Dear friend, so you're thinking of adopting. Want to talk about it?

Dear friend,

This is what I'd like to tell you about the possibility of you adopting, so far. There may be more things I haven't thought of as of yet, but I don't want to forget what's on my mind now.

I don't think I need to ask you why you want to adopt. I think that's a no brainer. You want another child to raise. Do the reasons really matter? I guess they do if the reasons are to provide your son with a playmate or have someone to do chores in your home or any other frivolous or ridiculous reason unrelated to the actual love for children and parenting. Hopefully this isn't the case, for if it is, I'm wasting my time and energy talking to you.

I would like to ask you if you've truly thought about what it is you're planning to do. Have you researched with an open mind, been receptive to anything negative you've heard about adoption? Can you truly love a child that isn't your own blood? Do you have the time and energy needed for more children? Are you doing the best you can for the son you already have? What makes you a good parent?

Not all adopted people feel like I do. There are adopted people who hate the fact they were adopted. Some say they'd have preferred to have been aborted. How will you feel if your child resents having been adopted? I don't know the magical formula to raising an adopted child that is at peace with having been adopted. I don't think anyone does.

Do you know, truly know, that adoption begins with loss? There can be loss of dreams, of identity, of heredity, culture. For some there can be a loss of trust, self worth, and even loss of lightness of soul and spirit. That the loss can be far reaching to grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings. Can you relate to that loss without feeling threatened or hurt? Can you parent with confidence and the ability to recognize the difference between your child's confusion about, and reaction to, being adopted and the regular angst that goes along with growing up? Will you be able to embrace and value your children's unique personalities and needs? Will you know when to "blame" adoption and when not to? Will you know when to discuss adoption with your children? Will you even be capable of discussing adoption with your children? How will you go about it? Will you do things by "the book" you're given by an agency or social worker or will you be able to think it through and follow your children's lead or know when you need to take the lead? Will you understand and support any "need to know" your child may have? Will they feel sure of your love and commitment therefore comfortable to talk (or not talk) about everything adoption related? Will you expect them to be grateful to you for everything you've provided them with, materially and/or emotionally and hold it over their head?

Will you refuse to become involved in an adoption that may feel unethical? Will you be able to recognize a parent or parents who are giving you a child they truly want and can raise out of an obligation to "keep their promise" to you? Do you believe me when I say nobody should make the decision to promise their child to another person without having seen and touched their child? It's sad but true that parents go through with adoptions that are against their better judgment because they don't want to disappoint the adoptive parents they've come to know and care about. Do you know that at that point it's not about you but about the child and what's best for it? It's never best for a child to be given away when it's wanted and can be raised by the people who brought it into this world. Picture yourself being told you need not have been adopted, that you were adopted through shady, or worse, conditions just so your (adoptive) parents could have you or an agency could make some money. We can all picture these scenarios if we try hard. One shouldn't have to be adopted to understand how confusing this would be, how devastating finding out your life and what you've always believed to be true is a lie. Believe me, adopted people worry about their biological mothers and wonder if they're ok until they know, if they ever get to know. Don't adopt without a clear conscience. If you're unsure, be strong enough to just walk away, to put your needs second to a child's.

Do you understand what open adoptions are? Have you been honest with yourself about this and your ability to parent a child under that type of circumstance? Think about it!! It cannot be easy, there is just no way. Will you be able to deal with the jealousy? With the fear? With your child's jealousy and fear? Will you be able to handle your child's biological parents feelings if they're regretful or will you just cut off contact to protect yourself and your family? If you don't think you can do an open adoption, don't! If there aren't any parents who want a closed adoption, don't adopt!

I don't think you plan to adopt from another country. If I'm wrong, and you do, try and remember you are as Caucasian as they come. THIS WILL MATTER. There are people to seek out who are qualified to discuss interracial adoption, and being as Caucasian as you, I am not one of them.

