There are many different depictions of adoption in film and on television. However, not all of them are accurate or up-to-date. It is important for growing children to see positive images, and to hear happy stories, about adoption through the media. This will help them develop positive feelings around their own adoption story. It can also help normalize adoption for them, by seeing these types of stories on TV.
Age-appropriate television shows about adoption can be helpful in starting an adoption conversation with your child. Here are some children’s TV shows about adoption that you can tune in on as a family.
Adoption TV Shows for Young Children:
- Doc McStuffins
This Disney Junior series follows a young girl, Dottie, who plays doctor to her toys – hence, “Doc McStuffins.” With the help of her magic stethoscope, her toys come to life when the grown-ups (and other kids) are not around.
As part of the storyline, Disney produced a five-part series about the McStuffins family adopting a baby, and consulted adoption experts to do so. These episodes go through the many different emotions that adoption can bring up within a family, all while using positive adoption language and expressing the process in a relatable way for the preschoolers and toddlers watching.
For example, when Doc finally meets her baby sister, she says, “She’s perfect, and totally worth waiting for,” and promises, “I’ll be your sister forever and longer.” This is a great storyline for adoptive families and children who are expecting an adopted sibling.
There is another episode that subtly touches upon adoption. Doc’s stuffed dragon, “Stuffie,” decides to leave home to be with other dragons so he could “feel like he had a family.” Later on, Doc and the gang explain to him that you do not have to look alike to be family. While this episode is not specifically focused on adoption, it is a great message for adopted children – that looks, or DNA, does not define a family. Family is defined by love.
You can follow Doc’s adventures on Disney Junior or Disney+.
- Sesame Street
The critically-acclaimed series, which has been on the air for decades, has covered adoption and foster care in several episodes. In 2006, Sesame Street ran a three-episode series on adoption. In Season 37, “Gina Adopts a Baby,” the show follows Gina as she travels to Guatemala and returns with an infant. The characters on Sesame Street meet the baby and learn all about adoption.
At one point of the series, Elmo asks the simple question, “What does adoption mean?” Gina explains, “It’s something very, very special. A baby, a little boy, needs someone to love him and take care of him. I want to be that person so I’ll adopt him and become his mom. He’ll come live here on Sesame Street and we’ll be a family.”
This was not the first time adoption was addressed on Sesame Street. Back in 1985, they introduced Miles, the adopted son of Gordon and Susan. This was a four-part storyline for young viewers.
“Sesame Street” may be viewed on PBS, HBO, or HBO Go.
A show for the older kids, “Jessie” is a Disney comedy series about a woman in New York who nannies four children – three of whom are adopted. In this popular series, the family celebrates the kids’ “Gotcha” Days. They also highlight the siblings’ relationships, recognize the cultural impact of international adoption, and focus on the importance of open and positive talk about adoption, throughout a child’s life.
You can watch Jessie take on the nanny duties on Disney or Disney+.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This classic comic book-turned TV series of the 1980s is a hit for the older kids in the house. It follows four turtles – Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael – who are raised by their sensei and adoptive father, Splinter. While this series does not focus much about adoption, it does provide another example that not all families are made with DNA.
The turtles are available to stream on Hulu.
Adoption TV Shows for Teens:
- The Fosters
This Freeform drama follows the lives of Stef and Lena Foster, a multi-ethnic and blended family, as they raise their growing children. At the start of the show, they have three children together. Brandon is Stef’s biological son, and Jesus and Maria were both adopted. The couple later welcomes two more children through the foster care system, who they later adopt, as well.
Your older kids can tune in to The Fosters on Freeform or Disney+.
This musical drama series followed the lives of teen singers at McKinley High School. One of the first – and, perhaps, important – storylines of the show addressed teen pregnancy. One of the cheerleaders at the school, Quinn, found herself pregnant and scared. She ultimately decided to place her child for adoption. In classic TV drama style, the baby was adopted by another character’s biological mother (played by Idina Menzel), who had placed her own child – star singer for the Glee club, Rachel Berry – for adoption and did not get to have any contact with Rachel until she turned 18. These interwoven adoption stories convey the power of adoption.
This series covers some of the heavier topics related to foster care, but also highlights blended families with diverse cultural backgrounds.
Fox wrapped up the final season of Glee in 2015, but you can sing along to the entire series on Netflix.
- The O.C.
This classic American teen drama aired in the early 2000s and follows Ryan Atwood, a troubled young man who comes from a rough past. He is adopted by a wealthy and philanthropic couple in Orange County, California. This series focuses on the cultural clashes between their two worlds, as Ryan navigates life in a well-to-do town surrounded by “rich kids” who do not share the same past experiences as him. All the while, he finds the light in his family, who stand by his side despite the juvenile records and resistance to belong. Despite their differences, he becomes best friends with his brother, Seth, to the point where they begin to finish each other’s sentences.
The O.C. may be revisited or watched for the first time on Hulu.
Some of these shows may be perfect for your family, depending on the age/ages of your child/children. If you would like even more helpful resources for discussing adoption with your family, contact Adoptions With Love at 800-722-7731. You can also read about children’s books about adoption here.