I’ve received such kind feedback from my most recent post: what a domestic adoption process is really like. Thank you so much to those who have unwaveringly supported us on this long journey. It has truly meant the world and it doesn’t go unnoticed. Taking the road less traveled can be a very lonely place at times, and we often have to be intentional about looking for support. God has provided it in many unexpected places, which only makes our journey more beautiful.
I’ve mentioned on my blog for years now (although sporadically) that there are all types of wrong beliefs about adoption out there. We’ve heard a lot of them. Typically, when confronted with a negative comment about adoption, family planning, foster care, you name it, it may sting for a moment, but overall we really try not to take it personally. We are confident that the vast majority of people love us, care for us, want to see this adoption come to fruition, and have no ill-will behind their comments.
Before I jump into this next post, I want to be clear that there is a ton of grace being extended here. Three years ago my knowledge of adoption, adoption related issues, and all the opinions that people have surrounding adoption, was immensely smaller than it is now. I know what it feels like to be clueless and overwhelmed about adoption (still am at times…foster care can be confusing!). All that to say, I still have a ton to learn myself.
However, I have picked up a little knowledge along the way as I’ve read a few books, blogs, attended hours upon hours of training, and have had countless conversations with other adoptive couples, adult adoptees, and adoption case workers. My intent is not to condemn, or make anyone feel guilty if they have said (or thought) any of these things. My heart is to gently redirect the wrong beliefs about adoption. Adoption is very important to us, but it’s more important to God, who, if you are in Christ, adopted YOU into his family.
With that said, there are a couple reasons why I desire to write about these things. 1) Much of the wrong thinking about adoption does not honor God. He has perfectly displayed the heart behind adoption, and it’s one that we ought to strive to emulate as we seek to obey the command to care for the fatherless. 2) Adam and I (or insert any other adoptive couple you know here) desperately need your support! Without a clear understanding of our heart and journey, the kind of support we need won’t exist.
Being an adoptive couple means that your life will be on display in ways that you may not want. This. Is. Hard. Many people (often times strangers) feel as if they have a right to comment, question, or criticize some of the most private areas of your life. Besides moving to a deserted island and never coming back, I don’t know how to prevent this phenomenon. It happens to every adoptive couple.
If our family grows through adoption, this will continue for the rest of our lives, and the rest of our children’s lives.
I know many of you have probably never thought through these things before, and you may be confused, wondering if we’re just super sensitive and making a big deal out of nothing. That’s ok if you feel that way! I would be thrilled if you would take some time to process through this list with an open heart though. I guarantee it will bless the adoptive families in your life.
Without further ado, here are three of the most common misconceptions about adoption and adoptive couples (I’ll post four more tomorrow!).
1) The adoptive couple will certainly get pregnant as soon as they adopt a child (and questions about the couple’s fertility in general)
This comment is very loaded, and I could write a book about it alone. I’ve been getting variations of this comment since the day we announced our adoption journey to the world. The implication here is that pregnancy is what we *really* want, and adoption is just the second choice. Plan B, because Plan A (pregnancy) didn’t work out. The commenter is also assuming that the adoptive couple has infertility. It’s never a good thing to make an assumption like that. I know many couples, us included, who would adopt regardless of the ability, or inability, to have biological children. We just love adoption, and believe God has called us to it!
I know this comment is usually made in a teasing way, but seriously, how do you know someone will get pregnant the second they adopt? Nobody knows that, but everyone seems to know someone this has happened to. The reality is that a very small percentage of couples who have infertility get pregnant after they adopt. If someone has been struggling with infertility for many years, this comment may only dig into a very painful wound. It’s just not helpful.
Maybe I’m more private than some, but It’s hard for me to understand why it’s ever ok to ask a couple about their fertility. Some couples are an open book, and if that’s the case, ask away. If not prompted though, it’s best to err on the side of caution and don’t bring it up.
INSTEAD SAY: “I’m so happy that your family is growing!” or “How exciting! Tell me about your decision to adopt?” Period. Throw them a baby shower. Celebrate them well. Let them know that any child who enters their family through adoption will be just as loved, cherished, and valued as a biological child.
2) Children from foster care, or certain countries, are “damaged”
Upon meeting someone for the first time a few years ago, and sharing our adoption plans with them, they replied with “you’re not adopting from foster care, are you?! All of those children are damaged!”.
