Misconceptions about adoption and adoptive couples (part two)

Misconceptions about adoption and adoptive couples (part two)

If you’re just tuning in, be sure to check out part one first! Misconceptions about adoption and adoptive couples (part 1)

4) The horror stories are the norm

We’ve all heard them. Your friend’s cousin’s adopted son burned the house down, or some other (most likely) exaggerated tale. It’s like clockwork. I’ll share our plans to adopt, and there’s always someone who wants to make sure I’m aware of what *could* happen. Then I’ll be told “Oh, but not your children! I’m sure they will be great!” as if my children’s behavior is completely dependent on us and the parenting strategies we choose.

I’ll be blunt here. I don’t want to hear your horror stories. Please stop sharing them with us. It’s similar to sharing labor and delivery horror stories with pregnant women. They don’t do anything but allow the opportunity for fear to grow in our hearts, and it’s not a helpful way to support and love us.

I’m not minimizing the challenges that may come with adopting a child who has experienced trauma. I completely believe that many of these horror stories are true and real and happened because that precious child is 1) sinful, just like the rest of us and 2) they have experienced trauma that no child should ever have to experience (see #2 in yesterday’s post).

The next time you hear a tragic story about a child who has been adopted, may I suggest that you allow those details to develop a compassion in your heart for that child? Try to imagine what it would be like if you had been neglected or abused all your life. Or passed around from family to family, never having the stability and comfort that you may be accustomed to. Unless you have been there, you could never understand what they are thinking and feeling, and why they may act in certain ways.

INSTEAD SAY: “I have a friend who adopted, would you be interested in connecting with them?” We’re always eager to learn from other families and their experience.

As a side note – No one likes suffering, and I am of the opinion that many believers (myself included) will do anything they possibly can to avoid suffering. We surround ourselves with comforts and rarely take risks (again, I’m guilty of this too). Adopting a child who has experienced trauma is definitely a risk. You have no idea what the future may look like for you, your child, and your family. For three years now, every time we hear about a child, we weigh the risks. It’s hard. But you know what? Slowly, God has been working on my heart, pressing on the parts that are scared to let go of my comforts and expectations of what *I* want my family to look like. My sinful heart wants a picture perfect family who will receive all the likes on Facebook. But that’s not what God sees as valuable! I’m learning to care less about what others think, very slowly (hello, this is hard!!), and rest in the perfect gaze of Jesus who has made me righteous in His sight.

One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:21 “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I am fighting so hard (but my sinful nature keeps tugging me back and back) to live a life that is seeking the advancement of God’s kingdom, and not my own comfort and pleasure. Adopting a child is not something to take lightly, even when done for the glory of God. However, I do believe it will be well worth the risk, and so I pray that more Christians would die to the comforts of this world and consider caring for the fatherless in this way….even if all you’ve ever heard are the horror stories.

5) Adoption is the easy way out

I’ve only heard this comment one time, and it was from a man I only met once. I do hear it’s fairly common though, which is why i’m including it here. When I told this man that Adam and I were adopting he gleefully replied with “Nice! You’re taking the easy way out!”

Riiiiiight.

There’s not too much to say here except that pregnancy and adoption both have unique challenges and joys. It’s never right to assume that adoption is easier because it’s devoid of physical pain (well, mostly, I’m pretty sure I got a few paper cuts on all that paperwork).

I think the most challenging aspect of adoption, for me, is the fact that we don’t have a due date that accompanies a pregnancy. Typically, with a due date, that baby is coming out within a few weeks of that date. We don’t have that kind of luxury with an adoption process. I would do anything for a due date, people! Sigh…

But, that’s besides the point. Adoption is not easier than pregnancy, and pregnancy is not easier than adoption. Both are hard in different ways. Both challenge and stretch your faith. Period.

INSTEAD SAY: (similar to #1) “I’m so happy for you!” and rejoice with the glowing adoptive couple.

6) Adoptive couples are saviors and any child will be blessed to have them

We get this one a lot, and it always make us incredibly uncomfortable. We are not saviors. We are not rescuing children. That is not our motivation, or the goal for adoption. If this is our goal, we will be sadly disappointed.