I wonder if you've thought at all about foster care. I think about foster care, have always. I think I'd be a great foster parent, especially now that my son is grown. I cannot be a foster parent though, and it's really just because of one thing. My husband would not want to foster parent. In fact, neither would have my ex husband, my son's father. I could try and persuade, pull out all the stops and say I'd do everything, that it isn't important for us both to want to do it. Who knows, my husband could say ok to try and please me, right? But, it's not supposed to be about me. It's supposed to be about kids who need families, parents or a parent. Every child born deserves to have some kind of family, whether it be blood or not, but no child deserves to exist in a situation where they're resented or unwanted by even one family member, blood or not. I believe that someone who isn't initially on board with providing a home for a child without one, whether it be through foster care or adoption, can change their mind and eventually embrace said child but....isn't it too big of a risk to take that they won't ever? I wouldn't even force a pet dog on my family if they didn't want the responsibility, why would I do it to a child?

I am not against adoption. I am not against you personally adopting. I am against people not properly preparing themselves for the act of adopting a child, or for that matter, having their own biological children. Against them wearing blinders to the difficulties and the effort and sacrifice that is necessary to do our very best. It's not about you so it's nothing like entering into a shitty marriage or staying in one, it's not about the harm you could do to yourself not listening to warnings about smoking or overeating or driving without a seat belt. It's different when you're holding another human being's childhood in your hands, affecting their future by what you do in the present. We all ignore advise all the time, but please don't ignore what I'm trying to tell you here.

There are many things people try to warn and educate each other about. More often than not the effort is ignored and people either learn the hard way or never learn at all. Fine. It's your life and it's our right to mess up our own lives but it isn't our right to mess up an innocent child's life, biological or not.

My friend, please think long and hard about what you're doing because it's not what you're doing to yourself, not about how you will be affected. It's about our children and what they need, deserve, and have the right to.

Oh yeah, if you do end up adopting, make sure you get a copy of your child's original birth certificate.

Someday they may be an adult who wants it.


  1. I think it's a great letter :-)

    I think a lot of people try to convince themselves "our adoption will be different." They will be such perfect parents that their adoptee won't have a thing to say about being adopted. It's a liscense not to seek out the opinions and perspectives of others that make them uncomfortable.

    I had just about perfect Adoptive Parents. But even I still perceive adoption as a burden to carry. Adoption practice is so flawed and not where it should be--it needs reform, it needs it bad, and I am one of the only 2% of people that can tell 98% of those not adopted (the ones who are making the decisions), what it's like. To me, it doesn't matter how great one's parents are. I believe that even if my upbringing were different, adoption could still conflict with my own personal code of ethics.

  2. Hm.

    I don't think I should have read this on a day when I ran out of medication and I actually have the ability to feel hurt.

    I wanted to adopt since I was ten years old. By the time I was 30 I knew it would be my only path to having kids anyway. Now I'm 35 and I still read blogs from every side of adoption, except the one I'd really want to know: adoptees who were adopted internationally as "older children." That would be where my kids would come from, if I adopted.

    It's pretty academic now since I wouldn't pass a home study anyway, let alone have the money to adopt, but it's depressing to think kids would rather stay in their orphanage in Bolivia than come live with me. I suppose I feel a little rejected.

  3. Campbell,

    The only part that I think you could improve is this...

    "Not all adopted people feel like I do. There are adopted people who hate the fact they were adopted. Some say they'd have preferred to have been aborted. How will you feel if your child resents having been adopted?"

    By only showing the extremes you are continuing the myth of being either the Happy Adoptee or the Angry Adoptee. When in reality there are so many different levels...or shades in between. Each of us is as unique as the next with differences in stories, personalities, era's...painting the all or nothing just does not sit right with me.

    Otherwise it is brilliant.

  4. Mongoose...gawd..I'm sorry you have to take meds that inhibit your ability to feel. That is a tough lot in life. Good for you to do what's needed but be more careful about running out! It's not healthy : (

    I too used to plan to adopt, maybe would have had I not been able to have kids or not had someone to have one with. When I was a little kid (of likely around 10) my intent was to never marry, never get pregnant and have my own baby but instead adopt a child such as myself that needed a family. I doubt those feelings are/were unique to your and my child selves, eh?

    I don't know you or your situation but there are other ways to mentor or give support to kids who are in need. I'm pretty sure you know this. I imagine in remote locations the need for volunteers in youth services is even greater than in more metropolitan areas. I bet you'd have lots to offer in the way of volunteering, for all I know maybe you already have. Our time and knowing somebody really cares about them is really what all kids need the most.

