Misconceptions about adoption and adoptive couples (part one)

Misconceptions about adoption and adoptive couples (part one)

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!”.

Yuck.

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, (affiliate) The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family, 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.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting this site and helping to provide for our family!

Comments

  1. Becky Boros says

    April and Adam – I’ve said it before and I just want to say again how much I respect and love you both. I admire your willingness to put your experience “out there” so that others can develop an understanding of the adoptive process and all the deep emotions and experiences that are related to it. I’ve learned so much through your writing about adoption. Your explanation today regarding bringing a “damaged child” (what a HORRIBLE phrase that is) into your family brought me to a deeper, more personal understanding of the sweet blessing that being adopted into the family of God truly is. We are all SO damaged- and yet He loves us and sees us as perfect, through the amazing sacrifice of His Son.
    The child (children) that God has planned to bring into your lives will be so very blessed to have you as parents. I know that waiting can be so, so, so hard when you’re waiting for something that really matters. However, you know that He will bring the exact children into your lives at exactly the right time – we can trust Him completely and that is such a blessing. I will continue to pray for you both – individually and as a couple – on this waiting journey. Smitty and I miss you and love you very much!

  2. Eve says

    When I was pregnant a lot of people said things like “oh have your fun now, youre never going to go out again” Or “oh just wait, you have no idea how tired youre going to be” Now that Greta is four months and were out of the woods with being up all night everyone says “just wait till shes a toddler!”
    Obviously this is not as tough as it must be for you guys, as misconceptions about adoption are more significant than about pregnancy, however what you said really hit home with me regarding how negative strangers can be! I can’t imagine either being that nosy, or that nasty to someone on the street!

    • says

      Eve, you’re absolutely right, some of these certainly apply to all parents generally! I’m so sorry you’ve faced a lot of these negative comments as well. Greta is such a sweetie, and we love you guys!

  3. says

    April, thank you so much for saying these things. My husband and I are also adopting from foster care, and while we do get many supportive comments from people, there are others who just can’t wrap their brains around the idea that we would want to bring kids (likely different from us) into our home.

    Like you, we weren’t led into this by emotions but by a firm conviction that we have been given many blessings by God and are meant to share them with one (or more likely several) children who are in need. I could be happy for the rest of my life without ever having had children, but I know that there would be a glaring, painful hole in my life if I don’t obey God in this one area.

    Well said all around, ma’am.

    • says

      Jamie, thank you so much for sharing your experience! It’s a tough world to navigate at times. I’m thrilled that you and your husband are pursuing foster care adoption. My husband and I can certainly relate to the conviction that you write about. Thanks for your kind words, and for stopping in!

  4. says

    Thank you so much for posting this! My sister and her husband are in the middle of fostering to adopt a 14-year-old. It has been a difficult road for them, but your post made me realize that I’m guilty of thinking some of these things, even if I haven’t said them aloud to my sister. They need my and my family’s support, because it is hard (just like I need support for raising my baby girl)!

  5. ryanroach says

    We’ve faced all three when we adopted our two amazing little boys from foster care. My boys aren’t damaged goods and we’re only a little crazy!

  6. Madelene says

    It takes a truly special person to adopt a child. I wasn’t raised to hate anyone but people who can’t open their minds or hearts to any child make me sick. I myself was adopted. I was adopted at birth and it was closed. God blessed me with some amazing parents too. It really makes me sad that there are some people who open their mouths and say things that are insulting to a child and parents who have so much love in their hearts. My birth mother was from Tijuana Mexico and because of that many people felt the need to tell my parents that I wasn’t going to be smart and I would struggle through school my whole life. Well I may not be going to Harvard but I’m educated and I think I have a good head on my shoulders. I do of course owe that to my wonderful parents. I’ll admit when I was a teenager it was hard accepting that I was in a interracial family and felt alone. However, like all kids I grew up and started listening to my parents. They like to tell people I’m the proof, it’s nurture not nature. Someday I will adopt, even though I have one on the way. I’m getting of track but my main message to you is God bless you. The world would be a scary place if there wasn’t people like you out there. Your an inspiration and I pray only great things happen to you in life. Your going to be wonderful parents I can see that. My parents did a lot of research, took a lot of classes, prayed and always have had an unconditional love for anyone who entered our family. It doesn’t take much but you do have to be special. Good luck to you both!

Trackbacks

  1. […]  Misconceptions About Adoption and Adoptive Couples “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.” […]

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