Adoption/Foster Care: Things Not to Say

This month is National Foster Care Month. Originally I thought it was National Adoption Month, but that’s November, apparently. This month I will be blogging on adoption and foster care issues.

A friend or relative tells you they’re considering adoption or foster care. Your eyes get big. Your mind runs wild. Your lips purse. If you’re smart you’ll keep them pursed.

What the potential parents don’t need are your opinions. Or your warnings. Or your fears.

When Les and I told people we were bringing Joy and her sister Debby to live with us and working for adoption, the responses were . . .  well, let’s just say they weren’t encouraging. Yes, Joy and Debby were 14 and 15. Yes, it was scary. But believe me, we wouldn’t have told people if we hadn’t already been sure we were doing this.

I surveyed some friends and relatives who have done fostering or adopting. Below are 11 things they and we wish people had never said to us before we adopted:

  1. Why would you want to do this? (Really, do you ask people that when they are having a baby?)
  2. Why don’t you just have your own? OR Weren’t you able to have kids? (Since when is it polite to inquire about someone’s reproductive life?)
  3. They are troubled (or damaged) kids, and you don’t want all the headaches. (Because you have some guarantee that your child will never cause you a moment of heartache?)
  4. Look were they came from! OR You won’t know anything about their family. (Because there’s no nuts in your extended family? And you know every detail of your extended family?)
  5. It costs too much to adopt. OR How much did they cost? (“Yikes,” said my friend Deanna. “I usually explain that we didn’t ‘buy’ them. We paid for services to bring them home to us.” And besides children aren’t worth the expense, right?)
  6. Kids in foster care are way too much work. (And naturally born children are a piece of cake? And we don’t do hard things?)
  7. Don’t close your eyes at night. OR Did you hear about that foster kid who killed his foster parents (or burnt down their house)? (Thank you for that. We never thought about the issues. And we really should let fear ruin our lives.)
  8. Wow, I would never do that! (which implies we’re idiots) OR Wow, I could never do that! (which treats us as saints—we’re neither.)
  9. Your poor REAL child, this will ruin his/her life. (They are ALL real children, and it takes more than a sibling—even a difficult one—to ruin a life.)
  10. How can you love a child that isn’t “yours”? (To which my friend Lynda innocently answered on a day where she’d had enough: “I know you married your cousin, but my husband wasn’t related to me before we got married and I love him very much, so I know loving someone who doesn’t share my DNA works!”)
  11. Those kids are so lucky you’re adopting (fostering) them. (As my friend Deanna said: “We feel like we are the ‘lucky’ ones. Blessed is probably a better word. Blessed that God would choose us to invite these wonderful little people to share their lives with us! Also, if you think about everything adopted children go through…I wouldn’t call it lucky.”)

So what do you say?

The same things you would say to anyone who tells you they are expecting:

  • Congratulations!
  • I’m so happy for you!
  • Can I throw you a shower?
  • What do you need?
  • We can’t wait to meet him/her/them!

Be supportive. That’s what your friends really need.

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