A Personal View: Adoption and Steve Jobs

The adoption scene has changed a lot since Steve Jobs’ mother gave him up at birth and he was raised by Paul and Clara Jobs in the Bay Area.The coils of human relationships oscillate in strange ways, as illustrated by the adoption of Steve Jobs. As the adoptive father of two children, I can attest to the questions and emotions that accumulate over time and generations.

Jobs was adopted shortly after birth by Paul and Clara Jobs, who lived in Mountain View, California. They named him.

Steve Job's biological mother was Joanne Simpson who had dated and become impregnated by Addulfattah John Jandall, a Syrian immigrant. Jandall proposed marriage to Simpson, but her father objected because of Jandall's Syrian ancestry. Simpson went to San Francisco in 1955 without Jandall's knowledge to give birth and hand her newborn son over for adoption. Simpson's father died shortly afterward and she reunited with Jandall, but by then the adoption was final.

Years passed until Jandall, who is now 80 years old and vice president of Boomtown Casino and Hotel in Reno, Nevada, learned Steve Jobs was his biological son.

When Jobs resigned and it became apparent his cancer was terminal, news about Jandall surfaced. He expressed regret for not being part of Jobs' life, noting that the two of them never met in person, but only exchanged a couple of emails.

“I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t sadden me to have not been part of my son’s incredible journey,” Jandall said in an interview last August. "Now I just live in hope that, before it is too late, he will reach out to me, because even to have just one coffee with him would make me a very happy man." That never happened.

Jandall said he doesn't consider himself Jobs' father. "Mr. and Mrs. Jobs are, as they raised him," he said. "I don't want to take their place. I just would like to get to know this amazing man I helped in a very small way to produce."

(For greater insight read “Steve Jobs,” a new bilographt by Walter Isaacson. See a review in The New York Times.)

A good friend discovered in her adult life that SHE was adopted. Without losing the warm relationship with her adoptive parents, she reached out and ultimately made contact with her biological mother. What has bloomed is a friendship based on intentional contact.

Many adoptees have little or no interest in their biological parents. Adoptees who are part of open adoptions often have some form of continuing access to their biological parents. A common reason for seeking out biological parents are medical conditions that require some knowledge of an adoptee's genetic stock.

Ironically, technology is changing the game. It's entirely different now than if Steve Jobs went to go look for his parents in the ‘70s or ‘80s. Facebook and other social media sites have caused an explosion of birth families reuniting, Sometimes for the worse, because tech-savvy kids will find their birth mothers or siblings while the birth family had preferred a closed adoption. Basically, the term closed adoption has taken on new meaning because, with so many other resources out there, the info is no longer just sitting in some locked file cabinet.

Today adoption is not a topic just for whispers. Being adopted is not a social stigma. Adopting children is seen as a sign of love, especially for families that are already large, but have more love to give to other children, including ones with physical or mental challenges.

Adoption is often the stuff of international relations. Political turmoil, war or stigmatization abroad has orphaned thousands of children, opening the door to many international adoptions that have added to the diversity of America and new understanding of world cultures.

Adoption also can be the source of controversy, usually when it is arranged without the best practices of adoption agency that conducts a thorough home study of potential adoptive parents and a sensitive placement policy that puts the interests of birth mothers and children first.

CFM has had the privilege of working with Holt International Children's Services for two decades, defending adoption best practices and ensuring a safe, loving place in the world for thousands of children who otherwise would face an uncertain future.

The successes of Steve Jobs deserve acclamation. So do the quieter successes of his adopted parents.