If you are anything like me, there is nothing better than binge-watching Netflix. Well, ok, there are a lot of things that are better than that, but it sure is fun to do sometimes. There is a show for just about every topic you can think of: cooking, organizing, home buying, medical, documentaries, shows with storylines of faith, happiness, sadness, and of course, adoption. Let’s explore some TV shows that have adoption and/or foster care themes. I am not a TV expert by any means; in fact, we don’t even have cable, but we do have Netflix and Hulu! Here is my list of what I think are some of the best adoption shows out there. And a few movies, just in case!
This Is Us
The show follows the life of three siblings known as the “Big Three.” The first tear-jerker moment comes in when the mom, Rebecca, is pregnant with triplets and is giving birth to them on the dad, Jack’s 30th birthday. The third baby was born stillborn. If you have experienced any kind of infertility or loss of a baby, this can be a very traumatic episode for you. However, as I mentioned it follows the life of three siblings. A baby boy was left at a fire station the same day and brought to the hospital. Rebecca and Jack, who are both white, decide to adopt the baby that was left at the fire station (Randall), who is black.
The show alternates between two time periods: the current time and flashbacks into their younger lives. The show does a pretty good of job hitting adoption-related topics. In the current series, they have introduced new characters such as a foster child that Randall has taken in. This show may not be suitable for young children, but it is something I think older kids can watch with their parents.
Parenthood is another emotionally charged TV show. Parenthood covers all different aspects of, you guessed it, parenting! The show is funny and emotional all at the same time. This show portrays lots of different family models. This show is set around three generations of the Braveman family. I love that it adds a little extra layer by adding on another generation to the show.
The grandparents, in this case, are Zeek and Camille (generation one), who have four children, Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia. Adam (generation two) is married to Kristina and they have three children. Their children are Haddie, Max, and Nora. During the course of the show, Max is diagnosed with Asperger’s, and Haddie goes to college. Sarah (generation two) is divorced from Seth, and they have two children, Amber and Drew. Later in the show, Amber (generation three) has a son named Zeek after his great-grandfather (making this really four generations). Sarah (generation two) then marries a man named Hank who has a daughter named Ruby.
Crosby (generation two) has a son named Jabbar with his girlfriend (at the time, they marry later in the show) Jasmine. The two also have a daughter later in the show named Aida. Lastly, Julie (generation two) is married to Joel and they have a daughter Sydney. The couple wants to have more children, and they adopt a son through the foster care system and, in the series finale, intend to adopt his new baby sister.
What I love most about this show is how real it is. Not everything is because there has to be some Hollywood in there, but the situations these families go through are all things we as “normal” families have or will go through. It too is very emotionally charged if you have been impacted by foster care, adoption, infertility, medical diagnosis (Asperger’s) or many, many of the feelings and emotions we deal with as parents. I highly recommend this show as well! It too could be watched with older children.
Modern Family has gotten mixed reviews, but if you can look past some of the things you don’t agree with in the TV show, it is actually pretty funny! Modern Family is about exactly what the name says it is about, a modern day family. The family in this show isn’t your typical mom, dad, and two and a half kids. This show includes nuclear families, stepfamilies, and families with same-sex parents.
The show’s patriarch is Jay Prichett. He has two children, Claire and Mitchell. Jay is married (a 2nd time) to a much younger woman, Gloria. They have a son together, Joe, and Gloria has a son from a previous marriage, Manny. Claire is married to Phil, and they have three children, Haley, Alex, and Luke. Mitchell is married to Cameron (same-sex marriage), and they have an adopted daughter, Lily.
The show does not focus on adoption, but it does portray the real-life realities of parenting and modern day life. I am not sure how family-friendly the show is. It depends on your family’s views on a few of the topics covered. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
A classic. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first appeared in a comic book back in 1984. Then in 1987, it began as a TV series. It has also been made into a movie. The show (geared more toward older children) showcases four turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. The turtles are raised by their sensei and adoptive father, Splinter.
The show definitely does not engage with a very emotional perspective of adoption, but it still shows that we don’t all have to be raised by someone that looks or acts like us. It also can be shown to younger children (of appropriate age) to showcase the adoption aspect of the show, unlike some of the ones listed above, which should only be watched by adults or older children.
Jessie is another show that kids can watch. I wouldn’t recommend it for really little kids, but as they get a little older, I would highly recommend it. This show ran on Disney Channel (you can now watch it on Netflix), and it follows the life of a young woman who moved to New York to try to become an actress. She ends up being a nanny for the Rosses, who have four children, three of whom are adopted. There is a great episode that showcases the family celebrating the adoptive children’s Gotcha Day, which is a day to celebrate the anniversary of them being adopted into the Ross family. I would definitely give this show a much higher rating for family friendliness and the ability to watch along with your children. There are some pretty funny parts!