We absolutely, cannot, expect our adopted child to be grateful that we have adopted them. That’s so unfair to them. These precious kiddos have lost everything they know (i.e. birthparents, foster parents, siblings, familiar sights, sounds, smells, and food, language, their school or daycare, friends, neighborhood, etc). They may actually be really angry that we adopted them. I wouldn’t blame them! I would be too!

A friend reminded me today that God, in his mercy, is ultimately the one who rescues. He uses adoptive families in the process, but healing and redemption are completely in His hands. That’s His role. Not ours. Praise God, because I couldn’t deal with that kind of pressure!

On the contrary, we know that *we* are going to be blessed by any child God entrusts to us.

INSTEAD SAY: “You guys are going to be so blessed by those kiddos! Raising children is such a worthy investment.” or “I can’t wait to see how God uses you in their lives. I’m here for you when it gets tough!”

7) We want nothing to do with the birthparents of our future children

I’ve received many wide eyes, and expressions of shock, when I talk about including birthparents, or extended birth families, in our lives. The stereotype is that *all* birthparents are dangerous (not true), and we should stay as far away from them as possible (with some situations, yes). The wrong beliefs around this are deeply rooted in our country’s history of adoption and, I believe, fear. Lifetime movies where the birthmother kidnaps her child back from an adoptive family are a favorite to reference, but rarely happens in real life.

Adoptions used to be totally closed. Kids grew up not knowing where they came from, who their birthparents were, and often didn’t even know they were adopted. Things have changed a lot in recent decades, and for that we’re really grateful. I won’t get into all the details about open adoption, but I’m thoroughly convinced that it *can* be extremely beneficial for adoptees, adoptive families, and birthparents/extended birth families as well.

Since we’re adopting from foster care having an open adoption may be challenging for us due to the nature of how a child may come into our care. With traditional domestic infant adoption, an expectant mom makes a loving, selfless plan to place her child with an adoptive family. With foster care, it looks very different. Typically, the state intervenes on the child’s behalf, removing them from potentially dangerous care. This does not mean that their parents don’t love them. Of course they do! Due to various factors, they just may not be able to appropriately care for them at that time. The love does not change.

Regardless of how a child comes into our home, we vow to never speak poorly of their birthparents, and if given the opportunity we would love to have a relationship with them in some capacity. They may have made some mistakes that led to the state removing their children from their care, but that doesn’t mean they are any less human, and, if we find it to be beneficial for the child, we would love to have them be a part of our life.

Every person is created in the image of God and we ought to preserve the dignity of our kids birthparents to the best of our ability (see more in #2 about valuing human life). The families we read about on paper have experienced things that we could never understand unless gone through ourselves (i.e. homelessness, racism, addiction, domestic violence, crime, etc). We want our children to know about their birth parents, and know their full stories. This will happen over time of course, in age appropriate ways, as we believe they are deserving of the full story of their adoption.

Our prayer is always that God would redeem these stories and heal the broken families we hear about on a regular basis. He certainly can. It’s not too difficult for Him.

When it comes to birthparents, and our kid’s story, we plan to keep it private. Out of respect for our children, it’s only right that they know their story before all of our friends and family know it. We’ll leave the sharing to them when they are old enough to do so :)

INSTEAD: Encourage us in our desire to help our child/children understand their entire story. God can use this in big ways to foster growth and healing in their lives.

***

I truly hope this has been a helpful series! This is definitely not exhaustive, and there’s so much more to be said about each point. I could probably write an individual post about each one, to be honest. It has been a huge blessing for me to sit down and write out my heart and thoughts though. I love adoption, and there are few things I’m more passionate about. Thanks for loving and supporting us and taking steps to understand our journey better.

Adoptive couples, is there anything you would add to this list? How have you graciously tried to answer some of these misconceptions?

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for sharing these misconceptions. I wrote a similar post about infertility comments a while ago. Now that we are moving into the adoption arena, I am preparing to receive a new set of unintentionally hurtful comments. Thanks for sharing gracious responses.

    • says

      Davy, thanks for sharing your experience! Yes, both journeys illicit plenty of unintentionally hurtful comments. Blessings as you begin the adoption journey!

  2. says

    I guess the only thing people have said to me that you haven’t listed here is “You’re settling for someone else’s cast offs. You owe it to yourself to have your own child.”

