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Adoption Network Cleveland uses NBC’s 'This Is Us' as 'catalyst for communication'

The hit show touches on themes of adoption and family.

CLEVELAND — Adoption Network Cleveland is using NBC’s hit show "This Is Us" as a way to bring together families and individuals connected to adoption.

Through Zoom sessions, participants can reflect on the show’s episodes and storylines, in addition to sharing their own experiences, thoughts, and questions.

Adoption Network Cleveland connects and empower adoptees, birth families, adoptive families, and kinship families, according to Betsie Norris, the network's executive director. She adds the adoption community has been excited about the show, which features adoption as a theme that impacts the main characters.

"For years, people in the adoption community have been talking about how well they've handled many of the adoption themes, and they have so many," Norris said of "This Is Us." "They've really delved into several different paths of adoption."

Since the pandemic and being remote, Norris says Adoption Network Cleveland saw the show as an opportunity to bring people together.

"The people that we serve have their own lived experience and their own stories," she explained. "It's been one of many entry points for people to come and have discussion and share their personal stories and reflect on the show. It kind of adds some fun to a serious topic."

Maribeth and Don Katt have participated in programming through Adoption Network Cleveland. The couple adopted their son, Adam, in 1989 after having difficulty having a child on their own. A few years later, Maribeth gave birth to their daughter, and their family was complete.

"It's exciting, and it's also scary," Maribeth said. "Of course becoming a parent is scary."

"We ended up having a daughter who was natural birth five years later, but I can tell you of the two experiences, the experience of going to meet the birth mom and meeting her first, and then her presenting us with our son, I still get teary eyed just thinking about it," Don remembered. "It was so overwhelmingly emotional."

Through all those emotions, from excitement to pain, the Katts said it was helpful to have Adoption Network Cleveland as a resource.

"It was just good to be connected to other people that had similar experiences but different," Don said. "You just feel like you're not alone, and navigating through, 'Okay, is this an adoption issue or is this just a normal growing up issue with teenage boys?'"

Maribeth and Don heard about the "This Is Us" Zoom session and were interested in learning more.

"I had never seen anything like that on TV, and if we hadn't adopted, I think we would be pretty ignorant of the issues around [adoption]," Don admitted. "I like the idea that they introduced that. People became aware – there is a lot of adoption out there, and there's those issues. It's just a little bit of an education."

Norris calls these sessions a "catalyst for discussion," and added that because they are over Zoom, they've had participants not only from Northeast Ohio, but from across the country. 

Adoption Network Cleveland's next session is Monday, March 21. This Is Us airs on WKYC at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays.

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