This show, too, has received mixed reviews. However, I think it showcases a lot of great adoption and blended family material. The show follows the lives of Stef and Lena Foster (same-sex marriage). They are a multi-ethnic and blended family. They have three children. Brandon is Stef’s biological son, and together they adopted Jesus and Mariana as young children. The couple then takes in two children through the foster care system, Callie and Jude, who they later adopt.
What I love most about this show is how it shows the blended family, the multi-cultural family, and foster care. This show, too, could possibly be watched by older children, again depending on your family’s views on a few of the topics covered.
This show definitely does not focus on adoption or even parenting but later in the show (closer to Season 8 and beyond), two of the main characters, Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd, decide to adopt a little girl from Malawi named Zola. Zola came to the hospital to be treated for spina bifida. It is a brief part of the show but does showcase international adoption and adopting with special needs. I would not include children in on this show but could make it a good couple night show to binge on.
Again, this show’s main focus isn’t adoption, foster care, or parenting, but one of the main characters, Quinn, gets pregnant while still in high school. After some debate, she and the birth father decide to place the baby for adoption. The show also showcases Quinn’s struggles later in life with her decision to place the baby.
If you like music, you will also love this show! I like how it shows a different side of the adoption triad and does a pretty good job not sugar-coating it. A really cool side note is that one of the actresses on the show, Jenna Ushkowitz, is an adoptee herself! I feel this show could be watched with children, but depending on the ages of your children, they might not like it or understand it.
I know this is supposed to be about some of the best adoption shows out there, but there are some really great movies I want to mention as well. I will keep them brief! Here are some of my all time favorites!
The Blind Side
Another tear-jerker for me! This is based on the true story of Michael Oher who was taken in by the Tuohy family. Michael had been in foster care due to his mother’s addiction to drugs. The short version is that Michael is adopted into the Tuohy family, who face many struggles raising him but never lose sight of the bigger picture, helping him succeed in life. Michael ends up getting drafted by the Baltimore Ravens later in his life. This is a great family movie, though maybe not suitable for little kids. Regardless, it showcases many great lessons of life, especially that of helping those who have a need.
Despicable Me 1, 2, and 3
The Despicable Me movies are animated movies that are good for the whole family. There are some storylines that might need explaining to the little kids, but overall it is a pretty family-friendly movie series. In the first Despicable Me, Gru, who is a supervillain, adopts three young girls. They struggle to find balance in the first movie, but in the second movie, Gru becomes a more nurturing dad, and the four (soon five when Gru falls in love with a woman named Lucy) are finding better ways to be a family. The third movie shows how Lucy is finding her way as the girls’ mom. Of course, the movie isn’t solely about their relationships with the children or adoption, but it is still a great movie that has adoption themes.
This recently remade classic movie is about adoption and Annie’s positive attitude while facing social workers and foster parents. This movie has a lot of upbeat and positive songs, which make it a happy movie. However, it does show some of the sad and hard parts of the foster care system and figuring out who you are. This is a movie that I think could be watched with young children (maybe not really little children), but be careful if they have experienced turmoil in the foster care system; this movie could bring up negative memories. However, it does showcase Annie’s strengths through it all, including being hopeful, brave, resourceful, and resilient, which could make for great teaching moments!
Instant Family is one of the newer movies to be released (2018), and it is a great movie on adopting from the foster care system. No surprise here, but I cried when I first saw it. The storyline is that a married couple, Pete and Ellie, discover that they want to have children, and they start pursuing adoption. They end up being matched with three siblings, who they adopt later in the movie. The movie displays some really great realities of adopting through the foster system, including reunification with the birth mother (although it ends up not working). It also shows the emotions that come with the children and several other bonding issues. In my opinion, the movie is great and does a really good job portraying the foster system.
Let me just remind you that these are all TV shows or movies, not reality. While they are great shows, I don’t want you to get a sense of false reality when it comes to adoption and/or foster care. These are still made for TV and made for Hollywood. Just keep that in mind when you decide to binge watch one of these great shows! Let me know how you liked it once you do. Can I ask you, what are some of the best adoption shows out there? Did any of mine make your list too?
Jessica Heesch is an avid runner and fitness guru by choice, occasional writer by coincidence, loved by an amazing husband, and mother to an incredible boy, Jackson, by the gift of adoption.