Monday, April 23, 2012

10 Things Adoptive Families Want You to Know

When you adopt, you become part of a community.  You meet other adoptive families and you feel a connection because you know they have shared some of the same highs and lows you have.  They get it.  But, sometimes other people don't.  So, if you're not an adoptive family, here are 10 things I'd like you to know about the adoption journey:

1.     Just because we adopted doesn't mean our names are now Brad and Angelina! (Yes, I've actually had that reference made to me). Adoption was a part of God's plan before celebrities made it cool. These references belittle the challenging and beautiful journey we're on.
2.      Sometimes the adoption journey can feel lonely. It's hard to understand what adoptive parents have to navigate unless you are intimately involved in the process. Hundreds of pieces need to fall into place. You put your future in the hands of multiple people, from hospitals/orphanages, lawyers, state or country systems and agencies, some whom you will never even meet. It is a very long and emotional process that tests your faith on a minute-by-minute basis. We need your encouragement...even if our metaphorical pregnancy stretches beyond the usual nine-month attention span. If you're not sure how to support us, just ask! Treat our adoption like the birth of a child: get crazy, be excited, throw us a party. When we cry, cry with us, when we go nuts with excitement, go nuts with us.
3.      Our adopted children are our "own." It's not uncommon for people to refer to biological children (and not our adopted) as our "own" children. What makes a child your own?  Do you nurture and love them and clean up their puke and hope you didn't make too many life-ruining mistakes in a day? So do we! Our adopted children are every bit ours as our birth children. Parents and kids alike can feel offended by this term. Since what you are most likely asking is, "Are these your birth children?" perhaps think first if the moment is right for such a personal question, and then if it is, ask the right question. Try to educate yourself on positive adoption terms (ex. birth or biological parents, not "real" parents).
4.     Our adopted children are some of the strongest and most resilient people we know! Our children have challenges many other children do not and sometimes are stereotyped as broken and needy. They have experienced trauma and loss and transition that takes a toll on their hearts and minds and sometimes their bodies, but, in the face of all of these things they survive...and many of them thrive. God blessed us with our child as much as they are blessed by us! Children who have experienced so many challenges deserve our honor and love. It is not always an easy journey, but we have so much to learn from our strong and beautiful children. They deserve, not pity, but concern and love and awe!
5.     Family has a whole new meaning for us. It feels safe and simple to think about family as a mom and dad and kids. It is that, but it's also so much more. Welcoming a child into your family means you welcome the people that come with them (both the physically present and absent ones). Birth families, foster families, care givers, they all have had a part in our child's life, they are important to our children and that makes them important to us. This is complex and challenging (as all real-life relationships are) but it is also special to acknowledge the many people and events which shaped our children and family. It makes our family look a little more like the family God has created for Himself.
6.     Adoption is not a synonym for buying children. Please don't ask "How much did he/she cost?" Having children is always a financial investment! Refrain from asking details like this in public settings or in front of our children. We'd love to talk about what it takes to adopt if you are interested, but please respect our privacy.
7.      Not all adoptions are horror stories.  Sometimes adoptions fail. There is nothing easy about navigating the adoption process, but, we don't need to be constantly reminded of worse case scenarios. There are just as many risks when a family makes the decision to have biological children...some are different, some are the same. We worry enough on our own, help be a voice of encouragement!
8.     Birth parents are not bad people. They are brave, loving, broken, fearful, lost, but no one plans to live a life that is unfit for raising their child. There are so many reasons why birth parents make adoption plans for their children. Many birth parents make brave and excruciating decisions to let someone else raise their precious child because they believe it will be best for them. Some have less choice in the matter, but the process is excruciating none-the-less. As adoptive parents we are forever indebted to the beautiful gift our children's birth parents have given us. We respect their decision to give our child life and and want to help our children honor them, even while they process some of the difficult truths about their birth parents.
9.     We want to share our story with you. But, please, be sensitive.  Please don't ask questions just to satisfy your curiosity. When we announce that we have plans to adopt, understand our desire or ability to have birth children is a very personal part of our family journey. I was asked once, "Oh, are you just swingin' and missin'?," which would just be calloused if we were. I don't ask about your procreative activities...don't ask about mine. It also implies that adoption is a second best choice, instead of an equally beautiful option for growing your family. While I'm walking with my adopted son (who clearly does not look like me), I don't appreciate being asked, "Is that YOUR son?" or "Is he adopted?" Or, "Where is he from?" I want to reply, "Oh no, I just saw him outside and thought he was cute so I picked him up!" But I smile and nod. It feels invasive but mostly I hate it for my son's sake. One day he'll hear that question and be old enough to feel the unintended barb..."You don't belong together." I hurt for that day. From wherever we came from, however God orchestrated it, we were meant to be together as a family. We love that we have a unique story to tell and could talk to you all day about why we chose to adopt, how the journey has been, and how awesome our kids are! We just prefer to answer your questions because you want to know about our family, not just because you are curious. (And, please be sensitive about what you ask in front of our kids.)
10.  We're different but we're not that different. Adoptive families experience unique challenges and joys, but at the end of the day we are people doing our best to love and support each other just like your family. We may have different skin tones and backgrounds than our children, but we wake up to each other's faces each morning and are committed to a future together. As all parents experience, our kids drive us crazy and make us laugh and when we look at their sleeping faces we are so thankful for the gift God has given us. So thankful.
If you're looking to be more informed on the topic, a great place to start is by reading THIS and then get this BOOK.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, girl. I can't find any place on your blog to e/m you, so I'll leave a comment. Feel free to delete it. :) I'm an adoptive mom not to far from you (we're in Edwardsville, IL). I facilitate an adoptive mom support group of about 30 women. I'd love for you to join us! You can contact me at or