I posted this as a blog, but it is so important to me, that I wanted it to be around for others to see!
What Not to Say to Adoptive Parents and other Adoption Etiquette Hints
As open adoption becomes more prevalent, there is much to educate the public on. Many people have questions, and I am a firm believer that no question is a stupid question, but, it is how and when you ask it that may be hurtful and cause emotional damage. . . .
This is a topic near and dear to my heart as my son is adopted. You may think it is silly, but people do ask and they seem to lose all sense of etiquette and sensitivity when they feel it is their right to know. I hope you will take the time to read this and hopefully learn something new. I'm sure if you don't know somebody involved with adoption yet, you will, eventually. You probably already do. . . they just haven't talked about it.
Not all adopted children are from another country. Yes, there are children to adopt here in the United States. . . and NO, these children are not all "crack" babies. People choose where and how to adopt with what best suits their family. There is no right or wrong decision. Intercountry, domestic, infant, open, closed, semi-open, waiting children, foster care to adopt programs. . .adoptive parents have usually spent countless hours researching what seems to be the best option for them. . . Remember. . . for them, not you.
Probably one of the most popular questions--
How much did you pay for your baby?
I'm going to lay on the line here. . . It costs a lot! Each adoption varies depending on the country, the agency, the birthmother, what have you--but we have already divulged our hearts, our souls, our pocketbooks and opened our lives to be completely vulnerable during this process so it's best left unsaid. Some adoption programs, like the waiting children, are virtually cost free, and some private domestic adoptions could put a child through college--a private college at that. There is, however, a federal tax rebate--about $11,000 now--to help ease some of the financial burden. You do have to pay all the money up front, but you can file in the tax year that your adoption was finalized for your rebate. Haven't had a finalization? You can claim your adoption costs in the tax year 1 year after you paid out the expenses. Please check with your local tax preparer to verify these rules and too make sure you file correctly!
Here's one I still hear and my son is almost 8 months old. . . .
I bet you will get pregnant now. . .
Well without going into great detail, it would have to virtually be a true miracle. It's not the infertility part that is hurtful to me. It just ticks me off that people make it seem that they don't think my son is as worthy as a biological child. I can't believe it, but it happens. Adopted families are not inferior so please think before you speak. You will not make the adoptive parents feel better by saying that, I guarantee it. And, not everyone adopts because they cannot procreate. . . .Adoption is another way to create a family.
Adoptive parents involved with an open adoption are usually pretty open with everyone else about their family. With that, we do kind of set ourselves up for these intrusive questions and comments and do realize that people generally mean no harm by them. Remember, though, that details about the adoption belong to the family and it is at their discretion on what they wish to share.
Respect their privacy.
You don't have the right to know how much it cost, the circumstances leading up to the adoption, or information about the biological parents. Please don't refer to the biological parents as second class citizens, like "that girl", or "some chick who got knocked up." Adoptive parents hold their birthparents very near and dear to their hearts--after all--without them, they would not have their child/children. Birthparents are human beings with feelings too. They have made one of the most difficult decisions in their lives and work hard to deal with the emotional repercussions of relinquishment. You may regret making a rude comment around someone you didn't know is a birthparent.
It is for the adoptive parent to inform their child about their adoption, not you, so please don't ask questions with the child nearby. Each child develops differently and may not be emotionally ready to find out the information you are curious about.
Ninety-two percent of adoptive parents have been called "saints," says author David A. Kirk in his book Shared Fate: A Theory and Method of Adoptive Relationships (Ben-Simon Publications). Even such praise can be unsettling: If parents are "special" for adopting, it implies that it takes an extraordinary person to take on an unlovable child, a charity case. I am not a saint, nor is my husband (that's for sure), we are parents--just like everyone else. We did not rescue our child, if anything, he rescued us by becoming part of our family! We were chosen, by our birthmother, to parent her biological son. He would have not been loved any more or less had she chosen to parent him. He would just have a different life. We are his Mommy and Daddy and she is our angel who helped him find his family through God.
Waiting parents are probably the most vulnerable. I can't tell you how many times people informed us that the birthmother could change her mind. Yes, she can, and each state has different laws and rules with that. Please don't add to our anxiety. The journey is already long, emotional, and more often difficult than fun. Would you walk up to a pregnant person and say, "You know, you could have a miscarriage. . ." My guess is no. Adoption is permanent and is a legal change involving the court. All the nightmare stories you hear about on the news are often misrepresented and not all the information is given. But, it does happen sometimes. The birthmother changes her mind and it is possible for her to reclaim her child within the legal time. Please check with your own state for more information on the laws.
Want to Know More About Adoption? Ask Later.
Perhaps you're thinking of adopting. If your questions are prompted by obtaining more knowledge about adoption, then make a date or ask to telephone the adoptive parent when his child is not present. You will probably receive more straightforward information privately. I love to share my own experiences, ups and downs, with others. I am definitely not a pro, but sometimes it helps to find out what it was like while researching what kind of adoption may be right for you. There are so many emotions throughout the entire journey. What you thought would be easy turns out to be impossible and what you thought you would never do happens--just like that. Be prepared with a box of tissues--I prefer Puffs Plus!! :)
If you are not getting the answers you want, then it may just be best to back off a bit. Every adoption situation is completely different and one person may not be as willing to share as another. . . or, it is just not the right time. Some days we just don't feel like talking about it.
My Jakob will always know that he is adopted and will always know his birthmother, however, we do not want to make the whole focus of his life on the fact that he is adopted. Kids should be kids. They should be able to love, laugh, play, cry, eat, sleep, make messes, sing, dance, scream, whatever their little heart's desire with always knowing they are safe, sound, and secure it the loving arms of their families.
Do your children know about adoption?
It may be a great learning opportunity to talk to them about it and how it is another wonderful way to make a family. That may help ease some discomfort in school and discourage teasing that may occur.
There is a wealth of knowledge out there. You can check the internet, your local library, and of course, ebay for more information.
If you're considering adopting or just looking to become more familiar with the topic, check some of these books out:
Birthmothers by Merry Bloch Jones
Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier
Adoption is a Family Affair! What Relatives & Friends Must Know (Perspectives Press)
By Patricia Irwin Johnston
Making Sense of Adoption (Harper Paperbacks)
By Lois Melina
Parenting Your Adopted Child: A Positive Approach to Building a Strong Family (McGraw-Hill)
By Andrew Adesman, M.D. with Christine Adamec and Susan Caughman
The Unofficial Guide to Adopting a Child (Wiley)
By Andrea DellaVecchio, MA
Shared Fate: A Theory and Method of Adoptive Relationships (Ben-Simon Publications)
By David A. Kirk
There are a wealth of internet sites that offer excellent information and more reading resources. I do not think that I can post them, but if you search adoption--you will most certainly find them!!