Before we decided to do foster care or adoption, I read stuff. I researched and tried to find answers to questions I had because I truly wanted to understand adoption, foster care and the process. Part of my search for answers, was trying to find security in choosing to foster and adopt. I read lots of statistics and information, but I never found the “real” information. I wanted answers to the questions that I was too afraid to ask. They were personal questions and honestly, I shouldn’t be asking stuff like that. And if I asked them out loud, I’d sound like a real jerk.
So, recently I posted on an adoption group, “what inconsiderate questions have you been asked, and please respond with an answer”. There was an overwhelming response and I decided to write this post, because I believe most questions come from a sincere place and I hope I can help provide understanding. This post is a way to help answer questions that should probably not be asked out loud to a foster or adopt family, but absolutely can be answered. I feel that questions are important, and there are no dumb questions…only those asked in a large group of junior high students. Let me start out by explaining…
Her name was Kathy and she redefined my understanding of asking questions. You see, I had been taught from a young age, that the only dumb question, was the question not asked. Teachers encouraged and reassured me and my classmates to raise a hand and ask any and all questions. We began raising our hands and asked..all the questions..all the time…and this seemed to be working, until junior high science class.
The year was 1988 and I remember Kathy and the lesson she taught our entire class about how our teacher’s lied. It all began the day our junior high science class was split into boys and girls and shown ‘THE REPRODUCTIVE FILM’. I remember vividly, giggling quietly with my friends while sitting on the cool gym floor inhaling the faint scent of sloppy joes from the cafeteria lunch. It was dark and the movie projector showed things like periods, ovaries, and body part illustrations. It was an unspoken rite of passage, and I’ll never forget the mixed feeling of pride and horror as the world of male/female reproduction was revealed in its large screen, full color glory. Unfortunately, Kathy must have missed that day of school.
One week later, we were back in science class picking up the human reproductive process from where the movie had left off. The teacher was sharing chalkboard drawings about fertilization and zygote formation. When from the front of the room a thin arm shot straight into the air. Kathy innocently asked. “But how does the sperm, get to the egg”. And in that moment, a class full of recently educated, junior high students inhaled as one and the silence was deafening. The science teacher reddened and then proceeded to fumble through the answer. And Kathy, in a moment of absolute clarity realized that she had asked the wrong question to the wrong group. You see, there is no such thing as a dumb question, but there is such thing as the wrong audience.
Are you adopting because you can’t have your own kids?
My grandmother keeps saying ‘I’m still hoping that you’ll have a successful pregnancy’, even though I’ve explained to her multiple times that two specialists confirmed that I will never be able to carry to term. She then tells me that I ‘didn’t try hard enough’. Daria – adoptive mom
“The doc said I have “unexplained infertility” and we didn’t purse any treatments because we knew what we were supposed to do. I quickly learned it bothered some people we didn’t “try harder” to have a bio child. So that, combined with the fact I NEVER want our son to feel like he was a last resort, I leave the years we spent trying to have a baby out of the story. I also think it’s creepy that people want dirty details on my lady bits.” – Farin adoptive mom
“After doing mission work at a young age I always knew I wanted to adopt and adoption was my first choice. I was blessed to marry a man with the same dreams as me. Not everyone is right for adoption and I think that’s why God placed adoption in our hearts. We have no desire to have bio children (this seems to shock a lot of people). To me there are so many beautiful children of God that are in desperate need of loving homes. Our son has blessed and enriched our lives and helped me grow in ways I never would have had I went a different route.” – Janae adoptive mom
“Do you understand that the child you’re adopting will need to be taken care of for her whole life”? “Doesn’t that scare you?”
“A family member wanted to know if my oldest would be “a productive member of society or a drain on the system”. Needless to say my kids rarely see her.” –Kathryn adoptive mom
“I’ve also been asked by my mother ‘How will you enjoy Disney World with a child like that? How will you have any quality and meaningful playtime?’ and of course ‘Why do you want a child like her? There are so many smart girls in China, Vietnam, India, Africa. You’re a racist, because you’re adopting a sick white girl and leaving the healthy black and Asian children to be prostitutes’. I wish I was making this up, but sadly, I’m not. My family comes from former USSR and over there, a child with any special needs is considered ‘unworthy’. I’m surprised that my visual impairment didn’t turn them off (though me using a cane has been a huge battle, because it made me ‘look blind’). They view our daughter as an ‘unworthy burden’. And my mother also asked me ‘Why can’t you adopt someone with a little bit of Down Syndrome?’ I didn’t even bother going into why that question is wrong. She won’t understand.” –
My mother (and the rest of my family) don’t understand where I’m coming from, and while it hurts, I try to remember that at the end of the day, it’s about a little girl that needs a family, not about my family’s acceptance (which would be nice, but if they choose not to be supportive, or accepting, it’s their loss).
There are days I’m scared to death, I’ll be changing his diapers as a 40 year old. But then there are days like today, where he wraps his arms around my neck and says, “I love you mommy” and I can’t imagine life without him.
Did you know that he had Down syndrome, spina bifida, developmental delays, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc.. before you adopted him? Did you get a discount? If it doesn’t work out, will the state system take him back?
“Yep, I’ve gotten that one about my son. I’m able to honestly say not only did we know but we met him and saw for ourselves before we gave a resounding yes.”- Sharon adoptive mom
“Yes we knew about several of his conditions. We knew he would be in a wheelchair. Other conditions were not diagnosed until he was evaluated by our doctors. Some of his diagnoses have been surprising, life-changing even, but we knew from the first time we saw his picture, he was our son. No diagnosis could ever change that.” – Mandy adoptive mom
“Yes, we knew most of it. There was one thing with her stomach that we didn’t know, but they truly didn’t know either. We intended to adopt kids with medical needs so it’s a non-issue for us.” – Celeste adoptive mom.
