Inside the Adoption Circle – A Transom Radio Special

Intro from Jay Allison: "Inside the Adoption Circle" represents more of Transom's encouragement of Slow Radio. The interview clips you hear in radio news are called "bites." They're not the whole meal. They're generally selected to be pithy and informational, and partnered with reporter copy, they comprise the fast food of our media diet."Inside the Adoption Circle" spends its own time. It contains breath, digression, and emotion. Without hurry, it wanders within the circle made by adopted children, by birth parents making an adoption plan for their children, and by parents adopting the children of others. They are all part of the same story, and it's a complex one. As complex as identity itself. Viki Merrick and Samantha Broun spent real time with the people they spoke to, and you can hear it. There are no bites to be found.

Listen to “Inside the Adoption Circle”

About Inside the Adoption Circle

Adoption reveals some profound but basic aspects of the human story. It’s an act of caring, love and bravery. An emphatic and ancient statement about human nature, it is also rife with questions about identity. We wanted to get to the stories that live inside those questions.

Elaine photo

In the fall of 2007 Sam had been having long conversations with her friend Kira who had recently gone through the process of adopting a child. That experience got Kira wondering about the stories rarely heard outside the world of adoption – particularly those of birth parents.

Kira’s adoption coordinator, Miriam Rand, introduced us (Sam and Viki) to the concept of the “silent triad” that exists in every adoption – birth parents, adoptee, and adoptive families. Suddenly adoption stories began cropping up everywhere. At the mention of the word, everyone around us seemed to have some connection to adoption – it was almost uncanny, like supressed memory resurfacing. A long-time friend revealed his aunt was actually his birth mother. Another suddenly recalled a family member who had been placed for adoption. Even we began to remember connections to adoption in our own lives. For some adoption still carried a stigma which made the subject even more compelling.

Kira and Miriam, helped connect us to people willing to talk about their stories, and we began interviewing in the spring of 2008. Our objective was to speak with every possible player in adoption: birth parents, adoptive families, and adoptees including every configuration we could find: domestic, international, cross cultural, open and closed adoptions. We spoke to gay and heterosexual adoptive parents. We spoke with people who had reunited with their birth families, some who were still searching and others who were undecided.

Luke photo

From the start of our interviews we were stunned by how eager everyone was to talk to us, as if they had been waiting for the chance to speak. We offered anonymity to encourage everyone to speak freely, yet in the end, many agreed to give their names. Some closed their eyes when they spoke, some started off with defensive body language but grew closer and closer to the mic, some got so quiet, and some couldn’t say enough. There were plenty of long pauses. Our time spent in each interview, even in production, was awash in vulnerability, doubt and denial, the conviction, the fantasies, the quiet revealment and for all of us, the unanswerable questions.

Interviews in hand, logged and cut, we searched for an organizing principle. We wanted to avoid narration and rely on the voices and stories to shepherd the listener. At first we tried a collage of random voices speaking from all sides of adoption leading to a specific theme with a deeper story, but it was too confusing.

Jay Allison suggested we keep voices together by role like orchestras do separating reeds from brass from strings. We sectioned adoptees, from birth families from adoptive families. Jay also felt some minimal narration would provide listeners with “signposts” along the way and help move the piece forward. Thanks, Jay and thanks to Kira Jones and Miriam Rand for help making it happen. Most especially, our thanks to all those who opened up and let us in.

Additional Support for this work provided byNational Endowment for the Arts logo


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  • Mary Phelan



    Greetings from Ireland! Just been listening and enjoyed your programme so much…. why couldn’t it have been longer? Lovely stories, and I didn’t want it to end, could have listened for another hour. Thanks. Thought I was the one who had come up with the term “slow radio”, by the way, but apparently not. Anyway, we share an appproach, good to know!

  • Jenn B



    Hello, I really enjoyed this program so much. However, I was very disappointed that no LGBT adoption stories were included. In my own life the most moving adoption stories are the one I heard and experienced from my LGBT friends who went through so much to become parents to some amazing children. Invisibility keeps marginalized folks on the outs. Programs like yours can be a powerful way to make them visible. Please consider broadening your story subjects and tellers with each new program.

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