Adoption-rights advocates expressed outrage Tuesday at a reality-television show set to air next month on Fox in which a young adopted woman tries to identify her biological father...
CHICAGO Adoption-rights advocates expressed outrage Tuesday at a reality-television show set to air next month on Fox in which a young adopted woman tries to identify her biological father from a group of eight men seven of whom are impostors seeking to convince her they are the real thing.
In “Who’s Your Daddy?” which will air as a 90-minute special on Jan. 3, the woman eventually will find out which man is her biological father. But first she must interview and observe the eight men and guess which one is her birth father. If she’s correct, she wins $100,000, but if she picks one of the counterfeit dads, that man gets the money.
“It’s appalling,” said Linda Hageman, vice president of professional services at The Cradle, a nonprofit adoption agency in Evanston, Ill. “It seems so insensitive to the adoption experience, both from the adopted person’s point of view and the biological parents’ point of view.”
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“This isn’t just offensive, it’s destructive,” said Adam Pertman, the author of “Adoption Nation” and executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. “How can anyone think to turn such a personal, involved and poignant experience into a game show?”
Adoption experts and ethicists expressed concern about the inherently deceptive nature of the show, with seven of the eight father figures attempting to manipulate the contestant into falsely believing that he is her father.
Fox has made something of a cottage industry of broadcasting ever-more-controversial reality shows, from “The Littlest Groom,” a variation on “The Bachelor” with a 4-1/2-foot-tall suitor, to “The Swan,” a beauty pageant in which contestants have been treated to cosmetic surgery.
In an interview Tuesday, executive producers Scott Hallock and Kevin Healey described “Who’s Your Daddy?” as “an amazing reunion show with its heart in the right place.”
“I can understand the reservations,” Healey said. “But the people came to it with great excitement and a willingness to play the game. It’s a fun and healthy way to get to know this person that they’ve never met.”
Hallock and Healey have produced six episodes so far, with a different contestant in each show; Fox said it intends to air the remaining episodes as specials or a series throughout the rest of the television season.
The pair said they found their contestants with the aid of International Locator, a Florida firm that specializes in helping adopted children find their biological parents. All participants in the show were fully aware of the premise, the producers said.
The producers declined to reveal the outcomes of any of the episodes so far, but did say that at least one contestant guessed wrongly.
“The daughters feel bad when they pick wrong,” Hallock said, “because they’re like, ‘I let my dad down.’ “
Adrienne Asch, the Henry R. Luce professor in biology, ethics, and the politics of human reproduction at Wellesley College, said the show is harmful.
“People who are looking for their biological parents should get help finding them,” she said. “Publicity and contests and deception and money should not be involved.”
The show comes after a controversial episode of ABC’s “20/20” in April that followed five couples as they vied for a single baby being offered for adoption. Adoption advocates accused ABC News of attempting to turn the adoption process into a competition.