The Perfect Response to ‘Why Didn’t You Adopt from Your Own Country?’

Most times I put on my best pageant smile and say “Why do you ask?” But sometimes I want to get a little more sassy.

Jennifer S. Jones November 14, 2017

It’s a scene all too familiar to those in the adoption world. I’m standing at a function with a glass of Chardonnay in hand. I pull out my phone to check the time and the person next to me sees my screensaver. “Who’s that?” they ask.

“My son,” I reply, pride seeping into my voice. “He’s four going on sixteen.”

“Huh,” they reply, “What is he, Asian?” I grow uncomfortable with the direction of our conversation.

“Um, yes, he was adopted from China almost three years ago.”

“China?” they reply with disgust. “What’s wrong with America? Why didn’t you adopt from here?”

I owe this stranger nothing but I feel compelled to answer. As adoptive parents, I feel our job is to educate and to help our children see that families are made in a variety of ways. Most times I put on my best pageant smile and say “Why do you ask?” Sometimes, like standing in line at the grocery store, I answer more brusquely, “Why do you want to know?” But sometimes . . .  sometimes I want to say:

I Don’t Like Babies.
1. I Don’t Like Babies.

Okay, that’s not true, I love babies but the average age of international adoptions has increased over the last few years. At the height of international adoption in 2004 there were many infants available for intercountry adoption. Today international adoption of infants rarely happens, with the average age at placement occurring between 2 – 4 years of age.

In fact, in 2016, half of all international adoptions were for children between the ages of 5 – 12, according to the U.S. Department of State. This change is due to many nations favoring domestic adoption over intercountry, and changes in foreign country policies.

I Love Chinese Food!
2. I Love Chinese Food!

Who doesn’t, right? But seriously. The chance to welcome another culture into our home and hearts was extremely appealing. Unlike my childhood, where the same exact traditions were passed down for generations upon generations, today we celebrate in my family’s unique way. We hang eggs on the Easter tree and come Chinese New Year, display signs of the zodiac on that same tree. We make turkey with stuffing as well as hand sculpted dumplings. We are a German-Irish-Texan-Chinese (soon to be –Indian) family and I wouldn’t have us any other way.

Why Don’t You Drive an American Car?
3. Why Don’t You Drive an American Car?

Standing in a coffee shop I overhear, “I can’t believe someone would choose a kid from another country. That’s just un-American!” I turn to face them, my son’s sweet Chinese hand in mine. “All children need forever homes,” I reply. He looks down at my son, “You know what I mean,” he scoffs, turning away. No. I do not. A child is a child. Where they came from should not, and does not, matter. What does matter is that they need love and a forever family where they feel safe to blossom and grow. And by the way, how’s that foreign car you’re driving?

We Walked into the Wrong Adoption Fair.
4. We Walked into the Wrong Adoption Fair.

This is actually true. We had been on the path to adopt domestically but when we stumbled (yes stumbled) into an international adoption fair we knew our child was somewhere beyond our borders. There are thousands of waiting children worldwide. Per the Hague Convention, in order for an intercountry adoption to take place, every effort must have been made by the country of origin to place the prospective adoptive child domestically. Should domestic adoption not be possible, intercountry adoption is ruled as being “in the best interest of the child.” As a result, the waiting children from other countries tend to be older and have special needs. Special needs may sound daunting, but many child have mild correctable needs such as hearing loss, cleft lip/cleft palate, vision loss, and limb differences. While foster care does exist in some countries, many nations depend on institutional care for these children while they wait to find their forever homes.

Why Don’t YOU Do It?
5. Why Don’t YOU Do It?

“I just don’t see it as the same thing. There are so many kids who need homes here in the U.S. We need to tend to the home hearth before looking elsewhere.” She says this to me pleasantly sipping her green tea, hand rubbing her eight-month pregnant belly.

“Did you choose to adopt domestically?” I ask as charmingly as I can. “Well no,” she replies, “because I’m (indicating belly).”

“Then what you talkin’ about Willis?!?,” I scream in my mind. Before you pass judgment on me, why didn’t YOU choose to adopt from your own country? The reality is people’s motivations for adoption are wide and varied. Some are compelled to provide a home so the world has one less orphan. Others are just trying to build a family. How we choose to do that and why we choose to do that is a deeply personal matter.


How about you? Have you ever had any such encounters? What’s your favorite response to the question “Why didn’t you adopt from your own country?”

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Jennifer S. Jones

Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. Her amazing transracial transcultural family was created through adoption from China and India. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and "is this really us?!" whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.


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