges

Jyn sees both of her parents die; as a young girl, she sees her mother murdered by a government official, and as a young adult her father dies in her arms after being injured in a bombing raid. As a young child, she also runs from soldiers who intend to abduct her. She feels abandoned by a man who has become like an adoptive father to her.

The heroes try to use Jyn in order to lead them to her long-lost father. They lie to her about their purposes; they intend to assassinate him.

In a very short scene, a young child screams in terror; Jyn saves her and returns her to her mother.  

An Imperial official orders the execution of several innocent engineers.


Recommendations

Rogue One seems likely to appeal to many kids but might be best suited to kids ages 12 and up. While kids 8 and up will likely enjoy it, the scenes in which Jyn’s parents are killed, and the concept that Jyn’s father is separated from her and badly misjudged, could be triggers for young kids. It should be safe for most kids ages 12 and up, and even then parents should watch it alongside their kids. After watching the film, consider inviting them to share their feelings about family members from whom they’ve been separated. If there are unhelpful and untrue negative beliefs, consider helping your child work through them. There’s also a particularly good line about people carrying their own prison with them – this could lead to an interesting talk about the power of forgiveness.  


Questions for Discussion

One character said that there are “more than one type of prison,” and tells another character, “you take your prison with you wherever you go.” What does that mean? What do you think about that?

Have you ever misjudged someone’s motives? Have you ever been misjudged?

Who were the most trustworthy people that Jyn met?

What do you believe about your birthparents?



Thanks for reading our review! Please consider supporting Adoption at the Movies! http://www.patreon.com/user?u=4057141

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Lion Adoption Movie Review

Lion is one of the most relevant, and most responsible, films about adoption that I’ve screened. Because of how relevant and important this movie is, this review will follow my regular format, except that the plot summary is very thorough and is combined with the Adoption Connection section.  THERE ARE SPOILERS throughout this review. If you want to avoid spoilers, in a nutshell, here’s what you need to know: If you’re an adoptive parent, you should see this movie. It will not be a good choice for young kids, but it might be helpful for teens to know that a quest like Saroo’s is fine with you. Its portrayal of search and reunion is powerful, healthy, and responsible. This is one of the best adoption-related films I’ve seen.  And now, here’s the full review:

Plot Summary and The Adoption Connection



In 1986, young Saroo lived in a small village in India. He tagged along with his older brother Guddu 
to scavenge a living to provide for his mother and young sister. The brothers had a close relationship; Saroo around six years old, and his brother on the verge of adolescence. Although they lived in poverty, Saroo’s family was bound together by love. One evening, Saroo’s mother left for work. Guddu also was offered work, and Saroo petitioned Guddu to let him come along. Guddu finally acquiesced, but Saroo fell asleep. Guddu let Saroo sleep on the bench in a train station, and told 
Saroo to stay put; Guddu would come back shortly to reclaim him.

When Saroo awoke, Guddu was nowhere to be found. Although Saroo screamed for him, he could not find him. Saroo boarded a train and hoped to return to his home, but instead he was taken over a thousand miles away to the big city of Calcutta. He screamed out for help as the train carried him far from his home, but onlookers simply looked away. Saroo missed his brother and mother, but was unable to find them. When he disembarked the train, he began to ask onlookers in the busy station to help him get back to his hometown, but Saroo did not speak the common language of Calcutta; he spoke Hindi while those in the city spoke Bengali. Unable to speak the language of the region, and unable to pronounce the name of his hometown, Saroo was utterly lost. A group of homeless kids in the train station provided a brief sense of belonging to Saroo, but they were quickly chased by a group of men trying to abduct them. Saroo barely escaped, running past a security officer who offered no help.

Saroo was alone in a dangerous big city. A young woman, Noor, realized that Saroo was lost, alone, and unable to get back home. She brought him into her home and cleaned him up. She told him that Rama would come soon, and that Rama is a good man who helps everyone. However, when Rama arrived, he laid next to Saroo on the bed, and told Noor that Saroo was “exactly what they’re looking for.” Saroo was understandably spooked, and he ran away again.  

After a few months on the street, someone helped Saroo identify himself as a missing person; however, he did not know the given name of his mother – only that she was called “Mum.” This, and his inability to convey the location of his hometown, made it impossible for the well-meaning authorities to reunite Saroo with his family.

Saroo was taken to an orphanage, where some children were punished harshly. A social worker, Mrs. Sood, met with Saroo. She told him that, despite her efforts, she was not able to locate his family. She spoke to him about adoption, and let him know about a family in Tasmania, Australia that wanted to adopt him. Saroo asked whether Mrs. Sood really looked for his mother, and she assured him sadly that she had looked everywhere.

