How to Respond to Adoption Haters

Will It Be Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3?

Kathleen Kelly Halverson February 21, 2019
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I remember when I wrote one of my very first articles for this publication. I was so excited to be a published author on adoption—a topic about which I am passionate, and for good reason: My husband and I adopted our son from South Korea in 2010. Adoption allowed us to become parents—a dream that could never be realized from a biological perspective. I loved the idea of giving back to the adoption community a little bit by writing articles about adoption, by advocating for the rights of birth families, and by encouraging others to adopt and/or foster.

What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the adoption haters.

Lucky for me, I haven’t run into that many of them, but they are out there. And I know because one hater in particular inserted what I consider to be a negative comment (three in a row, actually) at the bottom of one of the very first articles I had ever written for this website. The hater begged readers of my article to not adopt, with pleas that included “don’t do it” (paraphrased). This hater even likened the adoption of a child to the purchase of a high-end luxury car. (As if adoption was at ALL about money. We all know it’s not.) This hater reminded my readers that “you and your money may be supporting human traffickers” and even provided a link to an article about that very *topic. This hater even went so far as to say that all people who want to adopt internationally do so because “the child’s birth family can’t interfere”!

As a parent and as a writer on All Things Adoption, there is nothing worse than being subjected to an unsolicited lecture about the “evils of adoption” from those whom we in the adoption community affectionately (ahem) call the “adoption haters.” And in such a public way, nonetheless! These are people who make it their mission to speak negatively about adoption and who insist that adoption is not a proper or ethical option for the adopted child or for the parents who adopt.

So, if you do come across the adoption haters, how do you respond to the vitriol, the accusations, the incorrect assumptions being hurled at you? You have three choices. Open the door of your choice—just consider the decision carefully before opening that door.

Door #1: Engage and educate.

Door #2: Ignore.

Door #3: Use humor.

Door #1: Engage and Educate

One tactic you can take is to use facts and hard evidence to engage and educate the adoption haters. This decision requires energy and a deep commitment to go “back and forth” with the hater in an argument. One reason that “haters gonna hate” is because they may not know the actual facts and truths about adoption. Perhaps they are believing the untruths told to them by other, less reliable sources than you. Perhaps no one has taken the time to ever engage with them and attempt to educate them about the realities of adoption. Perhaps that time is now, and perhaps that person is you.

I’m not talking about engaging in overly sappy, emotional arguments such as trying to sway them with affirmations that “adoption is the best thing that has ever happened to us as parents” or “we wanted to make a difference in the world.” (Insert icky face here. That will get you nowhere, trust me. You may feel that way, but, they don’t care. Keep emotions out of it.)

Rather, I’m talking about coming at them with actual hard evidence and undisputed facts—facts that can backed up by credible sources, evidence-based research studies, and “real news” (i.e., serious journalism, not sensationalistic tabloid stories or unreliable news outlets). Take a logical, evidence-based approach and engage these haters with a well-structured argument that can stand up to the test of “What’s your source?” and “Who’d you hear THAT from?” When you can respond to these questions with solid answers like, “The New York Times Adoptions section” or “a research study on adoption since its inception, conducted by two social workers and published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development (such as this article),” the haters really can’t put up much of an argument! And, if they continue to do so, you may want to give up the ghost and just move right on to Door #2. It’s clear that they just won’t be swayed, and you should stop wasting your time and energy on them. And whatever you do, don’t let the discussion devolve into name-calling and immature behavior that is so easy to engage in via the “anonymity” of the web and of social media. Be the better person, and don’t stoop to their level, no matter how tempting it may be.

Door #2: Ignore

By far my favorite of the three doors is Door #2—ignore the haters—mainly because it is the most self-protective action you can take. And you must be super self-protective when it comes to nurturing your well-being as an adoptive parent! Your self-esteem and confidence as a parent have a direct impact on your child and on your family as a whole. That is serious stuff and nothing to mess around with! As with any issue that is particularly provocative and passion-inducing for certain people, those who “hate on” adoption and who suggest that it is somehow unethical tend to be people whose minds will NOT be changed. So, how much energy do you really want to devote to an untruth that—try as you might to pick apart its erroneous assumptions and untruths—the haters are not willing to budge on?

Unless you decide to use the unlikeliest of strategies—humor—which can be quite an effective tool if used the right way. Why? Because, it surprises the heck out of people to hear a lighthearted joke emerge in response to an issue that they see as very serious.

Door #3: Use humor

Deciding on Door #3—using humor—is definitely not for everyone. But it can be quite effective. For example, I don’t think that I personally am skilled enough at the art of humor (and, I really do think it’s an art) to attempt this. But I know plenty of people who could totally pull this off and use the element of surprise to head off those haters. And, in the process, defuse a potentially tense situation. For example, I could have responded to my hater with something like, “Funny, I don’t remember comparing my future adopted child to a high-end luxury car on the adoption application; hmmm, let me go back and check that!” Another humorous response would be something like this: “It’s interesting that you say people want to internationally adopt because the child’s birth family can’t interfere. Because the reason WE adopted was because we wanted to be parents.”

How Did I Respond to My Hater?

By now, you are probably wondering how I responded to my particular adoption hater. First, I did a web search on the person’s name—and promptly saw that I was not the only adoption writer that this person was hating on. The vitriol was spread far and wide on the web. That led me to believe that this person would never be swayed, despite my best attempts. And that this person had far too much time on their hands! It was not worth my energy.

So, I chose Door #2. I ignored them. I made better use of my time and energy by ignoring that hater—and got back to living my life. I’m a parent and an adoption writer who remains happy and content and confident with our decision to adopt our son.

It may be that “haters gonna hate”—but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to a word that they say. Choice is a wonderful thing, and it’s yours to make! Be the better person, choose wisely, and move on. Choose love over hate—every, single time. Because guess what? Love always wins.

See also 5 Types of Adoption Haters . . . and How to Deal With Them.

*That is not to say that human trafficking is not a “thing”—sadly, it does exist, even in adoption. Parents, social workers, agencies, and attorneys can prevent trafficking by educating themselves on all of the warning signs that human trafficking is happening or about to happen. For details on this, see these two articles: Prevent Trafficking: Adopt and Child Trafficking and Adoption.

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Kathleen Kelly Halverson

Kathleen Kelly Halverson lives in Olney, Maryland, with her husband Jeff, son Matthew Seong-jin (whom they adopted from South Korea in 2010), and two dogs. She works in scholarly publishing for a nonprofit association and has maintained an adoption blog since 2008: http://kathjeffadoption.blogspot.com.


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