Adoption Advocacy – National Zoo Exploits Children with Adopt-a Confusion

Dear Adoption Community

I received the following letter from the National Zoo’s Deputy Director in response to the letter I sent several weeks ago. As you can see from their response, it is clear they don’t “get it”. I sent Mr. Schroeder a copy of the Adopt-a Confusion fact sheet as well as a letter encouraging them to stop using the adopt-a theme which I as way as many experts and researchers believe exploits children.

Please write to them and tell them adopt-a confusion is not OK and feel free to pass this on to anyone who has an interest in educating the public about respectful adoption language and the problematic programs using adopt-a confusion to raise money for their respective causes!



Nancy P. Hemenway
INCIID Executive Director
(703) 379-9178 (Office)
(703) 379-1593 (FAX)

Dear Ms. Hemenway:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about our Adopt a Species program: This has been an exceptionally busy period for FONZ and I apologize for the delayed response.

Our intention in using the phrase “adopt a species” is deliberately metaphoric and symbolic, and in no way trivializes the process of building a human family through adoption. We hope to inspire people to make a lifetime commitment to cro;ing about and working toward a secure future for wild animals and the habitats they need to survive, analogous, although certainly not identical, to, the comtp.itment adoptive parents make to their children. We also hope that the financial contribution that people make to adopt a wild animal species is just one of many ways that they help to ensure the survival of wildlife, just as financial support is just one of the many ways that parents ensure the welfare of their children, adopted or not.

After receiving your email, I asked the advise of a thoughtful 21-year-old who is an adopted child. The following is from her response:
I like the phrase “adopt a species.” Although you’re not taking the animal home, expressing your human love for it, and nurturing it through years ofJife until you send it off to college-you can, and I’ve witnessed people, fall in love with an animal (in a broader sense) and devote time and money to its cause-which, in my opinion, is just as worthy of the term “adoption.” As a child growing up in the environment-conscious nineties I often heard the term adopt in phrases like “adopt a whale” “adopt a highway” and “adopt an endangered species” and never once did it bother me. In fact I thoughtit was really cute and really great-,-and really liked the idea of “adopting” even a highway. I loved seeing the “adopt a highway” or “adopt a road” signs and reading which school children were taking care of it. Kids are way tougher and smarter than parents believe. They know the difference. If anything, I know similar phrases ~arked (in me and other kids dreams of actually adopting a panda and having the panda live with us for a lifetime to become a true family member-what a fantasy!

Indeed, this is the experience of just one child, but I suspect that hers is representative of that of many children. Undoubtedly, as your examples indicate, some other children may be puzzled about how their adoption is like or unlike these other “adoptions.” However, we have structured our programs to avoid the suggestion that someone is literally adopting a particular individual animal or that one animal is worth more than other. Our program encourages people to adopt an entire species, emphasizing the metaphor, and attaches identical value to each of the species that people can adopt. We do not substitute a new species for adoption each year-people can and do symbolize their commitment to wildlife conservation by adopting the same species for many years. .

We agree that some adopt programs are silly, and that the “adQption” of a pothole or a light bulb in no way compares to adopting a child; in our view, neither of these compares either to adopting a species, in the sense of making a commitment to caring for the future of the animals with whom we share the planet.

James M. Schroeder
Deputy Executive Director Friends of the National Zoo Washington, D.C. 20008

Friends of the National Zoo. Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, 202 6734961.

Below Please find below the National Zoo  CONTACT INFORMATION 

Please politely inform the zoo staff and board members that The National Zoo has suffered so much embarrassing controversy lately, that exploitive and controversial adopt-a programs might expose the zoo to more negative attention from the adoptive professional and parenting community.
If you have time — By far, a neatly hand written or typed letter gets much more attention than sending an email. Sending an email as a follow-up is effective, but for the greatest impact make sure to send that postal letter. Since it takes a little bit more work than just sending an email it shows that you really care about the topic if you are willing to put in the extra effort. 

