A Guide to Asking Questions of Adoptive Families... {the good and the bad}

This post was NOT my idea! Chrissy at Injera and Chocolate Gravy first came up with these questions. I added my own twist on them and my own explanations. Please read her post too for her perspective. :)

Instead of:
"Hey... did you get him from Africa?"
Try this:
"Gorgeous baby! Are you an adoptive family?"
(Why? "get him" implies we took a vacation and brought home a souvenir. It demoralizes my son, the adoption process, and assumes all black children are from Africa. Many are from your own county, you know. They could have been adopted from Foster Care, they may be neighbor kids, they may be Haitian. You just don't know.) *italics quoted directly from Chrissy because she just said it so well.

Instead of:
"Do you have any REAL children?"
"Is this your whole family?"
 Why? Because nothing hurts more than insinuating that he is not really mine… or not quite as real as a biological child. Seriously. He is really mine, I am really his and that’s the end of it. Blood has nothing to do with anything. Not to mention that our first two children died and then we spent years dealing with infertility and THEN spent another 2 years praying about and going through the adoption process to finally have our precious son in our arms… and I’m hearing he isn’t real? Not really and truly mine? Quickest way to get me to bawl my eyes out.

Instead of:
"He is SO lucky you SAVED him!"
"What a lucky mom you are to have such a beautiful baby!"
"I bet he is such a huge blessing to YOU!"

We are the lucky ones. We gained an amazing little boy who fills our day with more joy and love than we could have ever imagined. We gained. His part in this process started with loss and grief… grief he is still going through and processing. He lost his first mother, his family, his home, his language, his culture, familiar sounds and smells. As his mother I have seen his grief and the effects of loss on his heart. I would never call that lucky. We are blessed to love him and I try to comprehend every day why he had to go through some of the trauma he has. Considering him the lucky one is just ignorant.

Instead of:
"When did you get him?"
"How long has he been home?"

Why? He isn’t something we bought at the store. He is a treasured member of the family – long prayed and longed for.

Instead of:
"What happened to his real parents?"
Keeping this question to yourself. 
If you are truly interested in how children become orphans do the research on your own. This is not yours, nor anyone elses business. Do I ask you the intimate details of your family history? No. It’s inappropriate, rude, and insensitive – please treat my son, myself, and his birth parents with respect. His story is just that – HIS.

Instead of:
"Why would his parents give him away?"
(see above and do not ever ever speak this outloud)

Children are not given away. It is a sacrifice and one that you and I cannot ever comprehend. Some birth parents have lost their spouse and have no way of providing for their children. Some children lose both parents to disease and extended family is too poverty stricken to feed and care for them. There are many reasons why a child becomes an orphan and they are all devastating to those who make that sacrifice. It’s not as if these mom’s just want to go party all night and don’t feel like taking care of a kid. They have made the hardest decision out of pure love.  

Instead of:
"Yeah, I heard of this one lady who adopted this boy and he wound up killing their dog and then..."
Keeping it to yourself
Seriously this makes no sense to me. It’s like those people who enjoy telling pregnant women horror stories of labor. What’s the point? It’s not like she’s going to change her mind about having the baby and it sure isn’t like she doesn’t already know it’s going to be hard! All it does is discourage. Same with adopting families. We have already done years of research. We know 10,000 times more about adoption and hear many more stories than you. We know there are hard things about adoption. But do you really want us to change our minds? If so, why would you want to prevent a child gaining a family? Be and encouragement and keep the horror stories to yourself.

Instead of:
"This is Lauren's adopted son..."
“This is Lauren’s son.”

Why? Because he is. I don’t introduce your children to my friends as, “this one is the slow reader, and this one is the straight A student, and this one is the one with the lazy eye.” It’s silly. Don’t use a qualifier to describe my child. He is my son – fully.

Instead of:
"...is adopted..."
"...was adopted..."

Why? My child WAS adopted, but now he is just my son. 

Adoption is merely how he entered our family – it does not describe who he is anymore than me going around telling people that your child IS a c-section. Again – just silly.

Instead of:
“Oh, this must be babysitting day!”
“What a cute baby! Is he yours?”

