I was so excited when Snaps asked me to be a part of the writing included on her new website. The opportunity to write about adoption to an expanded audience is something I was eager to take part in. That being said, I had *NO* idea what specifically to write about. I didn’t want my first post to be too heavy or negative. At the same time, I didn’t want something that’s just fluffy and feel-good. After several days of thinking about it and talking with my wife (she’s awesome, by the way), I decided on a simple topic based on the questions our family hears most often, both on Twitch and in real life: Five common phrases things every adoptive family hears, that probably don’t come across the way you think they do.
I should probably fill you in on my experiences with adoption. My wife and I are blessed to have four kids. We adopted our two oldest through foster care here in the USA and our two youngest from China. In addition to our children, my sister was adopted from Romania, and my wife was adopted by her dad. While these experiences don’t necessarily qualify me as an “expert” on the topic of adoption; at the very least, I’ve experienced enough to share my thoughts on things in a way that hopefully gets you thinking differently about adoption and about your interactions with people who have adopted.
Before I get into the five things, I want to state that I know these comments are not coming from a negative viewpoint. The people saying these things mean well 99% of the time. However, when looking at these statements from a parent’s point of view, or (more importantly) the child’s point of view, these statements can have a different meaning than what was probably initially intended.
Without further adieu: The Five Phrases Adoptive Families Hear That Probably Don’t Come Across the Way You Think They Do.
1. “You all are such great people!”
We hear this comment a lot, and we understand the intent behind it; however, the intent is not greater than the impact. The impact of those words is the idea that we are great people for taking pity on some children and adopting them. It makes us sound like we are working a charity case. We did not adopt to “rescue” our kids or save them in any way. If I’m being honest, the reason we adopted was purely selfish-- we adopted to grow our family. We just wanted to be parents! When my wife or I hear this comment, we easily shrug it off, but now that our children are getting older and are starting to understand what other people are saying we are trying really hard to teach them the truth about adoption and the meaning behind what others are saying.
2. “Your kids are so lucky!” or “Your kids are lucky to have you!”
Kids in need of adoption have experienced trauma and loss on a level few people ever experience in their entire lifetime. Think about it: children in the US foster care system and in orphanages overseas have lost their birth parents, their belief in trusted adults to meet their needs, and any sense of stability most children experience growing up. In typical circumstances, most babies and toddlers get bottles when they are hungry, a clean diaper when they are wet, and hugs and kisses to feel loved. Their needs are met almost immediately and continuously each time the needs are expressed. Unfortunately, many of the children from traumatic backgrounds have not had these same experiences so when a child hears how lucky they are to have been adopted, they likely won’t see it the same way as they believe if they were truly lucky, they wouldn’t have had to experience those losses and hardships in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I am *VERY* happy to be a daddy to my four kids. It’s just that my heart breaks that they were ever in a situation that required adoption in the first place.
3. “Do you want your own kids?” or “Are you going to have kids of your own?”
Out of all the statements I discuss in this post, this is the one that probably the hardest to hear and handle with grace. This is one where the words used completely change the scope of the conversation. What the person is likely asking is something along the lines of whether or not we are planning on having biological children. This question, while still not 100% appropriate, is phrased much better. When asking adoptive parents if they’re going to have children of their own, the implication is made that their adopted children are not *their* children. Trust me…my four kids are ALLLLLL mine. I’m their daddy, and there is nothing that’s going to change that. Yes, our children have lives that started long before we entered the picture, and they have other families who will always be a part of them no matter what, but even with all of that, my four children are still my own. I do not see them or love them any differently than the way any other dad loves and cares for his children. In fact, during each of our four adoption processes, we swore in front of government officials that we would always love and care for our children as if they had been born to us biologically, and there is no doubt in our mind we do. We just need everyone else to understand that ;)
4. “How much did your kids cost?”
Nothing. We didn’t buy our kids--that’s called human trafficking, and that’s illegal! The cost of adoption comes from having to pay for the process of the adoption. There are many background checks, a home study, government paperwork, traveling costs, and various other fees associated with an adoption. What you’re likely trying to ascertain is the actual cost of the adoption process.
Some adoptive families do not wish to discuss the cost of the adoption with other non-adoptive families. Many have likened it to discussing the cost of a woman’s hospital birth. The hospital bill is a necessary piece of the birthing process—you can’t give birth and have a baby without paying for the people who participated at the hospital, but no one ever discusses that bill nor do they ever hint at the bill being some sort of payment for the baby. Everyone just knows the bill is needed to reimburse those involved for the services they performed. It’s the same for adoption costs!
My family has made no secret of the cost of the adoption process for our two kiddos from China. In fact, we made that information very public. I’m a school counselor, and my wife was a teacher of the deaf for a private school before becoming a stay-at-home-mom. We are a very average family with big hearts for growing our family through adoption but with little salaries to support those dreams. Each adoption from China costs roughly $40,000. While we never planned to adopt again from China (let alone so quickly!), we ended up adopting twice within the same year and a half ($80,000 total), which as you can imagine, was quite a stretch financially. We received so much love and support from our Twitch family during both adoption processes. My wife and I were absolutely blown away by the contributions to help bring our children home. Twitch ended up raising around $6000 total for our adoptions…that’s insane!
Often times, it is almost taboo to discuss adoption fees. We made this information public in an effort to fundraise and write grants for our adoptions. We paid a significant amount of money for the process to bring our children home, we did not buy them. Just as when a mother gives birth to a child in a hospital and pays the fees for utilizing hospital resources, she did not buy her baby from the hospital.
5. “Now that you’ve adopted, you’ll finally get pregnant!”
First of all – please, God, NO! Ha! Four kids are keeping us VERY busy at the moment – we’re fine with keeping it that way. On a more serious note, this implies that people only adopted because they couldn’t have children biologically; that adoption is second place or a consolation prize. Our kids aren’t a consolation prize, they’re *THE* prize.
My wife and I had always planned on having a biological kid or two, and then adopting from China sometime after that. In China, you cannot adopt a child until both parents are 30 years old. So, our thoughts were to have biological children and start saving in our 20s and then adopt from China the second we were both old enough to do so. Fortunately, things did not work out the way we planned. After two failed rounds of IVF (in vitro fertilization), we decided that maybe we should start looking to adopt sooner, rather than later. At the time, this was a painful realization and process to work through, but looking back, we wouldn’t want it any other way. We can’t imagine our family without each of our children being a part of it!
Adoption is something that is often praised and admired by the outside world, and it is definitely a beautiful thing that can bring beauty from ashes. What many fail to realize is the trauma, loss, and heartache that is also associated with the process for all people involved. Most families are happy to share about their adoption journey and answer any non-invasive questions you might have. If you’re thinking about asking or saying the things I mentioned above, I’d encourage you not to (LUL). Instead, maybe ma say something about how beautiful the family is or how happy the kids are.
Thank you all for reading this post. I hope you found it informative and it helps you think differently about adoption in general. I’m always happy to talk about adoption, our journey, or any other questions you might have.
If you’re afraid that the question you have might be offensive, it’s fine – just be ready for a little gentle correcting on my part before I answer it!