    And...if I were to do that to myself, imagine a child would rather stay at an orphanage somewhere than live with me at my best, I'd find it a little depressing too lol. If it hurts when I touch it there, I just don't touch it there, ya know?

  5. Thanks Amanda, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment : )

    Sandy, I get what you're saying. The problem is where I exist, in my part of the real world and it's society, nobody's heard of "angry" adopted people who hate that they were adopted.

    They don't even exist as myth. I'd never heard of people so negatively affected til I started reading online. So, in my attempt to educate, inform, enlighten, whatever you want to call it, it's important for me to tell it like it is, to talk about the extreme because the people I know are only aware there are different shades of "happy".

    I am in complete agreement when you say "Each of us is as unique as the next with differences in stories, personalities, era's...painting the all or nothing just does not sit right with me." and will add that to my letter. Thank you.

  6. I don't want to mentor or support kids in needs. Or anyone in need. I was a youth group leader for years, I donate to charities that benefit children, blah blah blah, I don't care. It's totally not the same. I don't want to adopt because I want to do something for them. I just want to be a parent.

  7. @Mongoose, it's not the same and it wasn't my intent to imply it was.

  8. Does your friend read this blog?

    Or are you planning to sit her down and have a conversation, the guidelines of which make up the blog entry?

    Just curious.

  9. Yowsers...I just read the post about circumcision. Who knew there was so much controversy over a bit of skin?

    Cambell you are awesome for posting this letter. How I wish wish wish someone had said those things to me before we adopted. Even if others experiences are different than yours, what most adoptive parents don't think about is their child as an adult. We only invision "our" baby and are blinded by our desire to parent. I think your words here should at least get your friend thinking and be willing to ask all those hard questions BEFORE baby comes "home".

  10. No no Lia, she doesn't read my blog. In fact, the only people that know me and read my blog are my sister and from time to time my son.

    My friend and I will likely to continue to talk in person, with it really being up to her how much she wants to hear from me, share with me. She'll have to decide whether she wants to see what I've written and whatever comments I think would be helpful. Her and her husband have just recently started investigating adoption.

  11. @Campbell, remember I told you that I had started an Adoption Education Blog? Well, I would love it if you would be willing to post this piece there or allow me to link or copy it to the blog...

    It is real, honest and very beautiful. Thank you.

  12. And there's another one of those comments I think might be helpful to share with my friend,

    "How I wish wish wish someone had said those things to me before we adopted."

    Thanks Shannan!

    Lori go ahead and link or copy if you think it's of use. I know it's got to be more educational than one particular post we discussed.. in my humble opinion, of course ; )

  13. @Campbell, I have linked this post. Thank you. One thing, remember what I said about impartial? Well, I am. I think that the other post is just as valid, however politically charged or emotionally raw it is, because it is the honest feelings of another person. While I have to respect everyone or just give up the idea of putting out the realities for those that don't know what they want, I don't have to agree with any of the opinions, thoughts and beliefs.

    Thank you for allowing me to link.

  14. Mongoose:

    "I just want to be a parent."

    I'm not saying you shouldn't adopt a child who is literally rotting away in an orphanage.

    But you should be prepared to understand that adoption is about the child - not the prospective parent. There has to be a balance. If there weren't children in an orphanage, you wouldn't have the option of parenting.

    Which, I guess, means that the whole "saving" issue comes to light here... :\

  15. Great letter Campbell and I wish someone had written me such a letter before we adopted. I thought I had thought of "everything" but I hadn't. PAPs (including me) often look to agencies and (in the case of international adoption) international adoption doctors as the "experts" but they are not. Adoptees are the experts yet you never hear their voices as a PAP. I was too naive at the time to think that part through.

  16. Thanks for the comment Kris. I think it might be helpful for my friend to see people such as yourself endorse what I've said in the letter, that it's something you wish you'd had prior to adopting.

    If you (or anyone reading here) think of anything I haven't covered please feel free to share!

  17. You know...I honestly believe I have an abnormal adotion if I read blogs. ITs strange. Even Campbell, when you write about being a happy adoptee, you've abviously been commented to and thought about the negatives a lot more than I even did or ever had to.