Saroo travels to Tasmania and meets his new parents, the Brierleys. They’re happy to see him, they understand that he has come a long way, they understand that he has had a difficult road. Mrs. Brierley expresses that she wants to know all about Saroo’s past, and promises that she’ll always listen. A year later, the Brierleys adopt Saroo’s brother, Mantosh. Mantosh has some destructive behaviors, but the Brierleys embrace him and he becomes part of their family. The Brierleys chose to adopt and they did not have infertility issues. They always hated when people assumed that they adopted because they were not able to conceive. They explained, “having a child might not make the world better, but taking a child who is suffering and giving them a chance” is better.

Twenty years later, Saroo is pursuing a career in hotel management. When his classmates learn that he was born in India, they ask him where he is from. This makes Saroo pause; he says, “I’m adopted, I’m not really Indian,” but he also remembers that he is not from the big city of Calcutta, but from a small city that he can’t remember. The sight of a familiar treat from his childhood draws him back into his past. He confides to a friend, “I’m not from Calcutta. I’m lost.” Saroo begins to share his story with his friends, who understand it to different degrees. He begins to realize that his mother would not have been able to search for him easily because she cannot read. He believes that his mother and brother have likely always been looking for him, and because he believes that they must be in emotional anguish because he is lost, he becomes driven to find them. His quest to find them puts strain on his friendships and, to some extent, on his relationship with Mantosh. Saroo’s adoptive parents never express reservations about his desire to find his birth family; they are consistently loving and supportive.  

Saroo taps into his memory and uses Google Earth to help him pinpoint the town he was from has a child. It amazed me that this information was both in his mind and photographed on Google Earth for some time, he just needed to connect his knowledge to the technology to find his hometown. After locating his home, Saroo goes there. The streets are familiar to him. He finds his mother and sister, and they embrace him gladly.

Saroo’s birthmother understands that his adoptive parents are his family, but she is overjoyed to see him again. She has never stopped hoping for his return. Saroo’s adoptive parents embrace his birth mother as part of Saroo’s life, and Saroo expresses that finding her has answered his questions without replacing his adoptive parents.

As the film ends, Saroo calls his adoptive parents. His words are perfect, “Hi mom. I’m safe, and the questions have been answered. There are no more dead ends. I found my mother. She thanks you for raising me, and knows you’re my family. I found her, but it doesn’t change who you are. I love you, Mom and Dad, so much, and Mantosh.”

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Strong Points

I love that LION genuinely shows Saroo’s backstory. A sad truth is that the backstory of many children adopted internationally is lost or unknown. LION is a strong statement that, even if a story has been forgotten – it is still there to be uncovered. Even if people are unfound, they may still be waiting to be discovered. Saroo tells his adoptive parents, “You adopted our past, too.”

LION responsibly, realistically, and healthily portrays search and reunion in adoption. Saroo’s adoptive family consistently supports his acceptance of his history. They support his desire to find his birth family, and rejoice when he finds them.  Saroo’s birth mother has always waited for Saroo to return, yet she also fully accepts that Saroo’s adoptive parents are his family; she is grateful to them, and understands that Saroo is part of their world.  Saroo finds his birth mother, and through her is able to find all the answers that he needs; finding her fills gaps in his life story but does not replace his adoptive family’s role in his life.

Saroo does not give up when well-meaning friends tell him that he needs to accept that his birth family is lost forever. He keeps looking. Although Saroo briefly implies that his adoptive family is not his “real” family, he ultimately realizes that his birth family and his adoptive family are both his real family. Saroo is given room and grace to experience the range of emotions and thoughts that accompany his journey.
Saroo does find that his questions are answered by finding his birth family, and it is notable that his desire to search for them was primarily spurred by his empathy for the grief he imagined they were feeling at losing him. He expresses his need “to find them and let them know I’m OK.” Saroo hid his search from his adoptive parents for some time, explaining “I didn’t want you to feel I was ungrateful.” His adoptive mother tells Saroo that she truly hopes he finds his birth mother, because “she needs to see how beautiful you are.”

Saroo is always trying to do well by those in his life.
The film captures how Saroo’s long-ignored past is still present in his dreams and memories.


Challenges

A child is unexpectedly hit by a vehicle. There are some sad elements to the story. It’s not geared towards younger kids. That said, it’s absolutely worth seeing for adults interested in or touched by adoption.   


Recommendations    


Lion is beautiful, powerful, engaging, honest, and responsible in its portrayal of the process and emotions involved in adoption search and reunion for adopted people and those who love them. This film should be in adoptive families’ libraries. This gets Adoption at the Movies’ highest recommendation, and is geared towards adults and perhaps some teens.


Questions for Discussion

Why did Saroo want to find his birth family? What questions were answered by him finding them?

How would you respond if your adopted child wanted to find their birth family?

What did Saroo finding his birth family mean for him? What did it mean for his birth mother? What did it mean for the Brierleys?



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