As our family is currently in the process of our second adoption from China – we have had the awesome opportunity to be connected with numerous adoption communities for a couple years now. These places of encouragement allow families of adoption to be able to connect and share our hearts freely.
The other evening I asked this question in several online adoption groups:
If you were bold enough and had the words to say it, and you knew they wouldn’t be offended by your spoken words. What would you want family, and friends to know about the adoption process, during the adoption process, and post adoption? What would you tell them if you could?
I asked this question to over 2,450 adoption families. And out of that number – these were the most repeated answers to my question. These were shared from the hearts of families who are in all processes of adoption. And though our family hasn’t experienced them all; I agree there is a need to educate others with things Adoption Families Want You to Know | But Struggle To Tell You. I’ve compiled them into an open letter of sorts for you to read and understand what we wish for you to know, but just might not know how to tell you.
Dear Family, Friends, Church Families, Co-workers, & Neighbors,
We want to lovingly share with you what we families of adoption so desperately want you to know. So with an open mind and tender heart we ask you to read our hearts here.
1. Acknowledge the adoption.
We understand adoption isn’t for everyone, but we all can do something. How each of us do that is going to look differently. However, just because our path is different from yours; does not mean ours should be ignored. When we announce our adoption please acknowledge you’ve seen or have heard. Adoption is worth celebration! It means a child who has no family is being brought into one. Our child is just being brought into our family a different way. Just acknowledge; and say congratulations.
2. If you support adoption; show it.
Adoption is a beautiful and challenging journey. And one that God not only uses families willing to pursue adoption, but “their village” as well! Knowing you are part of our journey through prayer or financial support encourages us to keep going; and do what we were called to do. Share our journey with others. And during our adoption process encourage us with notes, and prayer.
3. Be our faithful cheerleader.
Please ask how you can help in getting our child home. And be proactive about it! Help us with our fundraisers in raising money to bring an orphan into a loving family, our family. Make a difference by helping gather items for an adoption garage sale or a pancake breakfast. And don’t be afraid to head one up – our family will be so blessed by your support in this way. Sacrifice your time to spend a day or an afternoon helping us with an adoption project or fundraiser. God uses many people to complete an adoption. And it’s absolutely beautiful when you get a chance to be apart of something so incredible. (You might not have extra money to give to our adoption, but your prayers, your time and encouragement are some of the best ways to support our family during this time.) Encourage others to join in, and show them how fun it can be to be part of bringing a child into a loving family. We’re certain you won’t be disappointed, it’s well worth your time. You will be blessed.
4. The paperwork represents our child.
Even though we may not be matched with our child yet, or have a picture to display. The whole paperwork process represents our child. A child whom we’ve never met but already love. Just as a mother carries her baby in her womb has not yet seen her babies face; so is the same for adoption. Please understand that the adoption process makes you a bundle of nerves and frequent tears during the ups and downs. Much like the hormonal roller coaster that comes with a pregnancy, so does adoption come with it’s own emotional roller-coaster. Your notes of encouragement and prayers mean the most during this time.
5. Don’t discourage us when we say we’re adopting a child with special needs, or that it’s going to be harder than we think or…
that we haven’t considered our biological children. We have most definitely considered our biological children, in fact we’ve even gotten their input on the matter; and our whole family is 100% on board! We don’t need to hear every worst case scenario of the special needs our family has committed to. We’ve spent hours upom hours researching, we are fully aware of the possibilities, we have considered the costs, the losses, the gains; and we know there could be so many unknowns that we may face more than anyone else. This child is no less worthy of a family than our current children.
6. Don’t tell us to slow down, or that we need to think about ourselves when we announce another adoption.
We understand the need to be rejuvenated to have better energy for all our children and strength for our family. And we do our best to obtain it. But please know Who gives us the strength to keep going, and the motivation to climb these massive mountains, it’s not us. It’s HIM. And when it comes to adoption, once we see the actual children’s faces, and they look into our eyes; it rips your heart to pieces. Adoption becomes an addiction of sorts. Though we know we can’t bring them all home; we do what we can, while we are able. There’s no moment to lose when our children are growing up without us as their Mommy and Daddy. Without the love of a family or knowing the love of Jesus. We will fight, cry, and bleed till our children are in our arms. And until all children have a forever family. Once our hearts see and feel the pain of an orphan, and we learn their names – we’re never the same again.