Which ones are your ‘real’ kids? Do you love your real kids more than your adopted? Can I do this?
“Will I love my newly adopted child as much as my biological child? The short answer is no. At least not at first. I think for men this can be a very different answer than women. Men are wired differently and bond in different ways with their children. Our experience with our first two adoptees was through the foster system, and we raised them from 3 months old. This made it easy to love them much the same way as the experience we had with our biological kids. They grew up calling us mom and dad from the beginning, and bonding with them was quick and easy for me. Our next adoption was of a boy that was almost 2 when he finally was in our home full time. This was a different experience entirely, and the bonding time was much longer. It was a challenge for a long time to open up and connect as a dad should with his kid. But now I would say I love him with all my heart as my boy. This experience has played out with our latest adoption as well. I know all men are different, so I can only speak to my own experiences, but it can be very hard to find space in your heart to bond with an older child. It just takes time I suppose. I imagine everyone’s experience is different on several levels. As a logical-thinking, left brained man, I have to bring up that the way you define love is important here. I have been a classroom teacher for a lot of years, and as a follower of Christ, I can say I love my students. At least I always tried to. I also love onion rings and pizza though…. So I guess this is a complicated answer, but there has come a point where I have bonded with my adopted kids the same way I bonded to my bio kids. My heart now does not see them as adopted. Just as my kids, and I could not imagine life without them. If this is a worry for someone thinking about adoption, I would say you are normal to worry about it. It is a difficult, and permanent decision. But I would tell everyone to adopt a child. The experience is beautiful and challenging and totally worth it. I am a blessed man in so many ways, and I thank the Lord that he saw fit to bless me with incredible children through birth and adoption.” Darren – my husband.
When we adopted a 2 yo, it was easy….we had ZERO issues. Later, we adopted 3 older kids, first an 11 year old, then 2 years later a 13 and 10 year old. We didn’t realize how hard it was going to be on every level. We were absolutely NOT prepared for their COMPLETE lack of education., social immaturity, and delays on every level, no adoption training that we took or that I have ever heard of prepares a family for this. the last 3 adoptions were harder on our other kids then we realized. Lesa -adoptive mom
The hardest part is also the same as what I didn’t know or expect before I adopted. That adopting was going to strip be bare to my soul and make me confront every insecurity, demon, and fear of my own. That my child’s trauma would be so great that they would have no way to express it or have me understand how they feel other than to bring me into the pain with them. It often feels like trying to save a drowning person. You quickly realize that in their panic and fear they have begun to drag you under and you are both in danger. Dealing with trauma related behaviors long term through adoption has at times turned me into a person I don’t even recognize. Impatient, numb, irritable, defeated, uncaring, and drained beyond a point I had never experienced. But someone how I get up and do it again the next day and the next. But it takes a toll on your emotional well being and other relationships, especially with your spouse. You can feel totally alone even in a group because nobody would understand what you are going through even if you told them. To help a child heal from their past you are going to have to wade through the sewers of your own psyche and begin to heal together. It is a shared journey, not a rescue effort. -Beth adoptive mom
What about your ‘own kids’? Is this a good idea? I have a neighbor who has a cousin that adopted a kid and he burned the house down and hurt their ‘real’ kids.
“It does affect me and in a large way, but it is very positive. On the positive side I get to see and experience awesome things that change my life. I could not imagine our family without adoption. I also have days where I wish it was only 2 biological children because that means more family trips, and I get “spoiled”, but I do realize that is very selfish, and immature. I love my family and I am so glad we took a journey that led to such amazing things.” Silas age 13
“Has adoption affected me? Yeah, it has taught me that their is no divide in love. When I look at my brothers and sisters I don’t see the divide between biological and adopted- I see my family, a perfect place to grow up. Growing up, with foster kids that came and went, I learned to love them all. I learned to love as my parents loved them, and that is one of the biggest blessings in my life. I learned to love any child that came through our home, the way I loved my family, because for a while they were. Adoption has affected me by showing me that when we erase the lines between adopted and biological, life suddenly becomes much more full. Adoption affects everyone, siblings especially, and it’s not in a negative way. I see other families, with just biological children, and I think, man how boring would my life be? If we went to every school event or my mom didn’t give up and order pizza every once in a while? I look at how my life could have been and how it is, and if I had to redo my life I wouldn’t change a moment of it. Adopted kids and biological kids, there’s no difference between us, because kids are kids and love is love.” Bailey age 16
“Our bios have been exposed to more trauma than most and it affects every person in our home. It is an intentional, daily balance to protect them so their own psychological well-being is preserved, while also protecting our son’s dignity. But because of what our girls have lived through, they have developed empathy and understanding of things that many adults never fully grasp. Our oldest daughter has vivid memories of visiting her brother in the orphanage. At almost 6 years old now, she knows and has seen the alternative for orphans that are not adopted. She insists that we would not be a whole family without her brother, and she loves him entirely despite the extra challenges. We are intentional about setting aside time (typically when brother is napping) where she receives extra attention and affection to counteract the trauma stress that sometimes rocks our house.” – Mandy adoptive mom
Foster care, adoption, and bad questions will always co-exist. Anytime a choice is made that is out of the natural order of things, we get curious. What is important to keep in mind, is that there is a time and a place to ask questions. I don’t want you to ask me to point out my ‘real children’ when standing in line at the grocery store, or if I know how babies are made while eating at a restaurant with my large family. Because of course I know how babies are made, I watched the movie in the junior high gym.