Kristin Chenoweth talks about ‘the truth, both the good and the ugly, of adoption’

The actress, adopted herself, praises the film ‘Lion,’ the true story of Saroo Brierley and starring Nicole Kidman, for its honest view of adoption not normally seen on screen.

Kristin Chenoweth kissed by her parents during the unveiling ceremony of her Hollywood Walk of Fame star in Hollywood on July 2015. AFP Photo | Robyn Beck

I haven’t yet seen the move Lion, but reading this reaction to it by Kristin Chenoweth makes me want to run out to a movie theater and see it this afternoon.

Lion recounts the true story of Saroo Brierley, who got lost on a train in India when he was 5 years old and ended up on the streets of Calcutta. A loving couple from Australia adopts him, but Saroo cannot forget his birth family. So as a young adult, he goes on a mission to find them. Scenes from his earliest years haunt him: his mother’s face, his first home, the landscape of India. He uses Google Earth (new technology at the time), to try to find the origin of those images.

Chenoweth herself is adopted, and she applauds this movie for its positive and realistic portrayal of adoption. She acknowledges the need for adoptive children to be allowed the freedom and blessing from their adoptive parents to put together the missing pieces of their identity. Like many adopted children, Chenoweth had unanswered questions herself—like where she got her amazing singing voice.

We have tried hard to acknowledge the sadness and grief our daughter must feel … and that it’s okay to feel confused about it. We will help her come to terms with her story in any way we can.”

The portrayal of adoption in movies and the media can often seem lopsided: Negative reports and ethical questions about international adoptions, reports of abuse by adoptive parents, or on the other hand, heartwarming and positive stories that never acknowledge the grief and trauma involved in adoption.

The story of Brierley, and Chenoweth’s reaction to it, seem like a step forward in balancing both the beauty and the grief of adoption. “I can honestly say being adopted was one of the best things to ever happen to me,” writes Chenoweth. She calls it a “full-circle blessing.”

My husband and I adopted our daughter through foster care. She was 2 ½ at the time. As an adoptive parent, I know that adoption is beautiful and fulfilling, and she was an answer to a longing we had for years to be parents. But I also know that it wasn’t always beautiful and fulfilling for her. Its always confusing for a child to be separated from a birth family, even when in the end it’s for the best. So we have tried hard to acknowledge the sadness and grief she must feel, and we have also been honest with her from the beginning that she is adopted, and that it’s okay to feel confused about it, and that we will help her in any way we can for her to come to terms with her story. We also tell her repeatedly that she is chosen … and we will love her forever.

The other day our daughter said to me, “Mommy, I’m so glad you adopted me.” I hope she will always feel that way, and at the same time embrace her whole story and understand what Chenoweth called the “full-circle blessing” of adoption.


Karen Beattie
Karen Beattie
Karen Beattie is the author of Rock-Bottom Blessings: Discovering God’s Abundance When All Seems Lost. Her magazine articles and essays have appeared in America, Christianity Today and Power of Moms. She lives on the north side of Chicago with her husband, 5-year-old daughter, and geriatric cat.

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