My kids are worth loving: Adopting older kids FAQ''s and other helpful tips when talking to adoptive parents
It's a very strange feeling when you feel you have to prove to the world why you want your kids. I know what you're thinking, You don't have to explain yourself! You don't have to prove anything! And, you would be right. I don't owe it to anyone. If I'm honest though, I know most of the questions that come are based in ignorance and a lack of exposure to the need/availability/crisis that is adoption and foster care. So, I don't answer because I feel pressured, but because I genuinely want people to be educated. I want them to know that despite the challenge, time, sacrifice, and "risk," my children deserve all of that and more spent on them. They deserve to have a home where they are accepted and seen, no matter their age or their "troubled" backgrounds (much of which they had no control of).
Anyway, I could go on about that all day, but I won't (you're welcome).
Below I will highlight the most frequently asked questions about our adoption, what those questions imply, how they sometimes make me feel, and finally, some other types of questions you can offer if you know someone who is adopting or fostering.
- Can you not have your own children?
- Hands down, the most common question, and often the first question, I get when people hear we are adopting. This implies that the only reason people adopt are because they cannot naturally conceive. This implies that adopted children are simply a replacement for children we were unable to grow in our bodies. This makes it seem like adopting is second-best, a plan-B, a less desirable option than adding biological children to your family. Also, the language of "your own" implies adopted children would be "someone else's" and also suggests a possessive mindset of what it means to be a parent. Finally, many people do choose adoption after discovering that are unable to conceive. How heart breaking it would be to hear this when you share the news of your intent to adopt- it's a good ole' "rub your face in the mud" move.
- Our answer: I don't know if we are able to conceive children. We have yet to try. We are adopting simply because there is a NEED that we have become aware of and we truly believe all children are worthy of love. We are adopting because we believe we can offer children a safe home where they will be loved. We are adopting because children need adopting. We adopt because God commands it, and we really try to do what He says (James 1:27)
- Why wouldn't you want a baby? Won't older kids have baggage?
- This implies that only babies should be desired to families. It implies that the motivation to love has to do with how "easy" it will be to love. This suggests that children who are no longer infants are second-class citizens whom should be left to their own devices. No
- one would say those things when they ask the question, but really, that's what that question denotes. I for one am so beyond glad that people chose to love me once my baggage was on display. If we used the logic of baggage to select people we would love and invest time in, we'd be pretty lonely. We all have baggage. I am grateful for friends, family, and my husband who continue to choose to love someone as full of baggage as me.
- Our answer: It's not about not wanting a baby. Babies are great. Babies also have no problem getting adopted. In fact, there are often waiting lists for people who want to adopt infants. The need to adopt babies is there of course (!!!), and we need people to adopt them. We feel compelled to stand in the gap for children who have a harder time getting adopted. Yes, they will have baggage. They may have struggles other kids may not have. But honestly, my biological children will struggle with things I am unprepared for. They may have health issues I can never predict. Again, I don't choose to be a mom by choosing the path of least resistance. The question highlights the erosion of the authentic motivation behind parenting.
- Isn't that expensive?
- Again, this implies you should only do something that is easy and free! As if an answer of "yes" would change the reality that children need to be adopted. If adoption was the most expensive thing on planet earth, I would still do it. So here are some additional questions to ask yourself if you struggle with asking this question: Would you ask a pregnant person that question, or a person who just bought a new car/house/gadget? Isn't having children in general expensive?
- Our answer: Not for us. The adoption itself will cost us pretty much nothing. Anything that we do spend will be returned to us in taxes. We will also continue to receive monthly help from the state until at least age 18 and we will receive state medicaid for health insurance. Now, going from not having children to having two or three will be a change. We will have other up front costs like furnishing bedrooms and preparing for them to come. We need to buy a new car. We will have to adjust to a higher grocery bill and we will have to pay for summer camp and sports equipment, ect. But the adoption itself will cost us very little because of how we are adopting. This is how: domestic, through DSS (not an agency), through the state we live in. Every situation if different. I can only speak to my scenario. However, let me say this: it doesn't matter how expensive it is. God will make a way. Children deserve to be fought for. Don't let money EVER be the reason you don't do what is right. Our God raises the dead-- He can make a way in your finances.
