It takes three months for Avery to receive a response to the letter she wrote her birth mother. She learns she has three older brothers and a younger sister. Avery nervously anticipated the letter, fearing the rejection she would feel if there was none. She knew her biological mother had never contacted the adoption agency after giving her up.
Avery Brooks Klein-Cloud is an African-American girl, born in Austin, Texas, in 1990, who lives with her adoptive family in New York. Her parents are two white, Jewish women; her brothers, Rafi and Zay-Zay (one of mixed race, the other Korean), are both adopted. She studies Hebrew, is a track star, and learns about African-American culture from her friends.
Avery’s search for her birth family inspires her brother Rafi to start questioning his own roots. Avery has mixed feelings, desirous of meeting her biological family but disappointed that her mother has not been more active in reconnecting. While her family supports her, tensions arise at home.
Contact with her biological mother creates conflict and confusion, which is exacerbated when the woman abruptly stops writing Avery. Arguments rage between Avery and her parents and she leaves her adoptive family to live with friends. Everyone suffers. Disconnected from both her adoptive and biological families, Avery begins to spiral downward.
Off and Running is not the typical TV reconnection story in which the adoptee meets her birth family and everything is wonderful for all concerned. Things are not wonderful — her family is disrupted, and plans for her future are interrupted. It is only through determination and the support of those who love her that Avery is able to rebuild the path to her future.
PBS’s POV is in its 23rd season; Off and Running is the second film in the three-part POV Adoption Stories, focusing on transracial adoptions. Filmmaker Nicole Opper presents the frustrations and questions adoptees face, and how one young woman approached and came to uneasy terms with them. Opper could not have predicted Avery’s meltdown once she attempted reunification with her birth family, but the two women made a pact to complete the film project.
Off and Running offers happy moments and heartbreaking ones. It is not the story of all adoptees, but the story of one. Although there is sadness, it offers hope. It also provides an intimate look into one of the many facets of adoption. It can be seen on PBS, Tuesday, September 7, 10pm (Eastern), and will be streaming at the PBS website.