Common misunderstandings about adoptive parents and their adoption journey.
Much like pregnancy, every journey into and through adoption is different. Every adoptive parent has her own struggles, experiences, fears, and joys.
As I interacted with adoptees and adoptive families throughout my life I was guilty of building assumptions and stereotypes in my mind. Destroying some of those misunderstandings has been part of my own journey through adoption.
Don’t assume that each family’s story or adoption journey is the same or born out the same trauma. Throw off the beliefs that each family has walked the same path.
Adoption is a deeply personal decision. While it may not be the right decision for every family, all adoptive families do not fit a mold. Here are some of the things that you shouldn’t assume about me, and you probably shouldn’t assume about other adoptive families.
1. That they struggle with infertility.
One of the most commons comments that I hear about adoption is that it was Plan B. That adoption was for some reason secondary to having biological children. And, when that biological Plan A failed, the family was relegated to adoption.
Although for many adoption is a path to parenthood that their biology can’t support, this isn’t true of everyone. Many families choose adoption from the start. Or, for example, in our family, adoption has always been part of the plan only interrupted by blessing of three of our own biological children.
Now, adoption is part of our story but has never been second prize. We love our child very much!
2. That they will become pregnant after they adopt.
I have also heard dozens of anecdotes that a family who struggled with infertility fell pregnant shortly after adopting. However, adoption is not some sort of “Good Luck Chuck” for adoptive parents.
Parents undergo a vast amount of soul searching and required training before they complete an adoption. Don’t believe that one of the reasons that a parent goes through an adoption is to boost fertility.
Further, if an adoptive parent does become pregnant, don’t assume that it for some reason had something to do with the adoption! The adoption journey is hard enough without shadowing it with assumptions.
3. That they believe themselves to be doing a favor.
Adoptive parents are not looking for a crown. One of the terrible stigmas around adoption is that it is an affluent person’s attempt to do a child a favor.
According to UNICEF there are more than 150 million children worldwide who don’t have a home. (2) In the Philippines alone, there are more than one million children without a family.(3)
One adoption doesn’t solve the problem of extreme poverty and abandonment. Adoptive parents aren’t going to solve this problem alone. Instead adoptive parents are seeking a piece of their hearts –their families that are missing– and hopefully being part of the solution as well.
Sometimes just understanding the difference between positive and negative adoption language can be part of the solution.
4. That they are doing it for the money.
Some people do foster and receive state benefits. This is an honorable vocation, and I am proud of the people who take it on. However, not every child or adoption benefits from financial or tax breaks.
The current tax credit for adoption is up to $14,300. But, before you believe that this is a boon for the adoptive parent, recall that the average adoption in the United States costs upwards of $40,000 (3).
Further, the adoption credit is only applied after the adoption is finalized, months and sometimes years after the child comes into the home. And, it only applies if the family has actually paid more than $14,300 in taxes.
A tax credit reduces the amount of tax that a person pays dollar for dollar. So, the only way to receive the entire benefit is to owe at least $14,300 in taxes. Making this credit truly available only to those who already have a large tax liability.
5. That they aren’t scared.
Since announcing our adoption, I have heard many people explain to me that they were glad that we are doing it, but that they just couldn’t. I have had people mention that they were too old, too young, too busy.
But, I have also had people explain to me that they wouldn’t know how to take care of an adopted child.
Let me tell you a little secret. I have no idea what I am doing either.
Every morning I wake up and wing it with my own children! The adoption is no different. I am terrified about the questions that we will get from strangers, the questions that I will get from my child, and the new experiences that we will have to navigate.
Adoption is wonderful and terrifying.
6. That they don’t need help.
When your friend has a baby, you encourage her to take extra care of herself, you drop off a meal, and you shower her and the baby with expressions of joy and excitement. However, when someone adopts or fosters, we often don’t know how to respond.
Much like a newborn baby, this adoptive family is wading through attachment issues, new schedules, sleeplessness, and establishing new routines. If the child has special needs, then the family is navigating appointments and therapies.
And, if there are other children in the home, then the new siblings are trying to figure out what the new normal will be.
Those families need just as much support as that new mommy. Drop them a meal. Shower them with love. And, take extra care of the new siblings.
At the same time, make sure to give them enough distance to establish their own routines, to build their new family structure, and to let them make their own attachment connections.
Many families decide to “cocoon” after bringing home a new child. This means that they work very hard to ensure that every need of their new child is met exclusively by the parents and inside the home.
More than likely, they have brought a child into their home who has suffered from trauma and who may even speak a different language.
Regardless of age, trauma can manifest itself in young children in many different ways–from the way that they eat to the way that they communicate their emotions. This new family will likely need support from you as they bring home their new child and the space to figure it out!
Are you on an adoption journey?
If you want to read more about our adoption journey, check this out!