Religion

‘Adoption Option’: Please Listen to This 24-Year-Old

David Scotton in I Lived on Parker Avenue (trailer image via YouTube)
A documentary about a young man who is grateful to his birth mother as well as to his adoptive parents.

Do you want to meet gratitude? Then David Scotton’s your man. At a time when we are taking public-policy advice from traumatized, grieving young students, consider this eternally grateful one.

David Scotton is a 24-year-old law student with a little movie with a big message. Adopted at birth, he allowed, with some hesitation and prayer, a filmmaker to follow along his journey from New Orleans to Indiana when he was 19 to meet his birth parents.

The other day at the Sheen Center in Lower Manhattan, I heard George Weigel, the John Paul II biographer, assert that people of heroic virtue are all around us. Saints, they are frequently known as — in this case, though, not canonized and in Heaven but living in our midst, often unaware that they are sources of great grace and inspiration. David Scotton’s birth mother is chief among them. And all those things about saints is true of her, if the documentary I Lived on Parker Avenue is any indication.

One of the first things she wants to do is seek forgiveness from David. For so many years this mother suffered with worry that the boy she gave birth to would be hurt by the fact that she chose to “give him up for adoption,” as the expression goes. Our language for adoption seems to suggest abandonment when, in fact, it is just about the greatest and most loving sacrifice. I think of the story, from the State of the Union some weeks ago, of the young police officer and his wife and a woman named Crystal who is suffering in the grip of addiction. But she wants better for her baby. And there is a couple who can help her realize that aspiration. As there was in the case of David.

Melissa had the added guilt that she and her boyfriend not only considered abortion when she was pregnant with David but that she went to the clinic. In I Lived on Parker Avenue she describes the dramatically painful scene she ran out from. In one of the most uplifting scenes I’ve ever watched on video, Melissa and David visit the spot where that clinic once stood. (It’s a health clinic now, and abortions are no longer performed there.) For him, it’s like the opposite of a memorial dedicated to some grave event. It was there where he was given new life, even in the womb. She should feel no guilt. She gave life and love to David and to his adoptive mom and dad.

The beauty of I Lived on Parker Avenue is that, in some respects, it isn’t primarily about abortion or even adoption, though promotion of “the adoption option” is certainly this young man’s mission. It’s about gratitude. One of the most compelling scenes of the 30-minute film occurs when David expresses in letters — personalized and everything, there are communications beyond text messages still! — what his adoptive family means to him. He wanted to assure his parents and extended family and friends that meeting his birth parents had nothing to do with finding his “true” parents and everything with saying “Thank you.”

“With only two adoptions to every 100 abortions in the United States, and with the stigmas society still unfortunately shares about adoption, it is important to get this film out there,” David tells me. “Even though I am adopted, I am no different than a biological child. Even though my parents are my ‘adoptive’ parents, they are my mom and dad. My ‘birth’ parents are exactly that: birth parents. Those distinctions are real and need to be shared.”

It’s remarkable how many people of every political point of view do want to help adoption and foster care succeed whenever possible.

Scotton continues: “This documentary shows the power of one story and the impact one decision can make. It shows how my birth mother’s decision to leave the abortion clinic and choose the adoption option gave me the gift of life, gave my parents the gift of their only son, and gave my grandparents the gift of their only grandchild.”

I Lived on Parker Avenue is produced by Joie De Vivre Media and will become available the evening of March 8 for free on the website I Lived on Parker Ave. Do yourself a favor and watch it, maybe host a discussion about it. Adoption is one of these things we can all afford to think a little more about. We can consider ways to support it. Not everyone is called to be directly involved as a birth or adoptive family, but we can help those who are called to be more directly involved in foster parenting, or in permanent homes, when unification of the natural family has become impossible or really isn’t the most flourishing option for the child. (It’s remarkable how many people of every political point of view do want to help that happen whenever possible. There’s common ground and healing to be found in this most foundational issue, which means everything to young lives.)

As Scotton puts it to me:

I hope it might at least help them see that adoption is a positive, loving option. It may be “different” from having a biological child, but the love is still there, the same way it is for a biological child. The best thing we can do to support adoption in concrete ways is to share this film and begin talking about it. Hopefully this can help de-stigmatize the adoption option, and that’s the best way to support adoption. If it’s de-stigmatized and more of a viable option for individuals or couples, maybe they’ll be more likely to choose adoption and give children just like me their forever homes.

Be more welcoming. Be more grateful. It’s live-giving. Not bad messages for these times.

This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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