When talking about adoption, I think it’s important to be specific about what type of adoption situation you’re referring to. Foster care adoption is so different from adopting an orphan abroad, and that is different than domestic infant adoption. When people speak about adoption but aren’t specific, it leads to confusion and the lumping of words together that don’t always belong: orphan, saving, abuse, give up, etc. Our domestic infant adoption was not a situation where we “saved” our child.

I remember when we added our son to our insurance. When I told the lady on the phone we needed to add our son we adopted to our plan, she said something like, “Oh, that’s really wonderful of you! We need more people in the world like you!” I was unsure of how to respond, thinking, Um, okay, more people that just want a family? We didn’t do anything heroic. We wanted a baby. This lady may have been imagining me flying overseas to take in some parentless baby and thought of me as “saving” the baby. There are horrible situations where orphans have had both parents die, but this is a pretty rare case in terms of adoption.

Our son was placed with us by his birth mother. She did not give up on him or give him up. She chose an open adoption with us so that she can visit with him and see the thousands of pictures I post of him on social media. She gave him life and then a more stable home with two parents. Do we feel that we saved him? No. She’s a beautiful soul. His life is definitely different now than it would have been, but we don’t deserve a medal.

When an abused/traumatized child is put in foster care and then eventually, permanently adopted (which takes a long time), I don’t believe even those parents consider themselves “saviors.” You can never be “saved” completely from pain because your past is always with you. Trauma that is there will not go away the minute the child enters a permanent home. That child will have trauma with him or her always. He can learn coping skills, but the idea that an adoption is saving someone by erasing his or her trauma is not true.

Let’s use the term, “save” for when it’s appropriate: Jesus, superheroes, and piggy banks.

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