7. Yes, adoption is expensive.
“How can we afford it?” You ask. “Let alone two, three or four adoptions or more?” We ask ourselves the same question – truth is, we really can’t! But how can we not afford to? Every families adoptions are going to look different. But when God opens the door to adoption, and the family shows their willingness and obedience. He does not leave families at the doorway; He carries them not just over the threshold, but through each valley they must travel. He provides the provisions for adoption through others like you. God uses people to get his work done. And the stories are absolutely beautiful!
8. When we travel to adopt our child – it’s not a vacation or a getaway.
The travel is often times long and grueling. And we’re often stepping into an unfamiliar culture and unfamiliar people. We leave loved ones behind (often times our other children.) It’s difficult. Most of the time we can’t even speak the language. The scents are strange, the air often times polluted. The ground we walk upon is not something we spoiled Americans are accustom too. The cleanliness levels are often times indescribable. We feel insecure when we can’t even read the signs to find the restroom or the roadside shop. The food is weird and we start to long for what we are familiar with. Most of our time is spent on more adoption paper work. And the chances we do get, we’re trying to snap pictures and take in as much of our child’s culture and country as much as we can, all while bonding with our child, with the very little sleep our bodies are running on. We may or may not ever be back, and this is part of our child’s story, and worth preserving – and we have so little time. Much of what we experience prepares us exactly for what it will be like for our child coming home. To all the unknowns, the strangest of foods, scents, the new culture, the people. We are thankful for this experience. It helps us understand what our child is going to go through once home.
9. The wait is harder than you can imagine.
It’s hard on our hearts. As with most things, unless you’ve experienced it, you have no idea. (We didn’t know how hard it was until we went through it.) We really want our children with us, as soon as we possibly can get them in our arms. We wonder all the time how our child is doing. Will they fall asleep at night and wake up scared? Will someone be there to wipe their tears, if they’re cold, hungry, or sick? Will someone celebrate their birthday with them, or will they be left in a corner alone? Will someone stop to show them how special and worthy they are?
10. Yes, we’ve done the math.
We know how old we will be when our child turns 18. And that doesn’t change a thing. Every child deserves a loving family. A mom a dad and even siblings. Our older aging out child was delighted to have parents. I don’t think age has ever been an issue for them at all. They are loved and cherished, and that means the world to them, and to us.
11. Please don’t talk bad about our child’s birth mother or father for abandoning or giving up their baby or child.
We will forever be grateful to him/her for giving our child LIFE. We will always honor them and pray for their broken hearts. We wonder often; more than we ever thought possible about them. And we feel very much connected to them. And often dream and hope we may have a chance one day to meet them, but understand the likeliness of that may never happen. We don’t know the circumstances that brought our child’s birth mother or father that lead them to the actual reasoning for abandonment. And we may never know what terrible circumstances they were facing. But they are honored and will stay honored in our book for their value on LIFE. And because of their LIFE choosing decision, our family is so, so blessed.
12. Stop comparing fostering to adopt with international or any other route to adoption.
ESPECIALLY when it comes to the money side of things. We constantly see people interested in adoption being told to “just foster to adopt because it is free.” Every child deserves a family, a mommy and a daddy. And though adopting internationally or domestically have similarities; there are also many differences. God equips families with a passion in different areas of adoption. Not every family will be able to adopt internationally but; they might be able to take the foster to adopt approach. Don’t discourage either journey. Because both are just as valuable!
13. All babies and children born in the world are worthy of love and a family.
Not just babies born in America. Don’t ask me: “why China, Africa, Russia, Haiti or India etc?” Because that’s where our child is. That is where God has led our hearts, and we are being obedient. And if you tell me that our decision isn’t right because of such and such… or have an opinion of what avenue of adoption we should have chosen – FIRST tell us; what have YOU have done to help the orphan/foster crisis? Because if you’ve done nothing – we really can’t listen.
