My husband and I initially announced that we were going to adopt an HIV+ child from Thailand in May of 2012. Unfortunately, the Thai adoption process didn’t work out for us. We remain committed advocates for HIV+ and older child adoption. You can learn more about HIV here
In May of 2014, we were matched with a 9-year-old boy out of the foster care system. He became part of our family in June 2014 and we finalized that November. He is such a great kid. People often try to thank us for adopting an older child, but we always respond with how blessed we are to parent him. And that’s true. It’s not because he is always perfect (WHO IS?), but because we are honored that we get to be a part of his life.
In January of 2016, our lives were flipped upside down when a birth family chose us to adopt their 4-month-old boy with special needs.
When Alex and I got married, we knew adoption was in our future. What I didn’t expect was to discover that adoption is complex, messy, and bittersweet. After reading and listening to the voices of adoptees and first parents (birthparents), I have come to understand that adoption is a bandaid on a much bigger problem facing famlies and children in our world. In a perfect world, adoption would not be necessary.
Did we feel called by God to adopt? Absolutely. But that calling comes with a deep sense of responsibility to honor the children and their families. I feel called to deepen my understanding of the path that families walk before they end at adoption. I feel called to try and help them before they reach that conclusion.
If you are interested in adopting, then I encourage you to use the waiting time to read, study, learn, absorb. And, I mean, go beyond the mind-numbing trainings that you have to do anyway. This blog tells my story. I’m a white adoptive parent. I only have one, small slice of the experience pie. The best, most valuable resource for me has been listening to adoptees. Yes, it can be extremely difficult to hear what they have to say sometimes. But, if you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a break. Sit with it. Let your brain mull it over. You might still be uncomfortable, but I promise you, it will make you a better parent because you’ve now heard a perspective that your child might have.
My other encouragement to you would be do make sure you do your research. Adoption ethics is a murky business and you do have a responsibility to your children and their birth families. Here are some things that I would do to research ethics (plus some other stuff that you need to know):
- Look up reviews of adoption agencies.
- If it’s an international adoption, how is the agency working in-country to support first families? How do they ensure that the information they have on file is accurate and wasn’t provided by traffickers looking to get rich off international adoption? You might have to do your own research. I’ve heard of families hiring Private Investigators in-country to make sure that the file is correct.
- If it’s a domestic infant adoption, how does the agency present options to birthmothers? Are the mothers coerced into giving up their children (false promises, support only if they agree to give up their child)? What kind of counseling services do they provide? What post-adoption services do they offer to birthparents? Read everything you can about agencies. Ultimately, you as the adoptive parent hold alot of the power and so it’s your responsibility to make sure that no one is being coerced on your behalf. Please email me if you need more info on this.
- If it’s a foster adoption agency, how do they talk about first families? What kind of support do they offer adoptive parents who are struggling with their children? While this isn’t agency specific, do some research into how CPS removes children from their families and what safeguards for families are in place. We, as a society, could do better at supporting families before their kids are removed.
- Research the benefits of open adoption. Even though it might be uncomfortable for you, it’s almost always in the best interest of the child to maintain contact with at least some members of their birth family, if you can.
- If you have younger children and are looking at adopting older kids, please look into disrupting birth order. I’m not saying that it never works, but it can be incredibly difficult.
- Look at the power dynamics in the adoption triad. If you have no idea what I just said, google it. Figure out where you are in the power structure and what you can do to avoid abusing that power.
- You’ll probably hear about this in training, but do more research into attachment and bonding and RAD. Your child might not have these issues, but they also might and so you want to be ready. FYI- we have found play to be an incredibly valuable tool as we bond with our son. In fact, we basically played 24/7 for the first week he was here and it really helped him loosen up.
- Are you planning on changing the child’s name? Hopefully some of the adoptee resources below will give you some ideas on if/how you should do this.
- If you’re adopting transracially, please, for the love, do your research on race in America. You cannot raise a child of color as a white child. If you have very few friends of color, imagine how your child will feel when they are the only person of color at every social gathering. The transracial adoption facebook group listed below has probably been the most valuable resource I’ve found online, because it is led by adult transracial adoptees, who have lived what your children will be living. I’m not going to lie. It has been difficult to confront my privilege and understand the racial underpinnings of our society, but my kid will live this so I need to understand it. Adopting transracially adds a layer of complexity to an already complex process. Here is a plea from an adoptee to transracial adoptive parents to recognize just how important this is.
