The problem with lists of “Famous People Who Were Adopted”…

10 Jul


Because of my personality, quirks, whatever you want to call it, I like lists that are presented as factual, to actually be true.  Famous Adoptee lists generally aren’t.  I’m using this one because it’s handy (out of so many different posts with lists on this subject).  So here is my “list” of what the problem is when people use lists of Famous Adoptee Lists followed by fact checking of the list…

1.  No fact checking has been done, and with the internet, there is absolutely no excuse to not spend a wee bit of time checking, remember google is your friend and perhaps easier than that, is trying biography first.

2.  Different types of adoptions all lumped together as if they are completely the same, from stranger adoption, to step parent adoption, kinship adoption, foster care adoption, double orphan adoption, simple adoption (not to be confused with plenary adoption that is the norm today), to guardianship, and also including those that never were adopted (see #1).

3.  List being used to promote one type of adoption, usually voluntary domestic adoption to show how awesome being adopted is, which makes it misleading to use people from other types of adoption (or not even adopted).  We’ve all had enough with half-truths and made up stories in adoption (or at least I have).

4.  Some of the people who use this type of list, also hold the notion that being adopted happened in the past, and being adopted does not define you.  Yet using a list like this sure shows that they actually do believe adoption defines you for life, or they wouldn’t have a list of famous adoptees because it wouldn’t define who they are.

5.  How many of the people listed, would want to be part of a list like that?  Did anyone think that perhaps, they want to be known for what they have actually accomplished and what type of lives they have lived, instead of simply being known for something they did not have any part in (or weren’t part of because they weren’t adopted)?

1. Maya Angelou: Not adopted, she did live part of her childhood with her grandmother just like millions of others before, and after her, will.

2. Augustus Caesar: Was adopted into a kinship adoption only because his adoptive father (his great-uncle) needed an heir, and adoption to secure an heir was common practice at the time.   His adoption happened somewhere around age 16.  His father didn’t die until he was four and then he was raised by his mother until Julius Caesar adopted him.  ***

3. Truman Capote: Was adopted into a Step-parent adoption when he was 11.  ***

4. Kristine ChenowethWas adopted, a voluntary stranger infant adoption shortly after birth.

5. Eric Clapton: Was not adopted.  He was raised by his grandparents as their child, a common occurrence throughout history, and thought his mother was his sister until he was an adult, but no legal adoption process was ever done, just guardianship.

6. Bill Clinton: Not adopted.  At age four, his widowed mother married his step-father.  In his teens Bill Clinton decided to legally change his surname to Clinton from Blythe (other articles speak to making it easier in school for his little brother about why he decided to change his surname).

7. Nat King Cole:  Not adopted.  He did adopt two children with his second wife.

8. Bo DiddleyHe was adopted into a kinship adoption.  At a young age he was adopted by one of his cousins. ***

9. Gerald FordWas adopted in a step-parent adoption.  After his parents divorced when he was young, his mother remarried and his step-father adopted him.  ***

10. Jamie Foxx: Was adopted in a kinship adoption.  After his parents divorced, his maternal grandparents adopted him when he was a baby.  ***

11. Newt Gingrich: Was adopted in a step-parent adoption.  After his parents divorced, his mother remarried and his step-father adopted him.  ***

12. Faith Hill: Was adopted, a voluntary stranger infant adoption.

13 Scott Hamilton: Was adopted, a voluntary stranger infant adoption.

14. John Hancock: Was adopted in a kinship adoption.  After his father died, and after his mother and siblings lived with his paternal grandparents, his paternal aunt and uncle adopted him.  At best it was a simple adoption done in court under British rules, or guardianship.  ***

15. Steve JobsWas adopted, a voluntary stranger infant adoption.

16. Eartha KittNot adopted.  As far as I can tell although she was bounced around as a child.

17. John LennonNot adopted.  He was raised by his aunt and uncle after his parents separated.

18. Art LinkletterWas adopted, a voluntary stranger infant adoption.  A time when names weren’t changed, he was the one to change his name from his name at birth.  Interesting interview at the bottom of this post.

19. Nelson Mandela: Was adopted.  His first nine years he was raised by his mother and father, but then his father died so at age nine, he was adopted by the acting regent in what would be a simple adoption.  ***

20. Tim McGrawNot adopted.  He was raised from seven months to nine years of age by his step-father until the divorce.  He believed his step-father was his father until a couple of years later when he found his birth certificate.

21. Sarah McLachlanWas adopted, a voluntary stranger infant adoption.

22. Marilyn MonroeNot adopted.  She was raised partly by a single mother who had a mental illness, she also spent time in foster care and orphanages.  For a while she was raised by a friend of her mother who was paid $25 per week for her care but then she moved and Marilyn went back to foster care.

