Adoptive Parents Say 'Orphan' Exploits Fears

Warner Bros. says it "messed up," yanking offensive language.

May 28, 2009, 6:02 PM

May 29, 2009— -- When Amy Eldridge recently dropped off her adopted daughter at an Oklahoma City movie theater for a birthday party, she was horrified by one larger-than-life poster on the wall behind the group of gathering 10-year-olds.

The promotional poster, from the upcoming teen horror film, "Orphan," featured a maniacal child, which, according to the synopsis, wreaks havoc in her adoptive home, attacking her new parents and siblings in a blood-thirsty rampage.

But what upset Eldridge the most was the line in the film's trailer, "It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own."

(The film is rated R, so the trailer is only shown before movies that also have the same rating, which excludes those under 17.)

Since the ad campaign began this week adoptive parents and groups have barraged the film company Warner Brothers with complaints, saying the film taps into unfounded fears about adoption.

For Eldrige's adopted daughter, Anna, who was abandoned by her biological parents in China before being adopted by non-Asian parents, the question about who she is and where she comes from comes up among her elementary school peers.

And when a boy at the birthday party teased her after seeing the movie poster, her mother knew it was time for another one of those talks.

"Third grade has been a very hard year," Anna told her mother, who is the executive director of adoption non-profit, Love Without Boundaries.

"We get it, everyone loves a scary movie," said Rita Soronen, executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

"But it's dangerous when we perpetuate the myths of children in foster care and orphans," she told "It makes it harder to give kids the homes they need."

Scott Rowe, senior vice president of communications for Warner Brothers, admitted the company, "messed up" in promotions for the film, which is due out in July.

Warner Brothers was besieged with complaints from parents and organizations that deal with adoption, foster care and orphans who were troubled by the story line of a deranged and homicidal child.

Speaking out in blogs, listserves and in phone calls and letters to the movie executives, adoptive parents say the trailer is especially offensive.

"They were right," Rowe told "Their complaints resonated with us."

Rowe said the company is moving "as quick as possible" to remove the offending line from the film's marketing materials.

Viewers will continue to see the trailer in movie theaters alongside another horror flick, "Drag Me to Hell," but "it could take a couple of jobs to cycle through," he said.

'Orphan' Sends Negative Message

But Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Institute, said the film itself sends a negative message to the tens of thousands of American children in foster care who desperately need adoptive homes.

"The fundamental premise [echoes] so many fears among Americans, that kids adopted from foster care are damaged goods and they can hurt you," said he said.

By rescinding the trailers, Warner Brothers has shown "they are responsive," he told But the film itself is still perpetuates the stereotypes about adoption.

"The film preys on who these older kids are," Pertman said. "That's why we have so much trouble getting older kids adopted. I fully respect that they are not going to pull a multi-million-dollar movie out of the theater, but they can mitigate the damage and make the ads less corrosive."

Pertman said that suggesting parents don't love an adoptive child as much as a biological one is inconceivable to adoptive parents.

"To love my kids any more, I would have to grow a second heart," he said.

Adoption experts say that while the adoption landscape is changing, older foster children are the hardest to place in permanent homes. The difficulty lies in prejudices and lack of knowledge about the joys of adopting an older child.

"A younger child is easier to get a home," he said. "Five is harder than three, and seven is harder than five."

"The good news is there is a concerted effort to help these kids and it's working," he said. "There is an incrementally larger number of them being adopted."

An estimated 129,000 American children are waiting for adoption, according the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Of those, 48 percent are 8 or older, the hardest age group to place.

About 60 percent of these children have been in foster care for two years or more and 20 percent have been without permanent homes for five years.

"The longer they sit, the longer they wait," said Soronen, noting that about 20,000 who turn 18 leave the foster care system each year.

Many of the older children in need of adoption have special needs and many have "flitted from home to home," according to Pertman.

"Many have been abused and neglected, so already these kids haven't had an easy time," said Pertman. "Adopted kids aren't without problems, but adoption is part of the solution."

Adoption Deepest Fears

Other adoptive parents, whose own young children would never see the R-rated film, were concerned about its impact on teens.

"The audience for horror movies tends to be teenagers and young adult men," said Andy, the mother of a 6-year-old adopted son who did not want his last named used. " Many of us wrestle with our identity during our teen years and some of us used the 'I'm going to find a family that loves me' threats during our teen years to our biological parents."

" I can't imagine how an adopted child of impressionable age would feel hearing that line in the trailer," the 46-year-old from Chicago told

Peggy Scott, 58, of Berkeley, Calif., is not surprised the trailer taps into the fear that adopted children won't be loved enough.

" It's no coincidence they came up with this line as a hook," said Scott, who has a 15-year-old adopted daughter. "But it has nothing to do with reality."

Scott, a single mother, said she has never seen her adopted daughter as anything but, "my own."

Meanwhile, Amy Eldridge said she cannot distinguish between her seven children, two of whom are adopted.

"Every child has the desire to be part of a family," she said. "It's a longing they can't even put into words," she said. "My children are my own and one of my jobs as a parent is to make sure all of my children realize there is no difference in the way I feel about them."

And as her 10-year-old Anna pursues the questions about her own adoption, her mother always answers with, "Love has nothing to do with genetics, it has to do with your heart."

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