Once upon a time I had a houseguest who asked me why I had so many pictures in my home (this was before I had kids, mind you, so there were considerably fewer photos than there are now). She wasn’t used to having so many photos on display. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer, but now I do (having a sister who is a professional photographer has helped significantly in this journey!). In fact, I have five reasons. Why do photos matter?

Photos make our tribe visible

In my home, photos of my children’s birth families share space with photos of our immediate and extended families. I always say that adoption makes everything bigger, and it’s true. With adoption, our hearts and our family expand. So I print photos and put them in frames because it says to my kids (and anyone who visits my home) that these are our people.

Photos connect us to our past

Photos can capture a moment and preserve it forever. So, in my house, photos of the Pop Pop that neither of my kids got to meet share space with photos of the Mamaw that my daughter grew to know and love. In adoption, of course, there is also the past of a child’s first family. Before I finalized my daughter’s adoption, I scoured every possible source for photos of her life (and family and homes) before me. I want her to know that I acknowledge that her life didn’t start with me, and that her early moments (and photos) matter.

Photos document progress

A tiny infant “at risk” for many things grows into a robust toddler, zooming around the playground. A timid little girl with tears behind her eyes transforms into a confident young woman, safe and loved in her mother’s embrace. Over time, photos tell a story. A story of attachment and bonding, a story of the power of love.

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Photos in a book say, “We did that together.”

For my daughter (adopted at age five) and I, making scrapbooks of our summer vacations together was a happy bonding experience. We’d print the photos and painstakingly arrange them just so… adding her kindergarten writing on the sides. She shared these books widely and we’d often read them at bedtime to remind ourselves of our grand adventures.

Photos on the wall say, “I belong.”

One weekend I went with my college roommate to visit her parents. They had done foster care for several years, and one wall in their kitchen was covered with frames. Each frame held a photo of one of the children who had been in their care. This made a profound impact on me. Each one of these children, no matter how long they had stayed and no matter how long they had been gone, belonged here. Their presence was acknowledged. They were welcome. With so many (appropriate) rules about the confidentiality of children in foster care, the least we can do for our kids is to print (lots and lots of) photos of them and display them around our houses. In just a few minutes, we can show our kids that they are welcome here. They belong.

What about you? Why are photos important to your foster or adoptive family?