We’ve all heard the stories. “Adopted children [fill in the blank with something terrifying]–my sister’s ex-husband’s cousin, once removed told me.” Sometimes you’ll even hear horror stories in the adoption community. And if I’m being honest—sure—some of them are likely to be true or at least contain a grain of truth. But the same could be said about almost any demographic right? Saying “all adopted kids will grow up to be drug addicts” is as accurate as saying “all gardeners are criminals who bury their victims under their rose bushes.” Like, I’m sure just based on the laws of probability there has been at least one ill-willed gardener out there. I’m sure there was or is some gardener who used their garden shears for something unwholesome and used the evidence to feed their beloved flowers. So, yes, because it is true that some people grow up and become drug addicts (often due to an underlying mental health condition that has gone unchecked or untreated), some adopted children will, unfortunately, face different challenges like addiction. It sucks. For a lot of reasons. But as my adorable, but nerdy, husband loves to say “correlation does not equal causation”.
He says it a lot, and I have a small circle of nerdy friends that create a bit of an echo chamber. Maybe you’ve not heard that exact expression—-but it’s true. Just because there is a correlation between birth defects and the number of jazz albums debuting in the same year, it doesn’t mean that jazz causes birth defects. You with me? Okay good. So now that we’ve discussed how adopted kids don’t all automatically grow up and abuse drugs, let’s discuss some other nasty tropes that are trotted out every few years.
Myth: Children who are adopted don’t understand love.
Look, I don’t even want to justify that sentence’s existence by refuting it, but I have actually heard real live people say those words. And yes, I’ve already set the scene for you to tell me that just because one ignorant person says a thing, that doesn’t mean that others believe it. And you’d be right. And circumstantial evidence is inconclusive evidence. I won’t bore you with a chart, but I will tell you I’ve adopted two times, two different sibling groups. I know many adoptive families. These adopted children might struggle to accept love, but they absolutely understand it when it’s shown to them. Sometimes it’s hard to break down carefully constructed walls they’ve built, but that can be said about the general population at times. So there’s that.
Myth: Adoption is too expensive.
Okay, adoption cost me a lot. It’s cost me my selfishness, my income, a clean house, my free time, and part of my sanity (the jury is still out on exactly how much I have left. The amount of medication I’m on tells me the amount is not much. But to be fair, the kids didn’t do that, it’s my brain chemistry that’s messing me up. So…).
But what about the actual process of adoption? For us, it was free. We adopted from foster care. We adopted sibling groups. The state pays for them to have an allowance every month so we can do things like enroll them in sports and extracurriculars. It’s pretty rad to be able to say “yes” to the loads of things my kids want to do and not worry about the budget so much. So, adoption will cost you, but the monetary amount out of pocket doesn’t have to be excruciating.
Myth: You won’t love your adopted child like a biological child.
I’m probably biased. I don’t have any biological kids. But I know many adoptive families that bristle at this sentiment. For my part, the love I have for my kids is deep and equal. The way I feel about each child on any given day? Well, it’s hard not to be a little sweeter to the daughter that runs back from being with her friends just to say she loves me and give me a hug. I’m not saying I have favorites. But the quality and the way I express my love to my kids are often different. One of my kids hates physical touch. Another one would burrow herself under my skin and live there if she could. Both are difficult at times—especially when I am either wanting to express my happiness with my no-touches kid or get a little space from the all-the-snuggles kid. But that’s parenting sometimes.
Myth: Kids who are adopted from overseas will feel resentment for their adoption when they are older.
I’ll tread a bit more carefully here. There are entire documentaries and books that sort of say this outright. And I am not an adopted child, so I have no way of knowing exactly how adult adoptees feel. I will say that I know adult adoptees who are so happy to have been adopted. They may long for their culture, but they also appreciate that had they grown up where they started—they may not have had the opportunities they have now. Or not. That’s my point. Without polling every adult adoptee that was adopted internationally, there’s no way to be certain. These days, things like deplorable orphanage conditions and abject poverty are not as much of a thing. But it used to be. There used to be a (poorly met) need for orphanages, adoption agencies, and foster homes.
As society is changing the way people are treated as a whole, thankfully the way children are viewed is changing as well. There are More opportunities for reunification with biological parents and more community outreaches that help treat the problem of homelessness and child abandonment at the root. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening. Maybe in the next decade, international adoption won’t be needed. That’s really the hope of most people involved in adoption. I don’t want to adopt. I want children to be able to stay in safe loving families. I’ll forever be grateful for my kids, but I am never happy that they needed our family.