Everyone loves a good story. We can sit for hours looking at “Restored Faith in Humanity” videos or stories on the Ellen show that leave us in tears. When a child comes from adoption, you will find person upon person inquiring about their “story.” When I brought my daughter home, I immediately got a multitude of very bold, often times rude questions. Did her parents not want her? Did we save her from horrible tragedy? Was she born addicted to drugs? As this was my first experience with adoption, it took time to learn how to navigate these questions while protecting my child.
Imagine the hardest, most painful, most personal event in your life. Now imagine that not only was this public knowledge, but strangers were regularly told about it and asked you and your family incredibly personal questions. Almost daily, you were expected to tell the story of this event in exhaustive detail. Not only did these strangers feel they had a right to know this information, they assumed you are now somehow “damaged” due to this event. They often exclaimed horribly brazen comments about your family and life in general. When you didn’t want to talk about it any longer, your family, even your parents, offered up the details without hesitation.
If we are not careful to understand that our child’s story is their own to tell, this can quickly become a sad reality.
The most important principle of privacy for your child and protecting their story is certainly the security and safety of your child. Including their story on avenues such as social media not only opens them up to ridicule, but the possibility of being identified by parties in a closed adoption. This can also allow for identification by persons whom the birth parents were trying to protect the child from by making the choice of adoption.
If your child has medical issues or a history within their birth family of mental illness, it is not only important for your child’s emotional well being to keep this information private, but also dangerous to your child’s overall mental health to release this information. Releasing information regarding medical and mental health history can affect your child throughout their whole life and rob them of opportunities. Your child reserves the right to navigate their personal medical history privately and handle their mental illness history with the support of their family alone. Beyond general security, a child’s identity and story being made public does not allow them to have the choice to remain private if they so choose in the future.
Protecting the privacy of a child who has been adopted will be a daily task and some of your most important work.
It is crucial to remember that adoption is not a “rescue.” Animals are rescued. I did not rescue my daughter. She came into my life and made it exponentially richer. I don’t know what her life would have been like if I had not adopted her, but it is not my job or my business to explore that for her. She has the right to understand and ask the hard questions, but it is not my job or place to answer those questions for anyone but her. Time and time again, you will hear phrases such as, “she is so lucky to have you!” or “Bless you for what you have done for her!” It is easy to bask in this praise, but much more important to make sure that it is understood that your child is not to be treated as a charity.
Protecting the privacy of a child who has been adopted will be a daily task and some of your most important work. It may not seem a big deal to tell the story of how an adoption came to be. The issue is that our small children will eventually grow to an age where they understand the narrative that has been told to strangers and acquaintances. Protecting your child goes well beyond making sure they eat well and wear their seat belt. Ensure their emotional health and stability by making sure you respect their right to their own story and keep their most personal details private.