There are about 135,000 children adopted in the U.S. each year. Chances are good that you know someone whose life has been changed by adoption. So take a moment to learn more about adoption from families who’ve been created through adoption.
Here are ten things adoptive families want you to know:
1. Having a family created through adoption both does and doesn’t set us apart.
In almost every way, families that have come together through adoption are like a family created through any other means. The love and bonds that exist between parents, children and siblings, for example; those are the same as any family.
But there are a few differences. For example, families may not look alike. Or families might be a little larger with the addition of birth family. Some families have never experienced pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
Ultimately, the only thing you should assume about an adoptive family is that they love each other as fiercely as your family does.
2. We are a “real” family.
See #1. This hardly seems worth explaining, but it continues to happen, so please never imply that an adoptive family is not a “real” anything!
3. Adoption doesn’t make anyone better or worse.
The act of expanding ones family through adoption does not make a person a saint for “rescuing” a child. Nor is adoption a “consolation prize” if a couple is unable to have biological children.
Adoption is neither a “better” nor a “worse” option. It’s simply an option. It’s not the right option for every person, but it is for many.
4. It’s ok if you don’t know much about adoption- you can ask!
Although adoption is a common way to build families, many people don’t know much about adoption. Maybe your knowledge of adoption is outdated or based on stories.
It’s ok to ask an adoptive family questions about adoption if you want to educate yourself! Please just ask privately and politely. We’d rather you ask than accidentally spread inaccurate information. Try starting with, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about adoption?”
5. Not all adoptions are alike.
One adoptive family’s experience with adoption is not going to be universal. Some adoptions are very open, while some are more closed. There are domestic adoptions, international adoptions, transracial adoptions, foster care adoptions, and everything in between.
Once again, the best thing to do is to never assume something about an adoptive family. If you’re curious, you can ask in private.
6. We may not share every detail with you.
Adoptive families honor their children and their birth families by respecting their right to privacy. Adoptive parents make up one-third of an adoption story. The other two thirds belong to the adoptee and the birth parents. Some people are more comfortable sharing their stories than others, and there’s often a lot going on that you don’t know about.
So while some elements of an adoptive family’s adoption story are happily shared with the public, it’s perfectly ok if some details remain within a family. Please respect everyone’s right to peace and privacy.
7. Think before you speak, and encourage others to do the same.
“Who are your real parents?” “How much did it cost?” “I could never give my child up for adoption!” “He/she is so lucky to have you!” “Maybe you’ll get pregnant now!” “Aren’t you worried her/his parents will take her/him back?”
Common (and hurtful) statements like these could be remedied with some adoption education. But it’s not an adoptive family’s job to do that 24/7. They’ve got kids to raise! So before you speak, make sure you know what you’re talking about, and make sure you’ve considered how your words will affect others.
Remember: an adopted person, a birth parent, or an adoptive parent might be listening, and words are powerful. Be kind and exercise common sense.
8. Adopted children grow up.
Our cultural attitudes towards adoption affect us all. Let’s make sure that children who were welcomed into families through adoption know that adoption is celebrated.
You can help by teaching all children a bit about adoption, and that it’s just one of many amazing ways to expand a family. The cultural stigma surrounding adoption, for birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees alike, has dramatically changed over the last couple decades, but we can continue to support all members of the adoption triad by encourage widespread adoption education and acceptance.
9. You can drop the “adoptive” prefix.
We use it when writing blogs like this simply because it clarifies things as you read. But a child doesn’t go around calling their parents their “adoptive” parents. Mom and Dad work just fine!
Adopted children have birth families and adoptive families. But of course they’re just children with families, so don’t overthink it.
10. Celebrate with us!
Although adoption can be complex and tangled up with loss for all members of the adoption triad, there are always moments to be celebrated. Adoptive families want you to be a part of these joyful moments. More love is always a good thing, and adoption certainly brings lots of love!