David Scotton is a 24-year-old law student whose reunion with his birth parents is the subject of a half-hour documentary, I Lived on Parker Avenue, which is being released online Thursday night. Watch it. Discuss it. Do something to support adoption — even by lending support to people around you who have been called to adoption or fostering, or who have made the courageous decision to place a child with an adoptive family.
The documentary is available for free online, and DVDs are available for purchase. Scotton talks about his gratitude for life and the choices his birth mother and adoptive parents made, and his hopes for I Lived on Parker Avenue.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Why is it so important that this documentary make a splash?
David Scotton: 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.
With only two adoptions to every 100 abortions in the United States, and with the stigmas society still unfortunately has about adoption, it is important to get this film out there. Even though I am adopted, I am no different from 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.
This film shows the beauty of adoption, but in a way that is real — in a way that shows the positive and the negative behind an adoption decision. You visibly see my birth mother still grappling with her decision she made 24 years ago, but you also see her change after meeting me and seeing the family she allowed me to have.
Lopez: Why did you want everyone to know your story?
Scotton: It may surprise people, but I was once a very quiet, reserved individual. And I still am in a way. I don’t want my life to be public, but I want my story to be shared.
I want everyone to know my story because I simply appreciate the gift of life so much — and that gift was only given to me because of the adoption option. If my biological mother went through with the abortion, I would not be here today. Because she chose adoption, I am here today. Without her decision, my best friends would lack a best friend. Without her decision, my cousins would have one less cousin.
Adoption is a loving option. It’s not an easy decision, but it’s the reason I am here today. If sharing that message can influence one person in this world to even consider the adoption option in a crisis pregnancy and leave the abortion clinic — just like my biological parents did — this film has been successful.
Lopez: I get the impression that you want your birth mom, and all women like her, to know they are heroes. Is that the case? How can we better communicate such a message to them? Why is it so important to communicate this to them?
Scotton: My biological mother is a hero. We need to do a better job explaining this to people. Many traditionally would look down upon a birth mother who chooses adoption — as if she’s “giving up” her child. My birth mother did not “give up” her child. She made a brave, loving decision to place me for adoption, knowing she could not give me the life she would have wanted to give me. That brave decision made her a hero. It was a very tough decision but the right decision for me. She knew that, and that’s why she chose the adoption option. I thank her every day for giving me my family and giving me life.
Adoption is a loving option. It’s not an easy decision, but it’s the reason I am here today.
When I told her that in person, you visibly saw her emotions fly. She has dealt with grief and depression and overall questioning her decision; and when she met me and when she realized I didn’t hate her for originally being in an abortion clinic rather than choosing adoption initially, she felt relieved. I only felt love and appreciation for her because she is a hero.
If we can share that message and share that birth mothers who place for adoption are heroes, I believe society will gradually see adoption more and more as a viable option. We can start doing that by sharing this film.
Lopez: What do you want people to know about adoption?
Scotton: Adoption can save a life — just like mine. And adoption can build a family — just like it built my family. Adoption is a loving decision, not a bad decision. I am forever thankful for the adoption option. An adopted child is no less a child than a biological child. The feelings are still the same between the “adoptive” parents and adoptees — as if there really was a biological connection. That’s what this film shows, and I am proud and honored to share that message.
Lopez: Is there a special plea you hope this documentary might make to pregnant women who are not sure what to do?
Scotton: I hope they see this film. I hope they can watch this film and see that there is another option if they do not want to or can’t parent. And I hope they can see how loving a decision this option is and how it can impact literally hundreds of thousands of people.
Lopez: You talk about having been given a mission — is this what you’re living out with the documentary and going to law school?
Scotton: I feel so blessed to have been given life through adoption that I just want to give back to that cause. Public service — true public service — has and always will be important to me in my personal and professional life. That’s how I see this documentary, and that’s how I see my law-school career and future practice. At this stage of life, there is no greater public service that I can do than to share this message and hope it influences even just one person — one child — one family. I think this is a message and mindset that more of our nation’s leaders need to have.
There is so much bitterness in politics today, and it doesn’t have to be that way. I am quoting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan when I say this, but leaders need to say, “Here’s my principle, here’s my solution, and let’s try and do it in a way that’s inclusive, that’s optimistic, that’s aspirational, that’s focusing on solutions.” We’ve done exactly that with this film. Adoption is a solution, and we’re sharing it in in exactly that fashion. That is my mission.
Lopez: What’s your message to people who have had bad experiences with adoption?
Scotton: We acknowledge and sympathize with them. Not every adoption is positive. Even my story is not all positive — you still see my biological parents grappling with a decision they made 24 years ago. It’s not an easy decision, but it was the right decision. Specifically to your question, I have spoken at over 100 events and schools sharing this film. I open up the floor for Q&As all the time. I let them record. I let them ask any and all questions. This kind of dialogue is crucial, and it’s a big part of our film’s message.
I get asked that frequently, and even for the adoptees who share exactly those negative experiences, they share how the film has positively changed their minds on the meaning of adoption. That’s what we need to be doing. Be truthful. Acknowledge that not all aspects of adoption are fairy-tale endings. But initiating that dialogue can begin to solve those issues as well. I’ve visibly seen that, and I hope we can continue to do that.
Lopez: For the majority of people, who are not adopted and who are probably not going to adopt, what do you hope I Lived on Parker Avenue might help them consider about adoption? Are there ways more of us can support adoption in concrete ways?
Scotton: I hope it might at least help them see adoption is a positive, loving option. It might be different than 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.
Lopez: There’s an anti-abortion message in I Lived on Parker Avenue, but do you see it as much more than that? Can adoption be unifying ground to meet on?
Scotton: This story is an adoption message. Sure, my biological mother was in the abortion clinic, but this film shows the real-life reunion where I thanked her for choosing the adoption option. If it was not for adoption, I would not be here today. That’s just my family’s story. All we are doing is sharing that story. And we are sharing it in a way that’s non-political, non-religious, and non-alienating. Adoption crosses party lines. It’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue. It’s something we can all appreciate in the same way, and I’m proud to have shared this message in exactly that fashion.
Lopez: What do you hope to see people doing with I Lived on Parker Avenue?
Scotton: I hope they see it and share it with their friends and families. I have given five years of my life, in my spare time, and pro bono, to simply share this message. Success for this film means people see it and hopefully consider adoption in a way they may not have seen it before. I would like for this to be a resource in schools, churches, clinics, and pregnancy centers.
Lopez: Your story seems to be about gratitude more than anything. Will saying “thank you” more, by giving testimonies as you have done, help American life and politics?
Scotton: I’ve been encouraged to run for public office, but sharing this message is the best public service I can give back. I will say this though: American life and politics need more of these kinds of stories. Politics has become so abrasive and hateful, and it’s disappointing. I am just so thankful for adoption and to have life, and that’s what my public service is: to give back to that cause.
If people stopped chasing titles, money, and power, and instead focused on what their calling is and how they can actually give back to the community in their own unique way, I do believe America would lose the “politics” aspect and bring back actual public service.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here.