    I am in a unique place as I have multiple sclerosis. People ask me questions related to that quite often, which is doubly uncomfortable for me. :(

    • says

      Ah yes, “your own child” comments. We do get that one as well in the form of “why don’t you just have your own children?” It’s certainly a common one and I’m sorry you’ve been hearing it too. I can imagine that’s tough to field so many questions regarding your MS, along with adoption now too. Praying for you right now that the Lord would give you an extra measure of grace to respond well in those situations.

  3. Keith says

    My wife and I adopted a pair of sisters from outside the US when they were 5 and 7. Over the years we have been told the items you have listed and I admit prior to adopting I said some of the things you have listed.

    I do need to briefly address #6 “Adoptive couples are saviors and any child will be blessed to have them”.

    Adoption is traumatic for all involved. The life changes are huge and abrupt. You have chosen to meld into your lives an unknown. Of course birth children turn out “good or bad” regardless of whether the parents are “good or bad”. Same with adopted children.

    However, based upon our 20+ years of sharing with other adoptive parents it is critical that the adopting parents realize and appreciate the fact that most adopted children can not or will not realize or admit the blessings of their adoption. Their teenage angst will be very amplified.

    Go into this with facts, clear and complete. Most adoption agencies will paint a very unrealistic and rosy picture, much like selling a used car.

    Adopt because you feel truly called to a lifetime relationship, regardless of the outcome. Just like a birth baby. Sometimes doing the “right thing” will be the only reward you are going to get.

    We still love and cherish our two girls even though we have had virtually no contact with them for four years.

    • says

      Keith, thank you so much for sharing your experience here! You share such valuable wisdom that I absolutely affirm. It’s not a decision to be made lightly, that’s for sure, as everyone’s lives will be completely changed. There are certainly some adoptees who adjust very well and see their adoption as a blessing, but that can not be the expectation of the adoptive parents. It’s just not fair to them. Thanks for sharing your many years of experience here. I pray many will benefit from your words!

    • Frederika . says

      My husband and I have been blessed by the Lord in giving us children by adoption who, after causing us considerable stress during their teen years, have become Christian fathers, are married to Christian mothers, and who are raising their children similarly as we did our sons, perhaps better. They are in their forties and have given us another blessing: seven beautiful grandchildren, some of them now in their teens; one of them is adopted from South America. We also have friends who adopted around the same time we did – in the late 1960s and early 1970s – when there were many babies to adopt. Our friends too, after some more or less trying teen years, have the same blessings. This is God’s grace, and not because our parenting was so exceptional, but I believe, mainly because of the gene pool from which our sons were drawn. There is a difference because today most adoptees have been in foster care because their birth parents were at risk in parenting due to alcohol or drug abuse. Our social climate and support have become more accepting of single moms and today it is mostly kind of the latter moms who are forced to release for adoption, usually first into into foster care, because they are high risk parents. If they would show the least motivation or prospect to be able to parent, there is help, materially, financially, emotionally and with parenting skills in our social and health care systems. That is why it is much more risky to adopt today than we did, some 45 years ago.

      With much love, prayer, church and family support, many adoptive parents today are struggling with children who are genetically burdened with emotional, developmental and syndromes, such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Syndrome. They often suffer silently because they feel guilty, frustrated, and misunderstood, even though they can look back on this period of child-rearing as a time of learning and growing in the Lord. But they have suffered, as Keith (above) indicates. His last sentence says it all.

      Knowing the pain of being childless for about 10 years of marriage, I think many couples struggling with fertility problems, will nevertheless adopt, and such children need loving, compassionate, Christian parents and a structured home. Find out all you can beforehand about the birth parents and their habits during pregnancy and listen to knowledgeable professionals. You will go into adoption with your eyes open and you will learn from both the joy and the pain involved in parenting such children.

      Having also been involved as a pregnancy counsellor, working with moms and families who have adopted children who are struggling with children who are genetically burdened. Some of these adoptive parents have been given great strength to advocate for their children with the Lord and in the social system, from the church and professional services. Sometimes there have been “success” stories, even in traumatic cases of drug abuse, alcoholism, prostitution and criminal activities, when these adoptees repented before dying from over-dosing, etc. Is it worth it? Yes, these children need loving, stable homes and if you count the cost beforehand, as our Lord pointed out (Luke 14:28). The Lord will hear the prayers for such difficult children, whose brains were malformed in the womb and therefore unable to carry through on doing what is right.