LIST OF RESOURCES
Books and Movies
- The Connected Child by Karen Purvis, David Cross, and Wendy Sunsihine- This is an excellent intro into how adopted kids function and gives you some concrete ideas about discipline and empathy for your kids.
- The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson- We haven’t read this yet, but we’re going through it in our adoption support group. It’s a REALLY great resource that’s written for all kids but is pertinent to our adopted kiddos.
- Closure– This documentary follows transracial adoptee Angela Tucker as she searches for her birth family. It is poignant and beautiful. It is a great introduction to learning how to consider life from an adoptee perspective because she does a great job at explaining how she feels.
- Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
DFW Support Group
- Tapestry Ministry at Irving Bible Church– this is a very large adoption and foster care support ministry in the DFW area. As far as I’m concerned, this ministry is totally legit. They offer support groups, waiting family groups, and the couple that runs it can connect you to people that are in similar situations. Check it out!
- Jen Hatmaker (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
- Moses the Adoptee? This post was written by an adoptee.
- Sovereignly Adopted? A call for Christians to examine adoption practices
- A post written on Lost Daughters to transracial adoptive parents
- Transracial Adoption facebook group– Like most public discussions about race, discussions can get a little rough at times, but I urge you to stick with it. So many great perspectives and voices are offered. It will really expand your world view.
- Between Worlds: While not specifically about adoption, she does a really great job at collecting resources and articulating privilege.
- Just in case you didn’t read it above, here’s a plea from an adult adoptee to transracial parents.
Adoptive Parent Voices (Didn’t include too many since you can just search and find about a bazillion.)
- The Family Daniels– My friend Abbey adopted her precious son out of foster care and she blogs about adoption and foster care with compassion and great insight. If you go back into her archives, you can read her thoughts on being a foster parent, which I thought were so thought-provoking.
- The Clarkes– This foster/adoptive mama does fantastic work with supporting teen moms as they try to parent their children themselves. This is the kind of orphan care that the world needs more of- caring for families before their children become orphans.
- Rage Against the Minivan: Kristen Howerton might be the most famous adoptive parent (aside from Angelina, of course). She blogs about a whole lot of stuff, but I like her posture in relation to adoption.
- This RAD Mom– This mom blogs (anonymously) about Reactive Attachment Disorder. Even if your kids don’t have a RAD diagnosis, she has some great things to say.
Adoptee Voices (A quick note: we are extremely privileged to be able to listen in to adoptee voices. They do not owe it to us, as adoptive parents, to share their stories but they do it anyway and we are better parents because of it. Please treat these experiences with the respect they deserve.)
- The Lost Daughters– Several different adult adoptees contribute to this site and I’ve found it to be so incredibly helpful. “Our mission is to bring readers the perspectives and narratives of adopted women, and to highlight their strength, resiliency, and wisdom. We aim to critically discuss the positives and negatives of the institution of adoption from a place of empowerment and peace.”
- You Should Be Grateful tumblr- This is a crowd sourced site where adoptees write in things that have been said to them. It’s horrifying. Hopefully, you will never ever say anything like this to your children, but this should give you a chance to see the kind of things that are said to adoptees.
- Confessions of an Adoptee tumblr– Another crowd-sourced blog where adoptees express their true feelings about adoption. This is a good picture of the spectrum of feelings related to adoption. Some are thankful; some are angry. All are valid.
- I was a Foster Kid– so insightful into what foster kids experience with some really fabulous advice for foster and adoptive parents.
- The Adopted Life– This is Angela Tucker’s blog (of “Closure” documentary fame). She’s a transracial adoptee and does a great job about talking adoptive parents through the adoptee experience.
- Blog of an Adoptee
- Tara Vanderwoude– Adoptee who advocates for a broader understanding of adoption.
- The Adopted Ones
- Red Thread Broken
- From the Eyes of the Child
- My Mind on Paper
- Diary of a Not So Angry Adoptee
- Land of Gazillion Adoptees– “This is the facebook page for Land of Gazillion Adoptees LLC (LGA). LGA is a multimedia company that collaborates with adoptees to own and talk about their experiences on their terms.”
Birth Parent Voices
- Pinterest board about birthmother blogs– This isn’t my board but it hosts a wide variety of birthparent perspectives
- The Happiest Sad
- The Musings of the Lame– A site that encompasses so many adoption related issues. You can read the full site description here. Again, some of this might be hard to read, but if you can sit with it for a while and understand a different perspective, then it will make you a better, more compassionate, well-informed parent.
- Reflections of a Birth Mother– This woman is a wonderful advocate for birth parents. She really wants people to understand the hard truths in adoption.