    I don't know many people my age that are adopted. Maybe I do and they keep it secret or don't know. But I am one of the few my age that I know about. And I don't keep it a secret, and speak openly and welcomingly about it. Because its a part of who I am and I think its wonderful and important to get it out there that there are some happy adoption stories and people that don't turn out resentful of it. Becuase many people my age are adopting now and I want to let them know that the horrors they've heard about with adoptions gone wrong aren't the only stories out there.

    Someone once mentioned to me that it doesn't even mention I am adopted on my blog profile. The one linked to me here is one I only briefly use to keep track of family things but haven't gotten into using. My other one I rarely use these days since I am busy. But I didn't post about my being adopted there either because its ITs just a part of me. And I wouldn't be me without adoption but it doesn't define me. Mother, wife, daughter, friend is who I am. And many things make me "me". I guess I just don't get why there is so much negativity associated with adoption because I was never reaised with adoption being a negative. No one rescued anyone. No one was a vitim. I was just a daughter and sister who happened to be adopted. And not everything with my family was perfect growing up or inthe present...but any problems I have with my parents and siblings has nothing to do with adoption, and everythign to do with the fact that sometimes family members just don't always get along. It doesn't mean you aren't still family. Adopted/genetic...doesn't mean you have to like each other.

    Frankly I think I'm very glad that I don't understand from experience because it sounds like a sad, hard lesson to learn that is coloured with everyone elses opinion. I'm glad I was given the opportunity to make my own decisions about adoption without having too many cooks spoil the broth.

    That said, as usual I like your letter and your insight. Maybe in the next few days I'll post my adoption experience on my blog.

  18. Hey Alex

    I only think about the negatives since having read online as like you I'd not really heard of any SIGNIFICANT adoption related ....problems? prior to having a blog. It was never my intent to even blog that much about adoption. It just kind of evolved because I believe now I have an obligation to care about what goes on in adoption having been adopted myself and having a passion about the treatment of children by their caregivers.

    You and I have a very similar experience or outlook as adopted people, the most similar to anyone else I've conversed with online.

    I pretty much understand, and relate to, everything you've said in your comment and look forward to checking out what you write on your blog.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  19. Again, I'm reading one of your posts late. . . I really need to start following your blog. :)

    I LOVE this letter. We've been waiting to adopt for nearly 4 years, and every question you asked is a question that I've asked myself in the last year. (Yes, it took me that long, I regret to say.) I feel like I'm finally really understanding adoption. What does that mean? That means that I know that there never is an ending; it's a story that continues to be written throughout the lives of those involved. You don't adopt and end the story -- because it's not just a hopeful adoptive parent's story. It also means that I will continuously be learning about adoption, forever.
    Until I live all parts of the "triad," I can't completely understand. I will only ever understand my perspective completely. Until I am raising an adopted child and dealing firsthand with the issues, the questions, and the emotions, I will still only have my "Hopeful Adoptive Parent Perspective." This is why it's SO important to answer the questions in your letter.

    I'm most grateful for all the blogs that I have read and continue to read. They are all from different perspectives: adoptive parents, adoptees, and first mothers; and they all differ in their opinions and emotions. One similarity among them: they have educated.

    Again, I really, really, REALLY love this Hopeful Adoptive Parent letter. Seriously, we (meaning hopeful adoptive parents) all should have to read it and answer it before embarking on this path. If we don't know the answers, then we'd better be figuring them out BEFORE we adopt. In this way, I'm grateful we've had to wait so long; I've had a chance to learn how to learn about adoption.

    FYI: I probably won't see your reply if you choose to reply to me here. I rarely go back to a blog and read all of the comments/replies (I read too many blogs.)

  20. Campbell:

    You forget to mention there are MANY women who don't want to be "moms/parents" and adoption, for them, is the best choice. Always remember, just because a woman can have a child doesn't make her the best/right person to raise the child. Adoption will ALWAYS be needed, there are people who find being pregnant and/or being a "parent" a burden.

  21. Oh, I don't forget stuff like that Anonymous but not sure how that fits in here. This post is about people adopting and stopping to think about what they're actually doing.


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