      Enjoy especially the early childhood years of your adopted children, because some of the genetic problems do not manifest themselves until the children become older, especially during teen years when they form their own identity. You need to have prepared them with your love and life, and you need to be there for them when that time comes…. and do keep on loving them and praying for them, no matter what.

  4. says

    My husband passed this along to me from Challies blog. When he first started reading it he thought perhaps I had written it because almost everything you write I’ve said at one point.
    We adopted 2 years ago. We feel privileged to have had our first child in this way. William is a true blessing and we are starting the process all over again. William’s backstory is devastating, but we praise our Lord and Saviour that he is alive and ours. We see God’s redemptive and miraculous power alive in our son everyday.
    Thank you for tackling these tough misconceptions with grace and truth.
    May God continue to strengthen you as you wait for your child.

  5. michelle says

    Appreciate this well-written article! I resonated with quite a few of these, but especially #5…I have had so many people, especially other mothers, tell me this. And it can be so hard to reply because it’s not a short answer! There are so many aspects that make it so hard! The waiting and uncertainty for sure, but for us the one thing that I think makes adoption hard in such a different way is that it is something you and your child carry forever, and has implications for all of your life, especially if you have an open adoption like we do. Biological parents are forever biological parents. Biological siblings are forever biological siblings…aspects of life that don’t end after you’re discharged from the hospital. Labor pains are terrible from what I hear, and I respect all Moms that endure this!, but, they are here and then gone. Adoption might not have the intense physical pain, but the emotions attached to adoption are never “here and gone”. They are like tidal waves that come and go, and will probably continue to for a very long time, especially as our daughter processes her adoption for herself as a teen. These emotions aren’t something we fear or regret; they are just fact of life that we knew going into an open-adoption…but it still can be hard to hear that comment “You got the easy way out”. It makes me feel misunderstood, and almost like my emotional pains aren’t valid. Fortunately we’ve had many years of infertility before adoption where God gave me plenty of opportunities to work out “feeling misunderstood”! I’m so thankful for that now because it allows me to respond in love to those comments, knowing that I don’t need this person to understand me perfectly to validate my “pain”; God knows my pain, and has endured more misunderstanding that I ever could! This has allowed me to view these conversations as “adoption teaching moments” because most of the time, the person making the comment really has no idea what adoption/trying to adopt is like. Every time I step outside of myself to share a little about what adoption is, the other person is always thankful, and “didn’t know that”. I’m trying to continue to do this; it can be hard sometimes when I feel like I just want to be “normal” and move on, but like I said, that is exactly the point! Adoption is beautiful part of the story, not a means to an end!

  6. Elise B says

    These posts are really helpful, April! Thanks for taking the time to share your heart and to help those of us who haven’t personally experienced adoption understand it better. I feel like these posts will help me be more encouraging and supportive to our friends who are in the adoption process.

  7. Blee says

    As a mom who adopted over twenty years ago, I enjoyed reading your posts. What an exciting time for you and your husband! I might add two things to your list. I am a former English teacher so the language of adoption is important to me. I am struck by how many people use the present tense when talking about a child or even an adult who was adopted. Adoption is a legal, one-time act. Just like birth, it happens and then it’s over, completed. Instead of saying, “Sarah is adopted,” the more accurate verb tense is “Sarah was adopted.” Using the present tense IS can also indicate the word ADOPTED is an adjective used to describe Sarah. When my husband and I talk about adoption, we try to speak of it in terms of an act WE did IN THE PAST….Sarah WAS adopted…in the past, completed. To many people, this distinction will be of no consequence but as a parent who adopted and as a believer, the distinction is crucial to me.

    I would also add, especially in this age of over-sharing through social media, that if you can keep your adoption process private, then do so. The temptation is to share with everyone all the particulars as you go through each step; however, everything you put out there becomes public knowledge about your child. A time may come in that child’s life when some of the things you made public is used against her. The middle school years can be cruel. I would use caution when discussing publicly the particulars of a child’s birth. You do not owe anyone any explanation and the child should be granted privacy. If, as she gets older, she wants to share, then it’s her story to share, and if she would rather keep that private, then she can; the decision has not already been made for her.

    You were right in your description of the adoption process as not being easy…just like giving birth is not easy. But it is a wonderful way God provides families…ours as well as His! Adopting was the scariest thing I have ever done in my entire life and it has brought me the greatest joy of my life. May God bless you and your husband in your own journey! It’s thrilling!

