Not long ago, my four-year old son began asking questions about the color of his skin. Like his older sisters, he is a beautiful Amerasian combination of Caucasian and Korean. His curiosity started with simple statements about his skin being “brown” and mine being “white.” As his understanding of the topic seemed to grow, I thought I’d mix things up by telling him that he’s actually brown and white, although I knew in advance this may be too much for his young mind to comprehend. Sure enough, his nose crinkled up, he looked at my legs and arms, then at his, and confidently declared “No I’m not! I’m brown!!” Who could argue with him?
I share this story to illustrate a point: Oftentimes society feels the need to pigeon hole adopted families by asking things like “Who are your real parents?” or “Why did you adopt?” or “Where did you get her from? Did she cost a lot?” (Yes, these are real questions posed to adoptive parents and adoptees alike.) While adoption books and trainings do their best to prepare individuals for these insensitive inquiries, there really isn’t much that can prepare you for the staring, incredulous customer standing behind you and your adopted child in the grocery store.
Since these sorts of questions and other challenges that come with adoption can be unpredictable, it’s important to define your motivation for adopting before you begin the process. By solidifying your goals for adopting in advance, you will hopefully be better prepared to handle the challenges that will inevitably come.
You can begin this process by asking yourself, “What is my motivation for adopting?” While the answer to this may appear obvious, it isn’t the same for everyone. Some couples choose to adopt because it is a viable option for expanding their family when infertility has occurred. For others, the motive to adopt is to provide a sibling to an existing child in the family. Sometimes adoptive parents have religious or altruistic motives for adopting, possessing not only the financial ability to raise an adopted child(ren), but also the emotional capacity to love and nurture a child that may not otherwise have a permanent home.
Once you have identified your motive or “why” for adopting, it’s also a good idea to evaluate the resources available to you. Not only is it important to work within your budget in planning for the initial adoption expenses, but it is also critical that you understand the costs connected to raising a special needs child, for example. If you have a heart to adopt older children who have been in foster care or who come from abusive and/or neglectful homes, do you have the emotional wherewithal to provide consistent boundaries, insight, structure, and love?
Most adoptive children are proud of their stories and enjoy hearing the details of their birth and placement. Once they reach age seven or eight, however, they often begin asking more detailed questions about their adoption story. Being confident in your “why” for adopting will become crucial in explaining to your adopted child his/her story and affirming your choice to be their parent. In other words, you will not only be responsible for addressing the questions of family, friends, co-workers, and the occasional random stranger (if you choose to do so), but most importantly you will be responsible for building your child’s sense of self-esteem and value as you educate them about their adoption story.
At Adoption Matters, Inc. we are committed to assisting our adoptive families for the life of their adoption and we welcome the opportunity to be of assistance in providing counseling or connecting you with other appropriate adoption resources.