Adoption is the epitome of beauty, in my opinion. The placing of a child, a human being, into the hands of another to raise and nurture is quite incredible. Adoptions happen in many ways and, of course, it is not always so clean-cut (if there was such a thing in the adoption world). Not all adoptions happen when birth parents choose a profile out of a list of waiting, prospective parents. Some birth moms chose alone. Some birth parents are so desperate that they leave their child at an orphanage, at a hospital or fire station, and sometimes they are left in much more dire circumstances. Sometimes, birth parents try really hard to regain custody of their child through the government foster care system, but are unable to due to addictions or other serious issues. Adoption is the severing of the primary attachment between parent and child. Therefore, there is usually a pain in the adoption story. Pain mixed with joy has often been my observation of adoption. Difficult circumstances, situations that aren’t ideal, and even situations that are cruel or wrong may create the most beautiful adoption journeys. This is because adoption is a gift.
If I could count the ways that adoption has been a gift to our family, I feel like I could go on forever. If I could recount all the ways that adoption has blessed those around me, both in the adoption community and in the broader society, I would have a thick tome filled with heartwarming accounts. Occasionally, I meet someone really opposed to adoption. It might be because they cannot imagine being separated from a child, or may harbor ideas of government interference in parenting. I’ve spoken with birth parents who have lost custody of their children permanently and feel the pain of separation that didn’t happen by choice. For some of these people, adoption was not something sought out and planned for at all. Extended family, like grandparents and biological aunties and uncles, may also mourn after an adoption—all of the “would haves” and the missed moments. Adoption is usually tinged with pain. This is extremely important to acknowledge when we consider adoption, It is crucial to keep that in the back of our minds whenever we discuss the topic. It is easy to think of the blessings, but we must always be mindful and respectful of the painful realities too. It is equally important to think about the type of language we use when talking about adoption—phrases should be positive, and respectful.
Let’s look at some examples of how adoption is, respectfully, a blessing.
1. New Beginnings
Adoption allows a birth mother, or birth parents, to place their child in the care of others. Notice how I did not say “give the child away” or “give up” the child. This is often considered to be an example of negative adoption language that could miscommunicate a child’s adoption journey. In an adoption, birth parents are participating in the most-selfless act that I can think of: they have willingly acknowledged an inability to parent and submitted to the pain of being separated from their child. This might often look like a better life than the birth parent could have provided, stability, or in the case of addictions in the birth parents, a chance to break generational bondages that have led to this event. Adoption allows birth parents to give this new life as a gift to their child.
Adoption is a gift for partners that are unable to have children of their own. This does not, in any way, diminish the act of adoption and should not be considered second to conceiving biological children. These are old thoughts that we need to be done away with. Adoption is truly a gift to those that have been unable to create a family in the traditional ways. Many prospective adoptive parents have waited long years to have children, have gone through expensive fertility programs, and have spent quite a bit on adoption proceedings (particularly if they have considered adopting internationally). I view the commitment of these people to adoption as admirable. How exciting it is to have been waiting all this time, and then to have an adoptive child placed in your family.
3. Forever Family
Adoption is a gift to families that would like to grow in size. For my husband and I, we had never imagined having only two children. Two medically fragile pregnancies, and one near-brush with death later, and we were done–no more pregnancies for me. I was immensely sad and didn’t know what to do next. We had always imagined a house full of kids. I was mourning the ability to do this in our own capacity. One day, I saw a poster at the community pool advertising the need for foster parents in our town. I stewed about how to tell my husband that I was sure this is what we were meant to do. It turned out he was feeling the same and didn’t know how to tell me. Six months later, we welcomed our first foster placement, and thus actually began our adoption journey (although we didn’t know it at the time). Adoption gave us the gift of a home bustling with children—something that we didn’t think was possible despite us not having any fertility issues. Adoption gave our biological children the gift of more siblings (something that they have loved and been overjoyed about). Our oldest son let us know that he was praying for us to adopt nine more kids (especially some brothers). While he hasn’t been given nine more siblings (dare I say, yet?), he was blessed with a brother through adoption just over two years ago; he does see that as a gift.
