A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a diner waiting for my french toast with bacon and over easy eggs. I overheard the woman at the table behind me talking to her companion about her best friend who had recently reunited with her birth family. She said she thought it was great, but that she told her friend to not betray her family. After all, they had taken her in and given her a top-notch education and a childhood full of happy memories. They were the best parents, and she should always be grateful for what they did for her. This rubbed me the wrong way. I’m sure these people were wonderful parents, but not because they chose to adopt.
The phrase “taking in” a child implies that raising an adoptee is a burden; something you don’t necessarily want, but are willing to do. Adoptive parents don’t adopt to give a child a better life, or at least they shouldn’t. Hopeful adoptive families aren’t trying to rescue kids. They’re trying to fulfill their own desires to be parents. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, that’s the way it should be because adopting a child in an attempt to be charitable robs the child of the chance to be raised in a family that has watched, waited, and prayed for them. An adoptee is not “taken in” like a kitten on the street. They are adopted into a home where they are wanted and loved.
Adoptive parents should not be praised simply for parenting. There is no raising a child “like your own” in adoption. Your child is simply your own. Adoptees are just as much their parents’ child as a biological child would be. Adoptive parents do wonderful, praiseworthy things for their children—just like biological parents. They are no better or worse than anybody else.
Another misconception is that there are so many babies who need homes that anyone willing to adopt is giving love to a child who wouldn’t get it anywhere else. This is absolutely not true. With domestic infant adoption, there are far more families waiting to adopt than there are children placed for adoption. It takes many families months, even years, to adopt a child because there simply aren’t that many.
The reason that many people think this is that they confuse the foster care system for the traditional domestic adoption system. They are not the same thing; foster care is an entirely different program. A child placed with a family by a birth mother never enters the foster system. There is no shortage of potential parents for a woman who is thinking of placing her child for adoption.
If a woman chooses not to terminate her pregnancy and instead continues through the emotional and physical torment of bearing and placing a child, she loves that baby. Regardless of other things going on in her life, she loves her child enough to give her life and find her a family who can care for her. The concept that a child would not be loved if he wasn’t adopted is entirely misguided.
Adoptees are not babies in need. They are not a burden or a project for some wonderful, kind-hearted family to take on. They are not rescued or saved, and they don’t have to be grateful. Adoptees are human beings who happen to be raised by parents that are not biologically related to them.
I hope the woman from the diner reads this someday. I hope she understands that her best friend’s parents were the lucky ones. They were able to adopt a daughter and give her the love they had always wanted to give a child. I hope she sees that an adoptive parent is just a parent. There is nothing glamorous about it. They are tired, cranky moms and dads who change diapers and make mistakes. They are not angels who swoop down to rescue needy children. They are not heroes; they are not monsters; they are simply people. Just like everyone else.