Sharing the details of Biles’s childhood only reiterates the unfit birth mother trope and savior complex that mainstream America is comfortable with.
Last week, a major media outlet published a story (which I will not link to) detailing the circumstances that led Simone Biles and her siblings to enter foster care. Ironically, the headline claimed to highlight the positive impacts of adoption and foster care, but the story did nothing more than negatively portray Biles’s birth mother and divulge private details of her life before adoption.
Biles and her family are outspoken advocates of adoption, and there are more than enough sound bites and on the record quotes to compile a story to highlight how it positively impacted the Olympian. But instead, the author and outlet chose to profile a birthmother who had no opportunity to defend herself and reduced Biles adoption story to gossip.
On any given day, there are over 400,000 American children in foster care. We desperately need families to serve as safe and loving transitional homes for these children, but what we need more than anything is a public education campaign on the wildly misunderstood system itself. The average American is completely unaware that the goal of foster care starts with reunification, supporting children AND their parents as the parents work towards regaining custody. Only when that mission fails should the goal move from reunification to adoption.
Sharing the details of Biles’s childhood does absolutely nothing to promote the system. It serves only to reiterate the unfit birth mother trope and savior complex that mainstream America is comfortable with. As adoptee Kira McSherry explains, “talking about my adoption story or [my daughter’s] isn’t supposed to make adoption less complicated, and it isn’t to help anyone understand why us adoptees end up in these positions. It’s not about convincing others to be comfortable with our situations. It’s about open + raw + honest language and a commitment to one another (in our own triad) that is ever evolving.”
Supporting foster youth and adoptees starts with going straight to the source — elevating the stories they so bravely and selflessly choose to share. It is our job to listen and learn and advocate and protect and never, ever shape an adoptee’s story for our own comfort. You can read Simone’s story in her own words here.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.