14. The adoption process is very intrusive – there are no secrets.
Everything about our family, our medical our financial, our views on life and faith, are all laid out and micro managed by a social worker we don’t even know. And we have a business type relationship with this person who knows everything about us, and we know very little about him/her – we are connected with them for sometimes as long as 5 or 6 years after the adoption process is finalized. It’s awkward, but it’s part of adoption and it’s worth it. Some of us are blessed with great social workers. Others do what we can.
15. Try to educate yourself on adoption and the country or culture our child is coming from.
Please don’t just rely on us. We really don’t have all the answers. But we will graciously answer what we can with what we know. Thank you, for being interested in adoption or the country and culture of our child.
16. All children brought into our family are worth celebrating.
Just as if a baby was born into our family – an older baby or child is just as special and should be celebrated. In Horton Hears a Who Horton says: “A person’s a person, no matter how small (big, young or old).” Regardless of size or age; our families new addition is something to celebrate! Feel free to drop off a meal, deliver a baby/child gift, slip an encouraging note in the mail, pray for our family often, and let us know your rooting for us. Big or small gestures mean more than you’ll ever know, or a thank you note can ever express.
17. Adoption travel brings some of the worst exhaustion ever.
For international adoption travel – it means not only weeks of being away from home from our children, from the familiar, and often times in conditions that we are not accustomed too. And just as we are getting use to the time difference, and culture customs – it’s time to go back home. The long flight home is normally torture bringing you to the brink of the “almost unbearable” point; with the excitement of home on the horizon thrown in. Sometimes we’ve been up for 23-24 hours strait depending how our new child does with travel or the hours we have spent in flight. When we get home – we are excited to see you all, we really are. Just beware; we’re stinky, and look like zombies. We most likely want to see your long missed faces when we step off that plane. In fact it makes that coming home special to our child. Even if they don’t remember it, they’ll have pictures. Just remember; make it short, quiet and sweet. Our minds are mush, and the jet leg and time change is a silent killer for the first 2 weeks home. Remember, the adoption journey is really just the beginning of a new path once we get home. Real life is beginning to bud and take place. Be patient with us, if we need time to regroup or take some time away from everyone. Understand it’s not you. We just most likely need sleep and a new order to our new crazy life. But, please, send us notes to congratulate bringing our child home. Just as if we were bringing home a new baby. Pray for us, pray for our child as they adjust and bond. And please someone start a meal train….please? And it would be nice if someone would offer to take the kids to the park so we can get a nap in. Have we told you, we’re exhausted beyond imagination?
18. Allow time for our family to bond.
Like most babies born to their families they have time to bond and get to know their new surroundings. Adoption is the same, only the children are often older. Our children didn’t get nine months to bond with us during a pregnancy. Or bond while learning to walk or say their first words. Please be supportive of our desire to bond with our new child and family. Attachment in adoption can often times be a difficult thing for our family. If we’re hauling our child or baby around in a carrier or on our hips, take that as a clue; don’t ask to hold our child/baby. Don’t be easily offended if we ask for a little space for a certain amount of time. And please listen intently to our wishes and our needs for our child. There may be things we haven’t shared with you concerning our child, or it may be we just need a little space. Remember, we’re tired. And please respect our set boundaries. It’s for the benefit of our child. It’s not that we don’t want you to get to know our child, we just want our child to learn who their Mommy and Daddy are, and that we’re not just their new care-givers. Please ask permission before holding, kissing or hugging our child. And don’t be offended at all if we tell you no. Children from hard places take a longer amount of time to bond, and every child is different, and we’re just learning about our child. Please be patient. That hug will come in time. They will learn who you are, It just may take some time.