I want to take a moment to mention the savior complex that can come with adoption. The savior complex can be held by those involved with the adoption or those outside of the adoption in the general community. It is the idea that the adoptive parents have saved the adopted child. The Savior complex is sometimes associated with racism or prejudiced ideas about the culture or ethnicity of the adopted child. It may also pertain to ideas of the race of the adoptive family saving the race of the adoptee. These ideas are harmful to the child’s perception of self, are disrespectful and inappropriate to the culture of the adoptee, and are a high and lofty way to look at oneself if it is the adoptive parent seeing themselves in this savior role. The whole idea puts someone as more important or more valuable than someone else, and this is not appropriate. The savior complex is never a reason to adopt and should be quashed openly if this idea ever arises. Adoptive parents should be aware of their own ideology and should be quick to put a stop to any comments pertaining to this issue from those around them.
Adoption is a gift to siblings of adoption. In cases where siblings are adopted together into one family, this is an incredible gift and blessing. In the popular, short series on YouTube called “reMoved,” the story of two siblings living apart in foster care are then reunited in the same home. It is both heartbreaking and affirming as to how important sibling relationships are (some scenes may be graphic for audiences sensitive to violence and abuse). Sometimes, large sibling groups (I’ve seen one case of six siblings) are seeking to be placed for adoption together. As a parent, I cannot imagine my children being split up. I cannot imagine the loss these kids would feel if they no longer had each other. Adoption of siblings into one home is a gift of magnificent proportions. Conversely, perhaps one sibling was adopted previously and another sibling is born later on. This is, perhaps, a double gift if the adoptive family feels they would like to adopt this sibling. Not only does the family gain another member, but the siblings are also together. However it happens, brothers and sisters in adoption are a special blessing.
To change it up a bit, I would like to say that preservation of culture in adoption is a gift. For children adopted into a home of a different culture or ethnicity than them, it is a real gift for the adoptive parents to respect the customs and traditions of that child. In our home, we do traditional language studies, we join in cultural days for our children, make food from their cultures, and buy books and toys from their culture. An adoptive family that we know travelled to the country of origin of their adopted children and even visited the orphanages the children came from. This can be an expensive endeavor, but I was humbled and blessed by their desire to connect their kids with their pasts. One of the children was even able to meet one of the orphanage workers that cared for him as a child. This is incredibly special. To bless an adoptee with something like this is truly a gift.
Adoption is a gift to the community. You may have heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The further I travel on my parenting journey, the more I know this to be true. When we choose to reach out and adopt, we welcome vulnerable children into our home, we offer a connection of families, we accept and internalize the joys and pains of our children, and we honor those who came before us.A child of adoption is raised in the community and then in turn becomes an adult who lives and gives back in that same community. Adoption is a gift that keeps giving and is a circle that does not end.
The Gift of Adoption
The first documented case of foster care (and arguably adoption) happened in the Old Testament when baby Moses was put in a reed basket and cast off in the river to be saved from Pharaoh. In 1851, the state of Massachusetts passed the first adoption statute in the USA. Adoption has been around for a very long time. There has always been a need, and there have always been people that have stepped forward and acted as adoptive parents. Adoption is something that has changed immensely over time both in legalities and in how it is viewed in society. Adoption used to be cloaked in shame and kept a secret. Adoptees were almost never in contact with biological families. Now, closed adoptions are a thing of the past. Records are no longer sealed and destroyed. Adoptees are given their social and medical histories. Third parties act to connect biological relatives with adoptees making sure family chains are not forever broken.
In our modern world, adoptions happen transracially, and across the ocean in other parts of the world. We have books about adoption, seminars, training, and professionals who support adoptive families, and adoptees. Our predecessors were not so blessed. Birth mothers were often squirreled away to give birth in secret and were left with shame with empty arms and no way to ever connect with their child. Currently, birth mothers have the most support out of any other time in history. Today, people have more understanding of adoption (both the joys and the trials). Adoption is talked about openly and is considered acceptable with nothing to be ashamed of. We have adoption workers, adoption support groups, adoption counselors, and public recognition of the adoption journey. Where I live, we have an adoption outreach worker who organizes annual adoption parties for families of adoption to get together and celebrate together. This worker is also available to talk, cry, and vent with. Adoptive families are supported and seen. Adoptees are supported and seen. My local worker from the Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia is someone that I value, and reach out to for advice and to share the good and not-so-good things. Today, adoption is proclaimed and celebrated. I am excited and proud to live at a time where adoption can be celebrated as the gift that it is.Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.