Thursday, July 2, 2015

Is It Okay to Use Your Adoptee to Educate Others on Adoption?: Adoption Link Up

Hi, I’m Rachel.  I’m a mom by adoption to three children.  All our adoptions are domestic, transracial, and open.  I write and speak about adoption for a living.  I have a blog, three books, and hundreds of articles.   I’m passionate about adoption ethics and education.  

Because of my profession and my “status” as a mom by adoption, I’m often prompted to share photos of my children and parts of their personal stories, particularly by news media outlets.  I always decline.  The public photos of my kids (in articles or blog posts) are always from behind, never showing their faces.  I don’t share my children’s names, anything about their biological parents, or any other personal details regarding their personal stories. 

My decision to keep my children’s photos and information private was an easy one for me to make.  I’m not just protecting their right to privacy, but I’m protecting their biological families.  I’m sending a message that there are lines I do not cross, because I believe in privacy.  I believe in good manners.  I believe in respect, dignity, and honor.  And I know enough from adult adoptees to know, the last thing they want is for their vulnerability to be exploited by their parents (or for their vulnerability to be blatantly ignored out of ignorance and fear by the parents). 

We have nothing to hide, despite what some think.  When we are interrogated by strangers, I don’t “pony up” answers because I’m embarrassed, ashamed, or unconfident.  We are asked questions like:  Where are their birth parents?  Are they real siblings? How much did your kids cost?  Why couldn’t you have your own babies? Why did you adopt Black children?  These questions are full of stereotypes and inaccuracies and entitlement and assumptions.  They are problematic in and of themselves.   I refuse to engage in conversations that take from my children and give to strangers, people who have absolutely no bearing on our happiness and well-being. 

My children are people.  They have personalities, feelings, opinions, and rights.  They are confident, because they know Mom and Dad don’t give away pieces of them to anyone who asks.  We don’t allow their lives to be subject to judgement and criticism, because we don’t “take the bait” and offer up their personal information.

We are, in essence, assertive parents.  We are teaching our children to be the same. 

Now I’ve heard it all.  People are “just curious” and they are “well-intentioned.”  People are asking for an adoption education.   I, as a parent by adoption, should get over being politically correct or easily offended.   I should respond immediately and with full disclosure in order to appease the asker, to be perceived as friendly and comfortable.

But I don’t. 

There are other bloggers and book authors far more popular than me.  They freely share their children’s photos, names, personal stories, and current struggles.   They say their openness helps educate others.

As my children get older, they ask more and more questions about their adoptions.  They will soon learn how to use Google.  They will learn to read  and will be able to pick up my books and grasp what Mom has shared with the world. 

I want to make sure that every word I write, every example I offer, and every photo I share is something that makes the adoption world a better place, without ever compromising my children’s trust. 

My children never signed up to be adopted.  They sure didn’t sign up to be adoption’s poster children.  Nor do I want them to be.   What I want for them is to be free to be themselves, to explore their adoptions without reading about them on the Internet or hearing Mom “educate” a stranger who stops us at Target.  

I want them to know that in my arms is a safe place where they will be met with empathy, education, and empowerment.    Not the ideas for the next blog post, book, article, or Twitter update. 


To learn more about privacy, check out my latest Huff Post article:  The One Thing You Should Say to an Adoptive Family



  1. YES! These stories belong to your children and one day they can choose to share or not share with the people THEY want to. I am so glad, as an adoptee, that my life was not splayed out on the pages of the internet without thought to what I wanted. xox- madeleine

  2. I think this is an important point, one that many adoptive parents (like me) struggle with. How do we tell our story without infringing on our children's, especially given that we have the responsibility to protect their stories until they can decide what/how much to share?

  3. By nature, I do not share details of my or my children's lives with the whole world. But as an adoptee, and an adoptive mother, as well as a biological mother, I have to stay, that children don't always get to have private and secretive stories. Being adopted does not give a person exclusive rights to a non-public past. I know quite a few children with very colorful pasts, who are not adopted, and so THE WHOLE WORLD knows their story even if it is messy. It is on the news. It is okay to come from a messed up family, and it shouldn't be something to be ashamed of, or feel like needs to be hidden. I think it shows our children that they can be proud of who they are when we have a polite and slightly generic response to these questions.

  4. This is something I am struggling with as my writing gains a wider audience.

  5. These are some great points! I know we all have different lines for what we will and won't share (I'm okay with sharing pictures personally, but I understand why others are not). The thing so many people forget is that we can't unshare something, once it's out, it's out. As parents we have to do everything we can to protect our kids.

  6. When I started blogging, I made the choice not to share identifying information online. I have always been very conscious of my online footprint and it just didn't feel right to post names or pictures. When my son is older he can decide what he wants to share about himself. Happy to have a like-minded blogger like you to "look up" to!

  7. How do you respond when people ask questions about their birth mother and her situation? I get asked a lot "How old is she?" "Does she have other children?" "Why is she giving this one up?" "Does she want contact?" Etc... We are so very new to this, in fact we have yet to meet our baby girl. She is due in November. But I'm struggling with this. I don't want to give up her story and I don't want to invade the privacy of her birth mother either.


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