The adoption community has been getting quite a bit of attention this summer thanks to the incredible Simone Biles. Biles, whose maternal grandfather Ron and his wife Nellie adopted her and her sister in 2001, led Team USA to the team gold in gymnastics, and picked up three gold medals and one bronze of her own at the Rio Olympics. Coverage on Biles’ Olympic feats was accompanied by coverage on her adoption. From Biles’ relationship with her adoptive mother to her response to an opinionated news anchor, the story of Simone’s adoption and her success at the Olympics has gained attention and inspired many, opening up important conversations about adoption.
Simone and her younger sister Adria were placed into foster care at a young age due to their mother’s issues with drugs and alcohol. When they were placed into the system, their grandfather took them in, believing it would be a temporary situation. However, when Simone was six, Ron and Nellie Biles legally adopted both girls. Since then, Simone has called Ron and Nellie Dad and Mom, and they have been her parents in every way, loving and supporting Simone as she went on to become one of the greatest gymnasts in the world.
However, some don’t recognize the validity of their parenthood. During coverage of the Rio Olympics, NBC anchor Al Trautwig referred to Ron and Nellie as Simone’s grandparents, and when a viewer criticized him for doing so on Twitter, he responded by saying “they are NOT her parents.” The comment fueled outrage, especially among the adoption community. Simone, on the other hand, didn’t let it get to her. When asked about the comment, which Trautwig later removed from Twitter and apologized for, Simone simply responded, “I personally don’t have a comment. My parents are my parents, and that’s it.”
Trautwig’s comment, and similar responses to Simone’s familial situation, have inspired important conversations about adoption and what it means to be a “real” parent. Thankfully, a lot of the conversation has been positive. Simone’s father praised adoption as “a wonderful thing,” and Simone’s success has proven wrong some of the common misconceptions about adoption and foster care.
While Simone’s success and her story should be praised, her personal and family life should not be left to the scrutiny and judgement of the public. But the attention brought to the adoption community as a result of Simone’s success will hopefully continue and evolve into positive change regarding attitudes towards adoption.