I am constantly surprised by how misunderstood the concept of adoption is. A lot of the ideas that the general public has about adoption are based off of old or inaccurate information. These misconceptions about adoption remind me that members of the adoption community need to speak out about adoption to educate and advocate for the whole truth. Here are four of the most common myths that I see over and over again that unfortunately still exist.
1. All birth mothers are junkies who don’t want their children
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every birth mother I have ever met loved her child enough to give him or her life. If you truly don’t want your child, the easier path would be to get an abortion instead of going through nine months of pregnancy. Most women who place their children for adoption carefully weigh their decision and lovingly place their child into a family they have chosen. Birth mothers are facing difficult circumstances, or else they wouldn’t be birth mothers. But that doesn’t mean they don’t love their child.
2. Adoptees are destined to be troubled kids
Just because a child was adopted doesn’t mean he or she has “issues.” Yes, adoption is difficult. Children are separated from their birth parents and that can cause some complicated emotions. But that doesn’t make them automatically “damaged.” Lots of children go through hard things growing up and go on to do great things, and adoptees are no different. With open adoption becoming more prevalent, the complications related to being adopted (feeling abandoned, having questions about where they came from, etc.) are reduced. Adoptees are human beings who are no more destined for bad behavior than anyone else.
3. Adoption should be kept a secret
Not telling a child that she was adopted is one of the greatest disservices an adoptive parent can do. If you don’t tell a child the truth about where he came from, you are—however unintentionally—shaming him for being adopted. Adoption is not something you need to hide; it is something a child should be able to talk about freely. Adoptees almost always find out they’re adopted eventually, and they feel lied to if they aren’t told the truth from the beginning. Don’t “wait until they’ll understand.” Children are not born with the idea of a biological family being the only way; they are taught. If you normalize a child’s adoption story from the very beginning, she won’t see it as any different than a traditional family. Being adopted means you are loved by both your parents and your birth parents, and that is something to be proud of.
4. Open adoption will only confuse the child
Open adoption is hard; there’s no way around that. It can be complicated. But as long as it’s safe, open adoption is by far the healthiest option for the child. It’s not confusing for the child if you don’t make it confusing as stated above. Children are taught what a ‘normal’ family is. As long as boundaries are clear, there’s no reason why a child isn’t perfectly capable of understanding that she came from her birth mother’s tummy and that now she is being raised by her parents.
Open adoption is the opposite of confusing. Adoptees will never have to question where they came from because their birth parents will be there to tell them their story. It won’t fix everything, but it will help a lot.
Everyone has a different story. There are always exceptions to the rule, but I am certain that these myths about adoption are just that—myths. There needs to be far more education than there is about adoption. What are some common misconceptions that you’ve seen regarding adoption? How do you handle them?