What adoptive parents don't tell you during National Adoption Month

This post originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press as an op-ed in November 2014. 

When my wife Gladys and I were going through the mandated screening needed to adopt our daughter, our social worker joked that there is a no-return policy on adopted kids. I am sure she intended it to be our final reminder that adopting a child is a permanent lifestyle change. I heard her and immediately assumed that someone she worked with must have changed their mind at some point, and she wanted to make sure that never happened to another child.

I do not know if my assumption was right, but I was reminded of it reading some of the comments on the hashtag for National Adoption Month, which is happening right now. There is very little “real talk” in recruiting potential adoptive parents, and that needs to change.

The reality for adoptive parents is that for you to have a family, another family has experienced a tragic loss and the child you are adopting knows it, even the little ones. Once your adoption is final, and your child grows up, they will wonder who their biological parents are and ponder what their life would be like if circumstances were different.

The harshest critics of your adoption will be some of the people closest to you, the very people you felt would be on your side. They will level their criticism of your commitment, or your ability to parent, out of what they call a concern for your best interest. Fortunately, there are only one or two people like this, but it is still jarring if you are not prepared.

You have not experienced the stress and worry you will feel during the final few weeks leading to the court date to have your adoption finalized. In Michigan, there is a waiting period of up to six months from when a child is placed in your home until your adoption can be finalized.

You will grow to love that child during that waiting period, and you will realize that you have no legal rights as a parent until your final court date. The thought of something happening to scuttle our adoption of our daughter consumed my thoughts for at least the month before our court date.

People will ask if you have real children, or your own children, as if the very real bond you feel with you adopted child should not exist. If you have adopted transracially, expect a flood of curiosity about raising a child of another ethnicity and criticism that you’re not raising your child right.


My hope is that injecting a little “real talk” into the conversation during National Adoption Month helps convince more loving, caring people that adoption is the right thing for their family by helping them prepare. My life has been changed immeasurably for the good by adopting The Kid, and I know there are others like me who are looking for a little change.   

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