19. Please be considerate.
Most likely we don’t want to be inundated with visitors for at least three weeks after we get home! We’re tired, we’re trying to find our new normal. But that doesn’t mean a phone call to find out if we need anything is bothering us. In fact that call or note may just be the needed encouragement we need, while we’re under the new stress and craziness we are experiencing. We would really appreciate meals at least the first week we arrive home, and sometimes even longer depending on the medical issues that occur upon our return home. A meal helps get us back on our feet and get a handle on life. Just like you would bring dinner to a family who just had a baby, adoption is no different in many areas. There are sleepless nights, (no matter the age of the child) our bodies are exhausted and we need a little pick-me-up. Just simply call and leave your dinner in a box by the door in disposable dishes. We may be trying to catch a wink of sleep, or lounging because we have little to no energy to greet others right now. If we are available or feel like visitors; we’ll open the door. 🙂 We may just need to snatch a hug. We’ll make sure we make time for everyone to meet our new child when the time is right. Please, just be patient.
20. Your words do matter.
We do try our best to understand what you are trying to say and we will do our best to pardon much grace, we’ve been there once. We’ve just been educating ourselves as time goes on about positive adoption language. And we’d encourage you to learn some of the positive and well thought through language. But if you slip, or say the wrong thing. We understand, we really do. And it’s okay. Examples of wrong wording: don’t ask about our child’s “real” family. It’s as if you are saying we are now our child’s “fake” family? Steer clear of asking detailed questions about our child’s birth parents or family history. We’ll share it if we feel it is important, or feel comfortable sharing at all. Understand there are some details we might not feel comfortable sharing about our child’s adoption, and that’s okay. And while you are entitled to your opinions, it doesn’t mean you should share them. And if you feel you should; please do not express them in front of our children. Especially if you feel the need to tell us we’re saints for rescuing an unwanted child. Our child was indeed wanted. That’s why our child is here with us.
21. Adoption is by far one of the hardest things we’ve ever done.
And just because we chose to adopt (and we are happy to be doing it) doesn’t mean that it isn’t incredibly difficult and at times traumatic. Sometimes we’re afraid to share the hard moments in fear of the naysayers or those hoping to adopt one day. We’d hate for the hard moments to become ammunition for the naysayers. Or for the hopeful adoptive parents to be scared. However we want to be truthful and let you know that adoption isn’t all butterflies and roses. When in fact we have our share of torrential rains along with our sunny days. It’s life. Don’t tell us that our sleep deprivation and months and years of medical needs were brought upon us by ourselves because of our decision to adopt, (it just comes with the territory, just as it comes with biological children!) We really would just like to share the hard moments so you can see what God is doing, and what he is teaching us through these deep dark valley’s and so many unknowns. We want you to know despite the hard stuff, every moment has been SO worth it, our child(ren) are worth it, and though it’s by far the hardest thing we’ve ever done; it’s been the best decision we have ever made as well!
22. Don’t tell us we have big hearts for adopting.
Because really God made yours and mine the same size. Don’t tell us we’re absolutely amazing or wonderful for adopting. Especially in front of our children. We’re not a “super family” nor do we have it altogether, we are far from “arriving”, and we are not holier than you, for adopting. And we really, really want you to read this.
23. Be supportive.
Be a part of “our village”, and let us know you are our cheerleader. Let us know you are praying for us. Ask how you can help our family during all the chaos of doctor visits, sleepless nights and unknown scary times. Offer to watch our children during hospital or doctor visits. Remind us that: God brought us this far, and He won’t leave us. Because sometimes we get discouraged, and we just need those kinds of reminders.
24. Our child with special needs is worth the fight.
When we find out our child has other unknown medical issues, ones that weren’t listed on their adoption paperwork. Please understand & support us. Know that our hearts hurt for our child, but please understand we value our child just the same as we did before we even knew. Understand that such news would be no different than if one of our biological children had an unknown special need or medical need; and It’s no different for our adopted child. Understand that the sleepless nights we endure, the heart break that occurs, our child is still beautiful, valued, loved and their little soul is absolutely treasured, not only by us, but by the Creator. Know that we won’t be sad for the rest of our lives if God doesn’t heal our child. We want you to understand, we’re not mad at God, in fact we’re relieved that we now know. We can now move forward getting the care our child needs. Please understand, we’d do this ALL over again. Our child is SO worth it!
