You probably know someone who has adopted a child. But despite the increasing visibility of this family-building option, there are still a lot of misconceptions about adoption and the people within the adoption triad.
There’s a lot that we can all learn about adoption. Let’s start here. Adoptive parents will thank you for learning these five things:
1. Adoptive Parents Aren’t Better or Worse Than Anyone
For that matter, it’s not a competition.
Adoption is not a consolation prize, nor is it second-best to having a biological child. Adoption is also not a point of moral superiority — adoptive parents did not “save” a child, nor are they inherently good people because they adopted.
Adoptive parents are simply people who wanted to have a child, and they happened to do that through adoption. There’s no right or wrong, better or worse way to have a family! Adoption is one wonderful option out of many.
2. Adoptive Parents Are Real Parents
A person’s birth parents will always be an important part of who they are, and adoptive parents love and respect that. But for some reason, there seems to be some confusion from those outside of the adoption triad about who a child’s “real parents” are.
Parents are the people who patch up scraped knees, weather temper tantrums and read the same picture book a hundred times. Families created through adoption are real parents, real children and real siblings.
3. Adoptive Parents Want You to Use Correct Terminology for a Reason
They’re not being picky about semantics over nothing. It’s important that you use correct adoption language around young adoptees, because how people speak about their adoption, their birth and adoptive families and about their identity as an adoptee will partly shape how they see themselves as they grow into adulthood.
This is why adoptive parents bristle when you use words like “real parents,” “give up for adoption,” or other potentially hurtful terms. One phrase could stick with a child for life, and you’d never know. Please learn positive terminology and use it. You never know when a young adoptee is listening to you.
4. Adoptive Parents Understand Some Curiosity
However, satiating your curiosity should never come at the expense of a child’s sense of security. Again, a child could be listening, and you might inadvertently say something hurtful or plain annoying out of ignorance.
When in doubt, ask — but ask privately and ask politely. Then choose your questions with some common sense. For example, adoptive parents will protect their child’s right to privacy, as well as the birth family’s privacy. If an adoptive parent declines to answer your question, that’s fine.
5. Adoptive Parents Don’t Want You to Make Assumptions
Not all adoptive parents dealt with infertility; some did. Not all adopted children came to their parents as a baby; some did. Not all birth families are able to have a relationship with their child and the adoptive family; some do. Not all adopted children experienced physical or emotional trauma; some did.
The point is: no two adoption stories are alike. There is no “typical” adoption, birth parent, adoptive parent, or adoptee. Making assumptions will only circulate harmful stereotypes about adoption and those involved, especially adoptees. Again, if you’d like to know an adoptive family’s story, you may ask an adoptive parent in private with an, “I’d love to hear about your family’s adoption journey, if you don’t mind sharing.” Out of respect for their child and birth family, they may choose not to share some things, but it never hurts to ask if you’re open to learning something new!