I remember a time I was holding our sweet baby boy when an acquaintance said,
“He’s adopted, right?”
“Yes, our child joined our family through adoption.”
“How much did he cost?”
I remember my heart beating faster. There was a sting of anger that welled up inside of me. Why would she talk about our child like we had just picked him up from a car dealership? Were people always going to ask us such intrusive questions? Judah is just a baby now, but how do I navigate these conversations as he grows? He should never hear or associate his worth with a dollar amount.
Stepping into adoption, there were so many things that I wasn’t fully prepared for. I often remind myself that I too may have said some of the same things before I understood what I know now. Navigating the comments and questions of others can be tricky. Sometimes, it would be easier to ignore questions altogether, and at times I do. I’ve come to the realization that I am not obligated to answer every question. However, I also think there is a time to be a voice for adoption, sharing truth in love.
TIPS FOR GIVING AN ANSWER
1. Let them know your heart and try to understand theirs.
I like to respond first by firmly correcting their statement.
“I love to talk about adoption. I also love to share with families about what I’ve learned throughout the process. We paid for the cost of the adoption. We did not buy our child.”
At this point, most will either duck and run or settle in for a conversation because they truly want to learn more. Many will even apologize for their wording. Either way, I’ve given a bit of education without making them feel ignorant, and I’ve maintained a kind attitude.
2. Share to educate when people genuinely want to know.
One of the most common phrases I hear from others wanting to show me that they support adoption is “I wish adoption was free.” When you have a better understanding of why adoption costs money, you quickly learn that adoption isn’t free for very good reasons.
Adoption is complex. There are many parts to the process and each part requires many people. Most of these people involved are in adoption work as a full-time job. I don’t ask my children’s teacher to work for free. I don’t ask a doctor to care for my family for free. Why would I expect those in the field of adoption and social work to work for free?
Agency and Legal Fees
It costs money to keep adoption agencies open. There’s money for marketing, networking, administration costs, and even the basic costs it takes to keep a building open. We want expectant families to know adoption is a choice, and we want qualified, caring people to walk them through the process. The more I learn of unethical adoptions, the more grateful I am to know there are people and systems in place to see birth families cared for and children placed in safe, loving homes. I pay for things all the time with a lot less value than that.
As we all know too well, medical expenses are not free, and they are not cheap. I will gladly pay for all of my children’s medical expenses, whether biological or adopted. If someone wants to know why medical expenses are expensive, they can take that up with hospital administrators, not adoptive families.
Birth Parent Care
Besides paying for the medical care of our child, we also paid for the care of our child’s birth mother. I think this is the part that is the hardest for many people to understand. Some have asked, “Why would you pay for care of the birth family?” My go-to response is “Why wouldn’t I?” As much as I love and advocate for adoption, I must also acknowledge that adoption is hard. The completion of my family came from the brokenness of another. If I can love and care for Judah’s birth family in a real and tangible way, I want to do that. If there’s a way to bring any healing by saying “We care about you too,” I want to be that.
While adoption is not free, it is definitely worth it.
3. You never have to give a dollar amount.
I wouldn’t ask a new mother the cost of her hospital bill. I would hope no one would ask a mother of a child with special needs how much she “paid for her child.” Why someone thinks it is okay to ask this question to adoptive parents is beyond me.
But they do.
Know that there are some questions you never have to answer. No one knows the cost of our adoption. Why? Because I never want my son to hear any dollar amount associated with his worth. I can literally say to them, “We keep that information private.”
I want Judah to know he is greatly loved by his birth mother. I want him to know he has a big family that would do anything for him. I want him to know he is wanted and valued. When I answer questions from friends or strangers, I stop to think, “How could this response be interpreted by my son?”
As much as I want to protect my son from all the hurt life can bring, I also have the obligation and privilege of teaching him how to navigate the hard questions in this broken world. When I can protect and educate at the same time, I do so.
But at the end of the day, I don’t care as much about educating someone else as I do about protecting our son. And that’s what leads me to respond bravely for him—in truth and love.
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