- You know you can't fix them, right? What if they don't love you back? (I've heard horror stories!!!)
- This implies people are only adopting to satisfy themselves and their need to look like superheroes. So, apparently, we should just throw in the towel when it comes to "difficult" kids because we won't be able to make them look like what we would classify as "good kids" (aka cookie cutter kids with low-level issues we can easily hide from the world and cover with cute Christmas card pictures and Facebook posts--ps I love when people show off their kids, I'm just saying we all have issues and no one can fix any of their kids, biological or otherwise). The second part implies we only love to get something in return, again highlighting the selfishness that often coincides with parenting . Finally, the last part is fear-based. It's worst-case-scenario. I would never leave my house if I thought like that.
- Our answer: We don't think we will or can fix them. The only one who fixes and heals is Jesus. We are simply being available and hoping the Lord can use us along the way to accomplish his purposes and give people true life. If they struggle to attach and fight our love, that will completely suck. I will cry. I will hurt. And I will remind myself that's not why I adopted. And I will remember that I am getting a taste of what the Lord experiences every day as he reaches out in love and is rejected by those he both created and gave his life for.
- Do you not want your own children?
- Again with the "your own" stuff. Let's just agree to drop that lingo and replace it with biological and adopted children instead when making distinctions. The question echoes the first in that it suggests adoption is a second-class choice. It also suggests that adopting somehow means a rejection of biological children. The two are not opposed. Children are gifts. Also, for someone is struggling with infertility, this would be an incredibly painful question.
- Our answer: We will most likely try for biological children in the next few years. We have decided to pursue adoption first. The timeline that we decide to try for biological children will be based on how our adopted children are adjusting. We want them to feel settled, chosen, and wanted. Then, if we get pregnant, they will feel just as a part of the process. We thought it could be cool for them to be our "first" kids! Of course, I could get pregnant at any time, and I would be overjoyed to grow our family in any way God sees fit.
- How old? How many? When will they come?
- These questions aren't really as problematic as the others, but they can be difficult for adoptive parents to-be because they are usually just as clueless as you are about all the details. Just be sensitive to the fact that the waiting and the unknown is probably the hardest part about the process of getting approved. When they say they don't know, that's what they mean. Let that be enough.
- Our answer: The simple answer is we don't know. The more detailed answer is our goal age is elementary or middle school, but we are open to stretching that depending on the situation and where God leads. So, essentially a big "I don't know." We are pursuing adopting a sibling group of probably 2, but would be open to 3. We aren't sure we could manage much more than that at this point in our lives. Our home isn't huge and we juggle a lot and want to be able to give the kids the individual attention they deserve. We could be just a few months out from meeting our kids. We are hoping to have them moved in this summer before school starts, but that is dependent on a few other steps that I have no ability to predict how fast/smoothly those steps will come.
- Good for you, I could never do that.
- You caught me, it's not a question. I just felt I needed to call attention to this. We are not saints. We are terrified. It's hard and it's scary in so many ways. You could do it. Please don't put me on a pedestal. It's lonely and isolating up there and I can't live up to it. This is also a cop-out to excuse yourself from considering that maybe you could and should also do it. Maybe being stretched and challenged is exactly what you need. And more so, maybe you are exactly what a child needs. Just a thought.
Try these instead!
- If you genuinely want to know the cost of an adoption, try something like this: Wow! That is so cool. When you have the time, I'd love to hear more about that process and the financial aspects of that. OR I'm curious, I know costs can vary when adopting. How have you guys navigated that and how did you decide which type of adoption to pursue?
- Here's one: How exciting! When you have time, I'd love to hear your story about how you decided to adopt!
- Instead of assuming they are adopting a baby, ask, What age children are you thinking to adopt?
Before you ask an adoptive parent to-be a question, ask yourself if you would ask a pregnant person that same question. Would you ask a pregnant woman if she considered the costs, both financially and emotionally? Would you ask her why she wouldn't just get a pet instead? Didn't think so.
It's hard to be a pre-adoptive parent. I hope you can sense my sense of humor and see that my heart is to help you help other people like me. I hope we can begin to change the stigma around adopting and around the children who are waiting for their families. I personally know so many of these children and if anything, I am the one who is undeserving to be in their lives.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share!