I am adopted; I have a “good” adoption story in that the first foster home I went to was the one that adopted me. I have such loving adoptive parents and I am so lucky they chose me. They continue to do foster care to this day, as they did while I was growing up. Because of this, I have an inside perspective of the foster care system, adoption, and the support necessary to help struggling families thrive. I am so thankful for all the research out there that help advocates and foster parents and anyone supporting these vulnerable children and families learn, but I also think the inside perspective adopted and foster kids have is so important. So I want to share 5 things I think most people don’t know about adoption, straight from the mouth of an adopted child. Because the more we know, the more we can connect, support, love and care for for these families.
1) If we were born in the US, we never lived in orphanages. Surprisingly, at least to us adopted kids, a lot of children and adults don’t have a basic understanding of the foster care and adoptive system in the US. Please educate yourself and your children, so we stop getting asked what orphanage we live in now.
2) Most of us are open books when it comes to our stories. Don’t be afraid to ask us the hard questions so that you can learn. I love sharing my experience, especially if it helps someone understand adoption, foster care, or anything similar better. But at the same time, respect we are not all in this place. Some adoptees find it too painful to share, and may never be ready to open up. Ask us questions, but respect us if we just don’t want to answer them.
3) We have trauma that we will probably be working through for the rest of our lives. Adoption is not an act that once done legally closes that chapter and we’re good. As an adoptive parent, please don’t think you can swoop in and “fix” everything. We are so thankful you want to, but support us with resources like therapy that can help us explore and work through what sometimes we can’t even put into words. But also we are not broken because of this trauma, and it does not define us. We are strong and so resilient!
4) Even in adulthood, we may struggle with some tough questions. What did my birth parents look like? What is their medical history? Why did they give me up? If you have those answers please give them to us! The more we know, the less we will be tempted to fantasize about this make believe kingdom where our birth parents are king and queen and will come back and reclaim us. This is why open adoptions, if can be done safely, are so beneficial.
5) This is a hard one, but sometimes we still struggle with not feeling wanted, not feeling good enough, having to prove ourselves. This is where it takes all of us, whether you are directly connected to children in need or not, to come alongside families, children in need, shoot just kids in general to convince them time and time again, every child is wanted, every child is loved. As a mentor, as a teacher, as a coach, as a family friend, as a community member we should be speaking truth into all kids in our lives. We may never know a child’s story, but a child can never be told too much how awesome they are!