Warning: spoilers ahead! A look into how adoption is portrayed in Season 5.
Have you joined the “This is Us” fan club yet? Now in its fifth season, the NBC hit drama explores different adoption storylines as it takes viewers on a journey of the Pearson family in the past, present, and future. The show has representation of each sector of the adoption triad. There are many lessons to heed from watching the Pearson family through the years.
As season 5 began, the Big 3 have taken fans on a rollercoaster of emotions as tension between the siblings continue to rise. The season starts by tackling current events showing how the Pearson family is navigating the global pandemic and cope with the 2020 headlines of racial injustice. “This is Us” tackles many adoption storylines from transracial, closed, to open adoptions. It is exciting to see how the writers portray adoption so honestly and compassionately.
The pilot episode captivated the audience when Randall finds his birth father, William, and forges a relationship with him until his untimely death. William brought Randall to a fire station after Randall’s birth mother “died” of an overdose in their apartment.
Season 5 depicts 2020 as Randall, his wife Beth, and their children watch the racial injustice unfold in the country. Kate gives Randall a brief apology for everything that is going on, and Randall breaks down and explains how it was not easy to grow up in a house were race was never discussed.
“You never apologized before. And this isn’t the first black person to be killed on camera,” Randall says. When Kate says that this time it feels different, Randall explains, “Not for me. It has never been different for me. We grew up in the same house. Things like this have been happening to black people for years and we have never talked about it. Not once. Growing up, I just had to keep so many things to myself because I didn’t want to make you guys feel bad.”
Randall’s childhood experiences serve as a cautionary tale to transracial adoptive families. Adoptions From The Heart encourages degree of openness in adoption, so the child understands their life story. Randall’s story serves as an example of why it is so essential to have discussions about the adoptees background and race. AFTH encourages adoptive parents to have conversations about race and social injustice. The misguided attitude of racial color blindness does not prepare adoptees for the world in which we live in where racism, unfortunately, is prevalent. Race is something that cannot and should not be ignored. AFTHtv covers the issues with colorblindness in season 6.
Closed Adoption and Finding Birth Parents
Season 5 brought a new twist to Randall’s adoption story. After a video of Randall goes viral, a man named Hai surfaces who has information about Randall’s birth mother, Laurel. Randall, at first, is upset believing William had lied to him, but he soon finds out that William did not know the full story.
Randall and his wife Beth travel to New Orleans, where they meet Hai, who knew and dated Laurel. Laurel was resuscitated after over-dosing following Randall’s birth. She moved back to New Orleans, after serving time in prison, and regretted not finding Randall before her death in 2015. Laurel left her home in New Orleans to Randall. Overwhelmed with the new information, Randall goes into the water, coincidentally where his birth mother would go when she was upset. This experience leaves Randall feeling at peace, knowing he finally knows the story of his birth parents.
Closed adoption can be difficult for the adoptee. Throughout Randall’s childhood he felt as if he did not quite fit into his family. The lack of information about his story made it even harder for him. Randall’s journey during season 5 depicts the adoptees desire to know and understand their roots and family history.
Open Adoption: Kate and Toby’s Journey
Kate and her husband toby decided to enlarge their family through adoption. The duo meets an expectant mother Ellie at a park, wearing masks and socially distancing at the start of season 5. Kate, Toby and Ellie quickly connect over the Stealers and “Star Wars” and know that the triad is a perfect fit.
During the birth, Ellie chooses Kate as the support person in the delivery room. When a nurse checks on Ellie, she mentions that “her baby” will be along soon. Ellie corrects the nurse, explaining that this in adoption, the baby is Kate’s, and she should be the first person to hold her. The nurse apologizes notifying the hospital staff about the adoption plan. Explaining your adoption plan to hospital staff is so important to make sure everyone’s feelings are protected. An AFTH social worker can accompany expectant mothers to the OBGYN to offer support in discussing the adoption plan.
Once the baby arrives, Ellie decides she wants to hold the baby. This moment gave Ellie the chance to say hello to her baby and explain she is and will always be loved. As an adoptive parent is important to be respectful and supportive of the birth mother during the birth. While this is a joyous day for you, it is one of the most difficult days for her. Kate is understanding of Ellie and gives her this time with baby Hailey, as it is important for her mental health and grieving process.
Kate and Toby give Ellie a ride home from the hospital and Kate attempts to make plans to connect in the future. Ellie expresses at this time she cannot have an open adoption, but she may feel different in the future. Kate is visibly shocked and heartbroken as she is worried that Hailey will have the same experience as her brother Randall. She wants Hailey to know her birth mother and adoption story. Toby offers important advice:
“Kate I am sorry that Ellie is hurting and I feel bad, but when we got into all of this, we knew that it was just a plan, we also knew that plans change.”
An adoption plan is a plan, and as Toby explains, “plans change.” While Adoptions From The Heart encourages a degree of, the decision is ultimately up to the birth mother. The birth mother decides what degree of openness works best for her at the time. These plans can be changed and edited throughout the years to accommodate the growing adoptee and triad. Toby reassures Kate that their child will know her birth mother and adoption story, no matter what Ellie decides. This sentiment serves as a reminder to have open, honest, and ongoing conversations about adoption, no matter the degree of openness.
What “This Is Us” Missed
Not depicted in “This is Us” is the importance of support and guidance post adoption. Adoptions From The Heart offers birth parents and adoptive parents support with the grieving process. Each state has different requirements and time limits before adoptions can be finalized. Our agency reminds adoptive parents that the child is not theirs until the waiting period and rights relinquishments are completed. Therefore, our social workers guide adoptive families on how birth mothers are in control and to support the birth mother should she decide to parent.
“This is Us” continues to remind us of the importance of the adoption triad to be open and honest throughout the adoption journey. We are excited to see how Hailey’s adoption story is depicted in the future and for the issue of race to continue to be discussed in the Pearson family.
For more information about services for expectant and birth parents offered read Why Birth Parent Support is Important.