Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Not To Say to People Who are Adopting

My husband and I began the process of adoption last fall, we have completed all the paperwork and have been on the wait list a little over 2 months for a girl age 0-30 months from Ethiopia.

As family and friends and other acquaintances have learned of our adoption plans, we've received quite a range of responses. Thankfully, mostly they have been positive or at least followed the If-you-don't-have-anything-nice-to-say-don't-say-anything-at-all rule (Oh the beauty of that magical 13 word rule!) .

I'm really not a picky person, looking to start an argument. I am a peacemaker by nature. In my entire life I've sent back my meal at a restaurant exactly 0 times! It is rare that I have a problem with someone or cause a stink, seriously!

But, there have been some comments and questions that were hard to hear, especially recently from some of my family members. I'm all about asking hard questions if they are well-thought through (prayed about, even!) and helpful not hurtful.

Very few of the negatives have been helpful though, except maybe the person who said, "Wow! That's a life-long commitment." Because really before she said that we thought the whole adoption thing was just temporary, like rent-a-kid -- NOT!

So, I'm compiling a list (I'm sure it will be growing but for tonight here's what I'm thinking of):

What not to say to people who are adopting a child:
"Have you really thought out this decision?"

Why you should not ask this question:
Um, well, could I point you to the large binder of notarized documents it took us 6 months to complete, the checks written for large sums of money, the doctor visits, the home study done with questions covering all areas of personal topics, the 3 trips to the Dept. of Homeland Security, the 2 months on the wait list, the stack of books we've read, the people we've talked to in the adoption community, the seminars we've gone to, the training we've done, the sleepless nights spent wrestling with God over the decision before we made it, the hours upon hours we've talked as a couple about every aspect of this adoption. Let's just say, the decision to adopt this child was infinitely more thought out than the decisions to have all three of our biological children combined!

"But you already have your own kids." or "Don't you want real kids?" or "Don't you want your own kids?"

Why you should not ask this question/make this comment:
I assure you adopted kids are real, live children and I believe caring for kids day in and day out, loving them, & providing for them makes them your "own kids" whether they share your biological genes or not.

"But what about that woman who sent back the son she'd adopted from Russia?"

Why you should not ask this question:
Yes, it is a true story, but it is not THE STORY of adoption. The press likes to report on negative stories more than positive. I wish for the one story of the woman sending her son back to Russia that they aired, they would have also shown the stories of the thousands of happy adoptions because those are definitely there to showcase, as well. It is actually very, very rare to have a disrupted adoption and the number of disrupted biological families is astronomical -- the number of CPS kids in my own county is a testament to that. How about if those kids in CPS custody, removed from their biological parents were on TV every day for 2 weeks, the story of how their parents made bad choices, failed them, how the "system" needs to change to better protect them? Now that would be a productive use of the news media!

What you should ask instead:
"What led you to this decision?"
Usually people adopting have great stories to tell. You'll be amazed and if you're truly concerned the couple hasn't thought through the decision enough, well, their answer to this question ought to address your concern.

"Have you been able to find some support networks you can tap into once your adopted child is home?"
All parents in the process of bringing a child home either through birth or adoption ought to have some support networks in place. Parenting is hard! But, this is all the more true for adoptive parents who may face tougher issues with attachment/bonding, cultural issues, grief & loss, past trauma the child has experienced, etc.

and my favorite question you could ask:
"How can I help?"
You could be a part of the support network for a friend or family member going through adoption or fostering a child. For foster parents, you can go through training to be certified as a respite caregiver and then you could give the foster parents a break while you babysit for a few hours or overnight (Did you know foster parents are not allowed to use regular babysitters so they often find it hard to get a break at all and they need it the most as they're often dealing with kids with significant issues?). For adoptive parents, if they are having trouble financing their adoption, you could offer to help with fund-raisers. And you can always support them with prayer, your friendship, and your unconditional love of their new child regardless of how he or she came into their family!

Find more
Thankful Thursday, Thursday Thirteen, Alphabe-Thursday "W"


  1. GREAT ADVICE and well thought-out. The "real kids" statement just put a knife in my heart! How cruel!
    Congratulations and I wish you the very best.

  2. Very nice post. I'm so sorry you have had these comments. I think most people that don't have anything nice to say have kept it to themselves in our situation. I did get my first, "Why aren't you adopting from the U.S.?" question today though.

    I can't wait to open your blog and see that you've gotten that referral. May the time pass swiftly by!

  3. I hope everything goes well for you and your expanding family, and I look forward to reading the happy and exciting post when your little one comes home with you.

  4. Good info - and hopefully it will help people see the positive things that they can share. Sometimes it's all about education, right? I'm sure they'll fall in love with every "real" child you bring home too! :)

  5. Praying for your dear family.

  6. Thank-you!

    I get this all the time and I haven't even started the process (I'm trying to save up the adoption fees ahead of time.)

    I also get... "Well there's lots of kids here, you should adopt one of them instead."

    Thanks, but I feel God has led me to Ethiopia and really, it's none of your business.

    I mean I get told this from acquaintances or even people I don't know on the internet...

    Oh and there's also the "Yeh but with adoption you don't know what you're getting into... I mean what if the kid has ADHD or something and you don't know ahead of time?"

    As if a biological child is guaranteed to be perfect???

  7. I love the right questions. I hope all goes well with the adoption.

  8. Speaking as an adopted child, I think it's WONDERFUL that you would open your hearts and home to a child in need! I was so blessed to have such loving parents who treated me and loved me as their own.
    I can't wait to hear more about your adoption adventure!
    You go girl! And I would never ask you those first few questions. Trust me!

