Posted by Deb Shrier
A day or so after the news broke of Steve Jobs' death, a friend of mine, who is an adoptive parent, called me and asked, "Did you know Steve Jobs was adopted?" Yes, I knew. It was a fact that he discussed in his infamous and inspirational commencement speech at Stanford University in June 2005. Jobs remained private about the specifics about his adoption and family life.
What he did share in his commencement speech included the fact that his biological mother, a graduate student, had wanted her child to be adopted by a couple who were college graduates – to ensure that his future included a college education. When the initial family that was set to adopt Jobs decided they really wanted a daughter and ultimately passed on the referral of the infant, a second couple who were on the waiting list to adopt was asked if they wanted a boy – and, as Jobs described, they said, "Of course!" When his biological mother discovered that the adopting couple were not college graduates (father did not graduate high school), she refused to sign the relinquishment papers. Eventually, when the adopting parents assured her that he would go to college, the birthmother agreed to the placement.
This story is not atypical of how a family might come together through adoption: people are faced with difficult situations, make choices that they believe are the best interest of the child or their family, and somehow, individuals move ahead. Of course, loss, guilt, grief, and excitement are all tangled together for each person involved. For Jobs' biological mother, she wanted her son to have every opportunity in life – which, from her perspective, included a two-parent family and the promise of a college education – the latter, a request which the adopting parents agreed they would plan for and would be in his future. The irony is that Jobs did go to college but dropped out shortly thereafter, stating he could not justify the expense his parents were paying for his education.
In his adult years, Jobs reunited with his mother and biological sister. It is only recently that his biological father's identity has been revealed. (According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the two never met in person.) A great many details regarding Jobs' life have been reported in the media since he stepped down from his position at Apple. This includes private information regarding his biological family and aspects of his adoption story – various details that he did not chose to share. Yet, given his genius contribution to our world, this information has all become newsworthy.
Deb Shrier, LICSW, is director of Post-Adoption Services at Jewish Family & Children's Service. Actively involved in the field of adoption both professionally and personally over the last 20 years, Deb's clinical interests include domestic/international adoption, transracial adoption, parenting issues, and search/reunion with birth parents and adopted persons. She has also provided clinical support to adoptive families on birth country tours that include the Philippines, Romania, Guatemala, and Russia. Deb enjoys writing and has contributed to various adoption related publications as well as the JF&CS blog.