Telling Others about the Adoption

Does everyone always have to know?

Sonia Billadeau August 20, 2014
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Whose job is it to tell people our child’s adoption story? Is there even such a thing as a right to know when it comes to a person’s adoption status? Of course the child has a right to know, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What about the child’s relatives? Friends of the family? Parents’ coworkers?

There are situations when it is abundantly clear that an adoption took place. The parents may have needed to take a lot of time off work for travel, or a group of people see the mother on a regular basis and go from seeing her slim one day and with a baby the next, or the parents look nothing like their adopted child. But what if there’s a scenario where there really is no obvious opportunity when disclosing the adoption is necessary? Who really ought to know?

For one thing, if a close relative may not be fully supportive of the adoption and it’s possible to avoid telling that person, it may be a good idea to consider this option. Perhaps the relationship can thrive without this information while the child is young. Once the child is old enough to choose whom to tell, it can be up to her or him to make that decision. Hopefully, by then, the relationship with the relative in question had already solidified and this information won’t negatively affect it.

If a person is known not to keep things private, then it is as good as done to tell everyone by telling this person. If there is anyone parents want to keep the information from, it may be necessary to keep the information from this motor-mouth, as well.

Finally, parents may simply not want to have adoption qualify every single conversation they have about parenting. Perhaps it’s not so much that they don’t want to tell, but that they want to regain some level of normalcy in life, especially if they adopted after long-term infertility. Mothers, especially, may simply want to fit into a mom’s group without being “the adoptive mom.” Those pursuing adoptive breastfeeding may want to avoid ignorant comments. Or parents may simply want to dodge the often rude comments from people who seem surprised at how “normal” the parent-child relationship is between them and their adopted child.

I think it is possible, depending on a family’s unique circumstances, to be fully open about the adoption with the child from the beginning, while at the same time being judicious with who knows outside the immediate family. Ultimately, the child has the right to tell whomever she or he wants to know. Until then, I don’t see why adoptive parents can’t simply fail to mention this detail of how their child joined their family. Just like a cesarian birth may not come up automatically except when the topic warrants it, so too, I believe it can be with adoption. If it comes up, great. If not, don’t force it.

What are your thoughts on this?

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Sonia Billadeau


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