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!”
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.