  9. The stupid, thoughtless questions you listed early on in this post are further evidence that people are stupid and thoughtless. It's why I love animals so much!

    Congratulations on your decision to adopt! You make me proud!

  10. My best friend is in the process of adopting from Ethiopia and after receiving their referral a little while back, now in the process of waiting for their court date. Her blog is if you would like to stop by and visit. I know she is always looking for other families who are adopting from Ethiopia.

    Hang in there! The wait is long, but God is so faithful and knows exactly when He wants to bring your precious angel home to your family. So thankful for families like yours that are doing much for His Kingdom!

  11. Very good advice. May God bless you as you move forward with your adoption plans.

  12. I'm sorry you've received any negative comments about adoption at all. Adoption is a wonderful thing. My oldest brother is adopted.

    Thank you for sharing this, and for linking up with TYVM!

  13. As I was reading this I kept thinking people could NOT have said those things to you. Wow. My grandfather loved that 13-word rule and would repeat it often...very often. Thank you for posting what should be asked. Those are very helpful to me.

    Thanks for the sweet comment about our new granddaughter. We are loving every minute!

  14. Great advice.
    I am sorry to hear people - even family members, have said thoughtless things to you.

    I think what you are doing is great and you and your child will be lucky to have each other.

  15. Wonderful post! My husband and I have thought about adopting, much later on down the road. People can be cruel sometimes. Why do they always seem to pick on parents? I think if it were me, I might start asking the nosy people why they choose not to adopt!

  16. Thank you for posting this. I am often the person who says the worst thing. After going through infertility I discovered for myself how hurtful words can be. I appreciate your thoughtful suggestions on what to say and the list of things that have been the most painful for you to hear. I hope you hear less of those in the future and more of the "how can I help?".
    Stacey McCastlain

  17. How sad is it really that there are just soo many people in this world who just don't get it? They ask ignornant questions and think in a way that clearly shows their lack of compassion and heart. To me it would seem soo obvious that anyone involved in such a process was no doubt being lead by God Himself to do such a thing. Who are any of us to question or ask why. I myself think what you are doing is one of the most selfless and loving and compassionate things anyone could do. It is sooo exciting as well. How anxious for it all to begin you must be. God bless you all. HUGS, Debbie

  18. Some people have no heart, good luck on the adoption, I pray for big blessings for you.

    I will keep all of these things in mind when I am speaking with someone wanting to adopt. Thank you for this post!

  19. Thanks for sharing. My thoughts? I thank God for people who have the heart to adopt children! God's word is pretty clear that He likes it, too! "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27

    Also, since He adopted us as His own, how can we overlook those children who also need a home?

    I hope I said it right, but I am thankful for people, like you, with compassion in their hearts to help those whom God has brought before them.

    "Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families." (Psalms 68:5-6)

    Living for Him, Joan

  20. Great post! I hope you don't have too long to wait to bring a new member of your family home.

  21. I am a stepmom to nine, and I can definitely relate to your second "what not to say." I wholeheartedly agree that caring for kids day in and day out, loving them, & providing for them makes them your "own kids" whether they share your biological genes or not. Thank you and God bless!

  22. I think thinking before you open your mouth, is a good thing.......

  23. As my father used to say, it's important to start the brain before engaging the mouth. I can't get over some of the thoughtless things that people say regarding children, adopted or biological. I had one woman tell me that I was selfish for only having one child. Of course, she didn't bother to ask about the numerous miscarriages or medical problems that led to us only having one. She just made an assumption that was hurtful and ignorant. Bless you for your decision. I know that the joy this will bring will outweigh the negative and thoughtless remarks that some people might make. Kathy

  24. If there's any way I can help your family where I am, give a shout out! God bless you and all yours.
    Here's my list.

  25. My sister adopted 2 of her 4 children. And one of my friends adopted 3 of her 5 children. May you be blessed with much happiness and joy!!

  26. I was (am) an adopted child. Bless you for being willing to adopt- it is tough process, and like you have experienced, one that is met with varied responses.

    Wonderful post! Shalom~

  27. Thanks for this post. I've had many friends who have adopted (or tried to adopt). It's not an easy process, that's for sure! Great post!

  28. This is a great post. I was a person who was going to adopt as a single parent. I had even harder and less thought out questions asked of me. I was young at the time and wanted to get myself well established before starting the adoption process. I am now 29, married, and have one 3 year old son. Adaption my still be in my future one day. Thanks for sharing your story. I will pray for your family and I hope it is blessed with another child soon!

  29. I hope you don't have to wait too much longer for your little one. Some people are idiots there's no two ways about it lol. Very helpful advice though to support someone that is going through adoption. Thanks. Great W post.

  30. I am sorry the questions are hurtful, I imagine most people aren't aware they are being hurtful. They are just trying to understand. That being said, I am glad to know what to say in the future. I pray your wait goes quickly.
    God Bless you for your generosity.

  31. good advice...i wish you strength and happiness throughout this process.

  32. Great W post! We have an adopted granddaughter. I can attest to how many things you have to go through before you "qualify" for adoption. My daughter was told by the Health Dept that she didn't have the right trash can. She put her foot down on that one and wanted to know if the crack addict who kept giving birth had the right trash can? Anyway, God gave us our Claire and then we have 3 biological grandkids. There is no difference whatsoever in our feelings for all 4 and we often say things like....Claire does this or that like her Nina....forgetting that she isn't biological. Your friends and family will understand in time that God has chosen you for a particular child to adopt. Until then....just love them and forgive. I guess that is all we can do with thoughtless people.


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