I was so taken aback that I didn’t even know how to respond. At the time we were strictly trying to adopt an infant so I probably mumbled something about that, hoping to appease this person. It broke my heart. This was probably one of the most devastating things anyone has ever said to me. Not because it offended me personally, but because of the incredibly wrong belief that children in foster care, or from orphanages overseas, are not worth adopting. That their lives are not worth fighting for. I can’t even type that without getting emotional.
Children who have been in foster care, or orphanages overseas, have likely experienced trauma that we could never understand. I’ve learned that these precious kiddos have had to fight for their lives at times, soothe themselves to sleep, and have incorporated all different kinds of protective measures to ward off abuse of every kind. Their little brains have been trained to respond and react in certain ways that your typical child, born into a loving, structured, and stable family, never has. This ends up looking like developmental and cognitive delays, attachment disorders, learning disabilities, etc etc. These precious children need to learn how to trust again, and it takes a lot of time, effort, and unique parenting strategies different than what you likely received growing up.
I’ve received a handful of comments similar to this one over the years, and each time I try to draw attention to the gospel, and the way that God values human life. I truly don’t believe that any child is “damaged” or “too far gone.” Isn’t that the gospel?! That we were dead in our sin, totally “damaged” and separate from God, but Jesus was sent to redeem us, making us a new creation. It doesn’t get any more beautiful than that!
I’m not preaching a savior mentality (I’ll address that one tomorrow). We are not Jesus, and we are not saving any children from foster care. These children owe us nothing. But, I do believe that in order to care for the fatherless like we’ve been commanded to, we must value human life the way that God does. This means that the tiny baby who was just conceived, seconds old in their mother’s womb, is just as valuable as the 96 year old man with Alzheimer’s. The 13 year old black female in foster care who threatens suicide is just as valuable as the rich white CEO of a fortune 500 company.
Life is valuable, and precious, and these children deserve a family to experience that in.
INSTEAD SAY: “Your family is going to be so beautiful! I can’t wait to meet, and get to know, the son or daughter God blesses you with!” Or, ask why they have chosen the specific type of adoption they did. Support them, ask questions to gain understanding, and try to resist stereotypes.
BONUS POINTS: Check out any material or books by Dr. Karyn Purvis (a true godsend for adoptive couples!). Her book, The Connected Child, has been very influential for us as we think about how to parent children from hard places. Or, her website, Empowered to Connect, is full of plenty of videos and resources for adoptive families and those who want to support them.
3) Adoptive parents aren’t thinking clearly and are acting on emotion (aka our lives will be ruined if we adopt)
Recently, a woman at our local library encouraged us to just “enjoy life, you don’t want kids yet!” Ouch. She obviously doesn’t know our story.
We have been warned a handful of times that our marriage will likely suffer after we adopt. This is a good warning to heed, and we’re certainly working now to strengthen our bond. At the same time, it’s never good to curse a young married couple like that. It’s just not encouraging, and I’ve written about it before.
Some people have added that maybe we should reconsider our decision to adopt, and just enjoy life as the two of us. The belief that our lives will be ruined, and our family torn apart after we adopt is sadly quite common. Does it happen? Absolutely. Are there ways to fight against it. Definitely.
Our culture doesn’t value children. They are seen as an inconveniences to our lives, careers, and fun. With the stigma that foster children unfortunately have in some people’s eyes (see #2), it makes it difficult for some to support the way we’ve chosen to grow our family. And you know what? That’s ok.
As I imagine all parents know, welcoming a little one into your home, through birth or adoption, is going to bring new and additional levels of stress. Adopting a child from a hard place will bring a unique twist to it. We’re not naive to think it’s going to be a walk in the park. This is why we need your support. In fact, every marriage needs support! Marriage, especially Christian marriages, are under attack, and we would all do well to have godly accountability over us.
I can assure you, our decision to adopt was thought and prayed through for a long time. Was there emotion involved? Of course! There should be! Having our family grow is an emotional step. Was it driven by emotion? Absolutely not.
I do agree that adoption can be romanticized at times, and in that case, this criticism is a good one to heed. Many couples go into adoption blindly, being led by emotion, only to find themselves overwhelmed and confused as to why their experience isn’t as easy as the glossy cover of the adoption agency brochure.
Every couple is on a different journey. It’s always good to believe the best of them and assume they have done their homework.
INSTEAD SAY: “Children are such a blessing! It’s not always going to be easy, but you are going to have so much fun together!” or share how your life has been personally blessed by your kids. I love hearing how others treasure and value their kids.
Check back in tomorrow for part two (UPDATE – READ PART TWO HERE!). I’ll address misconceptions like adoption being the easy way out, horror stories, savior mentality, and birthparents.