    • Blee says

      Yikes! I should have proofread better before hitting SEND….*when some of the things you made public ARE used against her.”

    • Frederika . says

      Well said; so true. I only share once in a while, when I think it may be helpful. On the other hand, sometimes I am just overwhelmed at God’s goodness for the gift of adoption – the blessings just keep on coming. Probably it is because when we are believers, the Lord has also adopted us.

  8. Vicki says

    I am a 43 year old single, never married gal who is in the process of adopting my second daughter from the foster care system.

    You think married couples get asked weird questions… Try adopting as a single. Everyone immediately says, “Oh, the biological clock was ticking and since Prince Charming didn’t show up you decided to adopt.”

    To which I answer, “My decision to adopt wasn’t because I was struggling with being childless and decided I had waited long enough, time to take things into my own hands.

    My decision to adopt came solely from The Lord placing the desire in my heart. When The Lord gives you a passion or desire, it doesn’t go away.”

    I definitely agree with what everyone said about how grateful the kids should be we adopted them. That is the one I hear the most. I usually respond with, “What part should they be grateful for? That they were ripped away from the birth family, split up from all their siblings, went through very traumatic, life changing experiences, moved from one home to the next with all they own in garbage bags, or that they now get to go live with a perfect stranger and are told they will never see their former family again that this stranger will now be their family. I’m confused, which part are they to be grateful for?”

    Once I was talking with an Amish woman about buying a shed. My daughter (who is mixed race and I am white) came up beside me. The Amish woman looked at me and then at my daughter and said, “Your husband is black?” I could have really had fun with her but I controlled myself and realized she had very little exposure to the adoption world and decided to use it as a learning opportunity. So I told her I was not married. I was single and adopting her. The woman then said, “Ahhh. From Haiti?” To which I answered, “No. Pennsylvania.” She didn’t ask any questions after that.

    One big mistake I made early on was that I loved talking about adoption. I want more people to adopt and spoke freely about it. My daughter shared with me one day that she was embarrassed and didn’t want people to know she was adopted. So I honored her request.

    One day at school one of the little girls said to me in front of my daughter, “How can you be her mom. Your skin is different.” It was an innocent question from a child. I wanted to honor my daughter’s request though so I had some fun with it. I just said, “Oh I’m her momma. That’s for sure. She just has darker skin because I work all day inside and she gets to play outside. She just has a better tan.” My daughter smiled, happy with my answer and the little girl just looked a little confused but didn’t ask anymore questions. The little girl’s mom happened to hear the conversation as well and smiled approvingly at me.

    • Frederika . says

      This adoption blog is so interesting! Yes, singles adopting can be a blessing, although it may not be easy. When I read Vicki’s single parent adoption story, I was reminded of my friend, Lucy. As a single person in her thirties, she adopted her 5-year old daughter about 30 years ago, when there was not that much information about adoption, genetics, disabilities, etc., as there is today. Slowly, Lucy learned that her daughter who had been abused, was not developing normally as she had hoped by giving her loving care. Her daughter had brain damage and she had special needs. But, lo and behold, about 5 years later, Lucy married a lonely Christian widow about 20 years older, who accepted her disabled daughter as well. Lucy was a Christian and so was her new husband. Lucy was married to him about 20 years when he died. It wasn’t easy because her daughter and her husband vied for her love and attention. As her husband aged, he had a hard time with Lucy’s daughter who sometimes “needled” him and had temper tantrums. But Lucy persevered and advocated for her daughter as well as respecting the needs of her aging husband. She ensured that her daughter went to Christian schools until she finished her highschool years. Lucy and her husband belonged to a church community that baptizes infants and because Lucy’s daughter was baptized as a young child because Lucy was a believer, she therefore received the same loving care as the other children in this Christian covenantal church community. Lucy’s daughter ended up in a Christian group home for a few years, until Lucy’s husband died. Lucy now is the senior staff person of two small homes for persons with special needs, homes which are sponsored by her church community. On the weekends, Lucy and her daughter spend time together at Lucy’s own residence. They also go on trips together and have good relations with Lucy’s husband’s adult children and grandchildren. What a testimony to what God can do through persevering love and a caring church community!

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