10 Things Adoption Is NOT


As a walking billboard for adoption, our family has gotten a lot of questions over the years in grocery stores and other places. I honestly never get bothered by questions (unless they are invasive about my child’s story) because I’m so proud of the way we were knit together. And what mother doesn’t like talking about her kids? Duh. 

But I’ve come to the realization that there are SO. MANY. Misconceptions about what Adoption is, that I want to address it today to clear up any confusion.
1. Adoption is NOT- a Cure for Infertility.  When we told people we were adopting, after a few years of infertility treatments, we were told many times “As soon as you adopt, you’ll get pregnant.” And I thought well that’s terrible…like an adopted child is simply a placeholder for a “real” child.
For many years, I prayed desperately to get pregnant again. But once that door was closed, adopting a child was my #1 goal. I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore. I wanted a child through adoption. To be honest, I would have been pissed if I got pregnant after adoption. 
I think it was really important for us to grieve the plans we had for our future, then spend time researching adoption, then spend time dreaming of adoption together as a couple before deciding to adopt. It’s a process. And you need to allow yourself time. 
2. Adoption is NOT- A Replacement. I had a woman in my Adoptive/Foster class years ago tell me that she had just lost her father, so she needed a baby immediately. I encouraged her to get a puppy.  Adopting a child is not going to erase the pain of losing someone. It will bring more and different joy and pain into your life, but please don’t adopt a child thinking it will heal the hurt. 
3. Adoption is NOT- a Way to Save a Relationship. Adoption and foster care, just like parenthood in general, will stretch and strain a marriage. If there is one thing I could stress to potential adoptive/foster parents it is this: make sure your relationship is rock solid before you jump in. Parenting a child from hard places will be like climbing Everest. You want a really great partner who can encourage you to keep climbing each and every day. Divorce is an ugly reality in this journey and it is one more loss felt by a child already dealing with pain.
4. Adoption is NOT- an Accessory. Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Katherine Heigle, Madonna are all super cool adoptive moms. But this isn’t like going out and buying the hottest Louis Vuitton bag or whatever. This is work. This is another person’s life on the line. Adoption is really super cool, and it’s a miracle how it works sometimes. But please, I bet you….become trauma-competent before you adopt (check out the works of Dr. Karyn Purvis). And if you adopt a child of another color, do the research about what it will take to raise a child of another culture/race. Set yourself and your child up for success.
5. Adoption is NOT- the Same as a Biological Child. We are fortunate to have both in our family- bio and adopted. When our kids talk about facial features and such, it always includes conversations about birth families. Our adopted sons always forget who their sister’s birthmom is (it’s me) and I get a chuckle out of that. I love that they dream about how tall they will be when they grow up, what kind of talent they will have (both are convinced they will be NFL superstars), and how close they will live to me so I can do their laundry and cook for them when they’re adults. 
One of the things I love most about adoption is the fact that they don’t look like me. I love seeing how tall they’re getting, how their personalities are developing, and what talent they surprise me with. It’s so. stinking. awesome. It’s not the same as a bio child, but it’s every bit as amazing. 
6. Adoption is NOT- a Blank Slate. Even if you take a child home from the hospital after birth (which we did), they are FAR from a blank slate. There was 9 months of bonding, nutrition, development, and life before they were placed in your arms. They come with their own personalities, dispositions, talents, tendencies, and features. The best thing you can do is understand that you cannot determine what that child will be like…..but here is what you can do: encourage, equip, correct, direct, lead, and cherish. Embrace how different your child may be and watch in amazement as they grow into the person God meant for them to be.
7. Adoption is NOT- Easy.  For us, the love was easy, but the rest was not. Standing in the hospital as a precious woman gave us her child…that was not easy. Coming to the realization that my child suffered emotional pain from that loss…that was not easy. Helping my child through that time and those tears…that was not easy. Parenting a child with drug and alcohol exposures….that was not easy. None of it is easy. But it IS worth it. So so worth it.
8 Adoption is NOT- Your Story to Tell. Many people are fascinated with adoption stories, which can lead to invasive questions like “Was his mom a teenager? Was she on drugs? Why didn’t she want him?” These are very personal questions to my child, and a part of his story that HE will have to decide to tell someday. Your child’s story is not yours to tell. 
9. Adoption is NOT Co-Parenting. Many people think that since we have an open adoption, it must operate like a shared custody situation. This often scares away potential adoptive parents and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. 
Yes, we include their first mothers in our lives. We are grateful for the opportunity to parent these kiddos and we want to honor them every chance we get.
It’s not co-parenting. For us, it’s parenting a child who brought an incredible bio family into our lives as well.
10. Adoption is NOT a One-Time Event. Adoption will always be a part of your family’s journey. It colors many things in a child’s life. Processing their story and healing their trauma is an ongoing process for a child. It is complicated and multi-layered. Some days, you forget it’s there. Some days, it’s all you an see. 
It’s a continual learning path for parents, as well. We try and fail, we learn and grow. While the legal definition of adoption may end in the court room, the journey of adoption never truly ends. 
Do you have something to add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

6 thoughts on “10 Things Adoption Is NOT”

  1. Um, I think you’ll find that the mothers of the children you care for DID often want their children. They’d parent by themselves if they could and co-parenting would be their second preference. Are you suggesting they don’t feel trauma every time their child calls you ‘mummy’ or wish it was them who their child was hugging, or hoping they could take the child and run to a safe place? You’ve got it so wrong, written from your place of privilege.


    1. Bec, you are absolutely right. I’m so glad you reminded me of this perspective. While it doesn’t represent the first mothers in our lives, it certainly does represent the feelings of many. It was completely insensitive of me to insinuate first mothers don’t want to parent their children. Thanks for knocking me down a peg….I needed that.


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