Zoo Staff

Smithsonian National Zoological Park
3001 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008 

Lucy Spelman,, Director of the Smithsonian National Zoo
Clinton A. Fields,, Executive Director, FONZ
Jim Schroeder,, Deputy Executive Director, FONZ

Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) Board of Directors 

To contact any FONZ Board Member, send an email 

Or send postal mail to:

Friends of the National Zoo
3001 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008 

Lloyd W. Howell, Jr., President of the Board of Directors 

Mark R. Handwerger, First Vice President 

Jeffrey Lande, Second Vice President 

Grace Y. Toh, Treasurer 

Nicole M. Chestang, Secretary 

Other Directors: Thomas B. Arundel, Marcie Bane, Patricia A. Bradley, Jeanne Beekhuis, Christopher Capuano, Robert V. Davis, Sheila M. Ford, Michele V. Hagans, James F. Hinchman, Richard C. Hotvedt, Bernard K. Jarvis, Alberta A. “Missy” Kelly, Robyn S. Kravit, Gloria Kreisman, Harald R. Leuba, Suzanne Mink, Sue Ruff, Edward A. Sands, Eric Douglas Weiss, and John J. Ziolkowski 

Smithsonian Institute Contact Information

Smithsonian Institute
PO Box 37012 
SI Building, Room 153, MRC 010 
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012 

Smithsonian National Zoo Board of Regents 

Regents ex officio 
Chancellor William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States, c/o Smithsonian Institution MRC-016, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012, ph 202.479.3400 

Vice President Richard B. Cheney,, postal addr as above or The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20500, ph 202.456.1414 

Congressional Regents 
Senator Thad Cochran,,, postal addr c/o Smithsonian Institute (SI) or 326 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510-2402, fx 202.224.9450, ph 202.224.5054 Senator 

Bill Frist,, postal addr c/o SI or 416 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510, fx 202.228.1264, ph 202.224.3344 

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, , postal addr c/o SI or 433 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510, fx 202.224.3479, ph 202.224.4242 

Honorable Sam Johnson, , postal addr c/o SI or 1211 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, fx 202.225.1485, ph 202.225.4201 

Honorable Robert T. Matsui,, postal addr c/o SI or 2310 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, fx 202.225.0566, ph 202.225.7163 

Honorable Ralph Regula,, postal addr c/o SI or 2306 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, fx 202.225.3059, ph 202.225.3876 

Citizen Regents 
Honorable Barber B. Conable Jr.,, P.O. Box 218, Alexander, NY 14005, fx 202.477.6391, ph 716.591.1233 

Dr. Anne d’Harnoncourt,, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 26th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130 (or P.O.Box 7646, Philadelphia PA 19101-7646), fx 215.232.4338, ph 215.763.8100 or 215.684.7600 

Dr. Hanna H. Gray,, University of Chicago, Department of History, 1126 East 59th St., SS Box 109, Chicago IL 60637-1539, fx 773.702.4600, ph 773.702.7799 

Dr. Manuel Ibanez,, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Dept. of Biology, P.O. Box 158, Station 1, Kingsville, Texas 78363 (or 7737 Starnberg Lake Dr., Corpus Christi TX 78413-5288), ph 361.854.5818 

Dr. Walter E. Massey,, Morehouse College, 830 Westview Drive SW, Atlanta, GA 30314, fx 404.659.6536, ph 404.681.2800 

Mr. Roger W. Sant,, The Summit Foundation, 2099 Pennsylvania Ave. NW 10th fl, Washington, DC 20006, fx 202.912.2901, ph 202.912.2900 

Mr. Alan G. Spoon,, Polaris Venture Partners, 1000 Winter Street, Suite 3350, Waltham, MA 02451-1215, fx 781.290.0880, ph 781.290.0770 (or 7300 Loch Edin Ct, Potomac MD 20854-4835, ph 301.365.4650) 

Ms. Patty Stonesifer,, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PO Box 23350, Seattle, WA 98102, fx 206.709.3184, ph 206.709.3100 

Mr. Wesley S. Williams Jr.,, Covington & Burling, 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004-2401, fx 202.778.5628, ph 202.662.5628 (or 7706 Georgia Ave. NW, Washington DC 20090, 202.726.3631) 

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