Sunday, November 27, 2005

Adoption in Your Toy Aisle

There was an article in the paper today about a store that has an elaborate adoption gimmick in its toy section. From a row of real-looking baby dolls of all colors, kids can pick the baby they want to adopt, and a dressed-up nurse will do a fake medical exam, fill out some papers, and you can take the baby home. Some adoption advocates are in an uproar over this commercializing and trivializing of the adoption process. The company that has come up with this idea is incredulous, saying they too are adoption advocates, and that besides, people can decide to buy or not buy if they so choose.

I had to cringe when I read about the idea, so it’s probably not a good idea. And though I’m a die-hard capitalist, the company is wrong to think that it is OK to come up with an idea that is offensive to some, because those “some” can just decide to not be customers; companies should know better than that before they put a product out on the market.

Nevertheless, I don’t come down as hard as the adoption advocates quoted in the article. No, going to the store, picking out a baby, and taking it home is not nearly as simple as real adoptions. But nor are toy surgery kits or military supplies or EZ-Bake ovens the same as the real thing. Isn’t that the point of toys; that they’re not the same as the real thing?

And to the extent that this product and its in-store display can catalyze frank conversations between parents and children about what adoption is, and to the extent that the company that makes these products can help facilitate those conversations, this can only be good for the adoption movement. Certainly, there are a lot of misconceptions about adoptions, and we have to correct people and institutions when they use erroneous stereotypes and hurtful terms. Can there be a way for the adoption advocates and the toy adoption company to work together to do that educating? For the sake of those of us who are directly affected by adoption, I sure hope so.
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