23. Michael OherNot adopted but guardianship at age 17.  His foster parents who he went to live with (parents of a schoolmate) when he was 16, became his guardians when he was 17.  The majority of his life when not with his mother was spent bouncing from foster home to foster home (11 different schools in nine years).

24. Edgar Allen PoeNot adopted but raised by a couple who treated him as a son.  He was born in 1809, forty plus years before the US passed the first adoption act.  Prior to that time, guardianship (if that) would have been the only legal avenue.  ***

25. Priscilla PresleyNot adopted.

26. Nancy ReagonNot adopted.  At age 6 she went to live with her aunt and uncle after her parents divorced and her mother went back to the stage.

27. Eleanor RooseveltNot adopted.  At age 10, she had lost both her parents within the last two years and was sent away to school in England.

28. Babe RuthNot adopted.  From age seven on he was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a Catholic orphanage and reformatory.

29. Dave ThomasWas adopted, a voluntary stranger infant adoption.

30. Leo TolstoyNot adopted.  His mother died when he was two, his paternal aunt took over caring for the four boys, his father then passed when he was nine and his aunt then became his legal guardian.

So, by my tally, we have 6 who actually fit the current definition of voluntary infant stranger (out of the family) adoption.  Others who were adopted at different points in their childhood by step parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or family friends after their parents divorced or died (noted as step or kinship adoptions).  Others who at some point in their childhood had guardians appointed.  Twelve who had no connection to adoption at all.  The *** note that either they always used their name at birth and/or knew or were partly raised by their family.  Simple adoption does not sever the link to your family of birth, plenary adoption does, and is the easiest way to explain the difference between the two types of adoption.

Many, many people throughout the ages have been raised (or partially raised) by their relatives or a new step parent.  It doesn’t mean they need to be on a list of Famous Adoptees.  You wouldn’t include folks who ran for president (but didn’t win) in a list of presidents, nor folks who applied for a job (and didn’t get it) as employees of that company – because neither list would be correct.  Don’t do it with adoptees simply to promote your agenda, and for goodness sake – fact check first to confirm and only compare same with same.  The sheer difference in the types of adoption, the age of adoption, why they were adopted, by whom and the relatedness (or not), the laws used (simple or plenary), clearly identify how vastly different the experiences will be for individuals.

P.s.  And if you are tempted to use cartoon and/or other fictional characters as adoptees, then do include the fact that Barney and Betty Rubble of the Flintstone’s were adoptive parents, because you can’t have one without the other…





Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Adoption, adoptive parents, biological child


Tags: , , , , , ,

13 responses to “The problem with lists of “Famous People Who Were Adopted”…

  1. Snarkurchin

    July 10, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yesyes YES! Thank you for flogging this dead horse trope into the grave it deserves.

    It was tired…so very tired.


  2. Snarkurchin

    July 10, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Also, mind if I reblog?


    • TAO

      July 10, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      you are always welcome to…


  3. Robin

    July 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I have a problem with the use of the word ‘voluntary’ for BSE adoptees like Faith Hill, Scott Hamilton and Kristin Chenoweth. Given that so many of the first mothers of that era really had no choice, I don’t see how these adoptions can be considered ‘voluntary’.


    • TAO

      July 10, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      You’re right Robin, I started using the term to define the difference between domestic infant adoption and foster care where the state involuntarily removed the baby/child adoption because people seem to lump the two together. I was a voluntary state adoption, there was no involuntary removal of me from my mother…if you have a better term because private doesn’t work (because there are private adoptions) and other terms don’t either.


  4. eagoodlife

    July 11, 2014 at 2:32 am

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    Make lists truthful please!


  5. Beth

    July 11, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    “foster care where the state involuntarily removed the baby/child adoption”

    Wondering why there aren’t any of them on the list.
    Looks to me like they were grasping at straws to make this list.
    Looks like to me that this list isn’t working as intended for the involuntarily removed/foster/adopt parents after all.


  6. Beth

    July 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    • TAO

      July 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      I couldn’t figure out if Rubble was their last name or Betty’s maiden name. I know I watched it as a child but that’s seriously far too many years ago to remember…

      I was also wondering how many reading this post would even know who Art Linkletter was…loved his show Kids say the darnest things…


  7. mjd

    July 11, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Fred was married to Wilma. Betty was married to Barney.


    • TAO

      July 11, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      so who were the adoptive parents Fred and Wilma?


  8. Barbaloot

    July 19, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    I remember the episode where Wilma went to the hospital to have Pebbles, so it wasn’t them. Did Barney and Betty adopt Bam Bam? (Sigh, and now this is going to bother me until I find out, dang it!)


  9. Beth

    July 20, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Yes, Betty and Barney Rubble adopted “Bam Bam Rubble” the violent RAD kid.
    They found the poor little orphan in a basket.
    Bam Bam should be on the list of famous people!
    He has even been Used lately to teach a positive lesson about adoption,
    isn’t that nice 🙂



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