We live in a day and age where there are so many interracial families that there is no need to stick your foot in your mouth. Really. Never assume that the black baby strapped to the white mother is being babysat. But if you are curious if he is our son, just ask! We’ll be happy to tell you that yes he is all ours and the most wonderful blessing on earth! Just be prepared for us to launch into all the wonderful things about adoption and how if you’ve never considered it you really should pray about it and on and on and on… ;)

Instead of:
“Be careful because lots of those international kids come with some kind of disease or mental issue. You want to make sure you get the right one.”
“Are you open to special needs? I’ve heard there are so many special needs children who need homes.”

Because guess what? These children who are sick – physically or mentally or both – are precious. They are every bit as deserving of love and a family as perfectly healthy children. I heard this so many times and it makes me so sad. We actually REQUESTED a special needs child! I know, call us crazy, but we knew that there was nothing that could keep us from loving a child… no illness that would make him any less worthy of our family. So we asked specifically for a child with special needs and God did an incredible thing – he honored that request. Our son was referred to us with several issues… and then we watch God heal every single one of them one by one. But you know what? If God chose not to heal him, we wouldn’t love him any less and we certainly would never regret bringing him home. In fact, we are so passionate about this that we are planning to adopt again someday – and we will again request special needs. 

** This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the crazy things that people have said or will say. We realize that by being and interracial adoptive family we are a sort-of walking billboard. We know that we will come across insensitive people all the time and we truly do forgive, pray for them, and move on. But there are many well meaning people who simply don't know that things are wrong to ask/say. This post is for you, if you are one of those people who truly want to be educated about this. :) **


Kristin said...

This was a great post, Lauren :)

Lisa @ Life is Crazy Beautiful said...

So, so, so true...even with domestic adoption.

{amy} said...

This is a great list, Lauren! I can't believe some of the things that people say! I appreciate you posting this, because I would hate to say something the wrong way! I hadn't thought about the is/was adopted thing, but your point totally makes sense! I can't imagine someone saying that their child is a VBAC!! And I've always felt like people shouldn't refer to a child as so-and-so's adopted child. He/she is simply their child! :)

Kristin said...

There are some things that people say and I cringe, and then I remember sometimes people are just ignorant, and so I correct them. Most the time they are very receptive and want to say the right things and then sometimes they just don't get it, at all. The times I really get annoyed are when my oldest two who are biological are with me and someone asks "well do these two belong to you or are they adopted, too?" What? Really?

Summerbaby7992 said...


Heather said...

Perfect! After being home 8 years from Russia, I still have people ask me if she understands my language? What? Good job!

Devan @ UnspokenGrief said...

I love this list Lauren!

dada said...

I studied your list! :)
As much as people ask questions in good hearts, chances are the way we phase it are not the most sensible way.

trooppetrie said...

five weeks ago we were blessed with two new blessings. they are my nieces boys. they are 1 and 3, it happened very quickly. we had about 2 days notice. the first week at church a man said welcome home to the .... family. they just returned from west virgina where they adopted 2 children. no we have custody for 6 months and then will apply for custody. then his wife came up to me and said she would love to take the baby for us if it was too much. no thoughts that they are family or we already love them or they are ours. it was the craziest day ever. thank you for posting this

Jamie Fitzgerald said...

It's amazing how rude people can be! I have a friend that was adopted and her parents had two biological children. She said she didn't feel anyless a part her family because she was adopted because she said, "My parents chose me, they picked me and brought me home to be their family." Don't let negative people or people uneducated about adoption rain on your parade!!!

Shelby said...

This is awesome. Our son (who happens to be adopted) is white (not our choice, we did not care a bit about his race) - so we do not get these questions automatically. However, when it comes up, the "do you have any children of your own" is SUCH a common question. People definitely need to think before saying things like that!!

Lisa said...

Hi Lauren,

I think I remember following your blog before my season away and before the adoption of your precious son. He is gorgeous and you are a shining bright family for Jesus. God's blessing on you and the adventure known as parenting. His grace is sufficient and His blessings unquantifiable.


formerly of www.extravagantgrace.net

Liliane Doris said...

wow, your heart is in the right place, may GOD bless you and your family