25. Adoption brings heartache and much loss.
Often times we have very little information about our child. And often very little to no medical records. Many of our children come from very hard places or backgrounds. You would be shocked and broken to know what some of our children have endured during their institutional days. Many of our children’s orphanages are ugly places. Few and far in between are ones that actually try their best to care for the children whom live there. When we bring our child home, it’s not always sunshine and light breezes. Our child has lost everything they have ever known. They may or may not understand what they are experiencing now; the love of a family. Sometimes the bonding is harder than anyone would ever imagine. But love takes time. And during the tears, the broken hearts. We’re doing our best to mend what we can. But there will always be scars. Always. There is also a huge loss with parenting. We’ve missed so many monumental milestones in our child’s life. Their first smile, first steps, or the loss of their first tooth. Often times we have little to no pictures of our child as a baby or young child. This is hard. Really, really hard.
26. For our families who struggle to know this.
Our children who have been adopted, are just as precious as their cousins who are biological. Every child deserves love, attention acknowledgement, and your time.
27. Stop comparing our child to yours.
Please stop telling us how much “that sounds just like my kids”. Most of the time, It’s more detailed than you know. Institutionalized children struggle in different areas. And when my child isn’t walking, talking or struggling in other areas, don’t tell me “my child, did that – they’ll be walking, talking or doing such and such sooner than you think.” Because we really don’t know that. In fact there’s a big chance our child won’t. We know you mean so well, and are trying to encourage us. But this is probably one of the most unknowingly hurtful things you can do. Just acknowledge what it is, where we are at, and leave it at that. But unless you’ve been in our shoes, it’s best to just let me know “I’ll be praying for you.” “Let me know what I can do for you.”
28. Gotcha day and the weeks to follow; are often awkward and hard.
It may not look like the stories you see. Sometimes in those early days we hold our child hundreds of times a day and tell them that we love him, all the while praying God would make it true deep down in our hearts all the more. Love is not always immediate. And too often, it takes time. Love is not a feeling but an action, and it’s HARD; especially when the little or big person you are trying to love is pushing you away. Please remember to pray for us. It may be pretty messy behind the scenes. A new war against all odds has begun once our plane has landed. Lift us up in prayer and send us a note of encouragement because real life has just begun.
29. Please open your eyes a little wider.
We want to encourage you to view the bigger picture, past your own 4 comfy walls – do you see the hungry children? The lack of clean water to drink? The sex trafficking that is going on? The children in orphanages? The children in foster care? And the homeless? There is a need everywhere, please, please, OPEN your eyes! DO something about it! Be the hands, the feet and the heart of Jesus.
30. Share your testimony.
To hear your story of how you have been impacted, or how your heart has changed towards adoption after hearing our story or another families story is encouraging. Share it with others. Share with the purpose and the glory of lifting the one who made adoption even possible for many families. The one who came for the orphan, and set them in families. Share what God has done and what he is continuing to do in and through your heart because of adoption, because of Jesus.
It’s not too late!
Perhaps after reading this list, you’ve realized “wow, I didn’t know that”, or “wow – I hope I haven’t stepped on toes.” Or maybe you’ve never thought much about adoption or how you could be a blessing to families of adoption? Please use this post as a learning tool.
Never miss another opportunity to be part of helping bring an orphan into a family, or bless them when they are home. Never again miss the chance to serve the Lord through your service to a family in your area, or your church who are walking in obedience through adoption.
We want to encourage you…it’s not too late! The time is now! Open your eyes to ways you can be the hands, the feet and the heart of Jesus. There are many other families who are willing to adopt, and who just like us could use the support we’ve shared here. Please be on a lookout for these families. Bless them. Bless them with your acknowledgement, your celebration, your encouragement, your support, your hugs, your understanding, your grace, your love, your prayers. Because we’re telling you, it really means the world to all of us, and encourages us to keep walking in faith and obedience.
Now you know – share it. 🙂
With Grace & Service,
Your Fellow Adoption Families