Tuesday, March 27, 2018

5 Things I Used to Believe About Adoption That Weren't True

Over a decade ago, we went from a married couple to a married couple waiting to adopt a baby.  (We were babies ourselves...holy moly!)


Choosing to adopt was a big step, but it was also one we were head-over-heels for.  We couldn't wait to be parents.  But like most of the general public, what we knew about adoption was limited to the few kids we knew who were adopted, to a movie or two, and several misconceptions and stereotypes.  

We did commit to learning, but experience truly was the best teacher of all.  Because wow, did we believe some things that were simply not true.  

If you're new to adoption, whether you are considering adopting or are waiting, or you are new to adoption, here's what you need to know:

What I thought:  Young children are nearly blank slates.

The truth:  I believe life begins at conception, so I believe that a full-term baby has forty (give or take) weeks with his or her biological mother prior to birth, plus the days or weeks between birth and placement.  That counts.  

After a decade of parenting (and four open adoptions), I know that my children have some very strong personalities, quirks, talents, preferences that were all shaped by their DNA. 

I've shared this story a few times, but it's worth repeating here.  When my oldest was one and her older biological brother was two, they met for the first time.  At one point, all of us parents were chatting and getting to know each other, our backs turned to the two toddlers.  Suddenly we heard a laugh and turned to realized we didn't know which kid laughed:  because their laughs were the EXACT same.  Two kids raised by two different families, sharing one biological parent, had the exact.  same.  laugh.  

What I thought:  Love is enough.

The truth:  Love is the best foundation.  It is a necessity.  It is wonderful.  But it doesn't solve every problem, soothe every ache, or answer every question.   Yes, you need to pour love upon your child, forever and ever, but you also need to be prepared for the challenges that can come with adopting a child.  Read books that prepare you for parenting an adoptee.  Books such as Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child, In Their Own Voices:  Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories, and Dear Adoptive Parents:  What You Need to Know Right Now -From an Adoptee. 

What I thought:  Semi-open adoption is the best option.  

The truth:  We thought semi-open adoption would be the easy solution, the perfect compromise.  Safe.  But that half-shut door was thrown fully open the day we met our oldest daughter's biological mother.  We committed to open adoption right then and there, we've never looked back.  Now open adoption has plenty of challenges, and I've written extensively about some of the ups and downs our family had dealt with, along with tips.   

What I thought:  I should be polite and answer people's questions about adoption.

The truth:  Ladies, we are taught to be polite and respectful and kind, and unfortunately sometimes this means we believe we have to attend every party we're invited to.  

It is perfectly fine to tell that nosy stranger "that's private," with no other explanation.  Whether the question be about your fertility ("Why didn't you have your 'own' child?"), about your child's adoption story ("Why was she put up for adoption?"), about your child's race ("Does he look like his father...?"), your child's need, ("What's wrong with her?"), the cost of adoption ("How much did you pay for your child?").   Yes, generally people are just curious, but again, you aren't responsible for educating the world on adoption AND, above all, your job is to protect your child's story, holding it sacred.  Because it's not YOUR story to tell.   Being proactive is really important.  Decide NOW what you are and aren't OK sharing so you aren't caught off guard in the future.  

What I thought:  We'd be chosen by an expectant parent quickly, since we were a childless, educated, financially stable couple. 

The truth:  We waited 14 months, from the time our homestudy was complete to the time we were placed, for our first child.  We had about fifteen profile showings during that time.  And I about lost my mind.  Why? Because I made the waiting part of our journey ALL about ME.  MY desire to be a mommy.  (It didn't help that I'm a control freak and usually anxiety-ridden.)  Talk about tunnel vision!  

Adoption should be first and foremost about the child (the adoptee), even BEFORE that child is known and is placed.  How is that possible, you might wonder.  You pray for the child.  You pray for the child's biological family.  You pour your energy into preparing yourself for motherhood-by-adoption.  You prepare your heart for loving a baby you didn't birth but love, maybe even before you know him or her.  

What is something you believed before that you learned to be false?  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Post Adoption Depression: I've Adopted a Baby, So Why Am I So Sad?

Post Adoption Depression.

It's one of the topics rarely discussed in the adoption community, yet it is more common than you might think.  

Why the silence?  The expectation that new parents and those congratulating new parents holds is this:  that the parents should be completely overjoyed to FINALLY be mom and dad that the typical issues that come with parenthood should be a non-issue for for those who adopt.

Sleepless nights?


Baby who refuses to eat?  


Fussy baby?  


But the truth is, "adoptive" parents are really JUST parents.  With real parental struggles and challenges.  You need to be free to struggle.  (Did you hear that?)  Your baby isn't magical.  You aren't magical.  Parenting is messy.  It's exhausting.  It's hard. It's faith-shaking.  For ALL parents.  

However, there are additional pressures put upon those who adopt.  Pressure to be perfect, thankful, fulfilled parents who enjoy every moment (no matter what) with their beautiful baby.   

So here I am to drop some Post Adoption Depression truth bombs:  

You may not have had the pregnancy hormones and the strain of giving birth, but your struggles were/are no less legitimate and authentic.  Whatever they were and are.  

Post Adoption Depression can set in days, weeks, months, or even years (yes, years) after an adoption takes place.  

Post Adoption Depression can happen for a myriad of reasons, but one that is common is struggling to attach to the baby.  The struggle to attach may be fear (what if the baby ends up going home to his or her biological parents?  what if I'm not good enough to mother this child?), obligation (feeling the need to cling to the relationship formed to the biological parents over forming a bond with the baby), guilt (for becoming a parent to another person's child), sadness (for past losses), or change (adding a child to a family can create emotional, financial, spiritual, marital strain).  You might even be feeling guilty for feeling guilty!  

Pretending NOT to be depressed doesn't make the reality go away.  Post Adoption Depression is legit.   Acknowledge the pain, the struggle.  Call it out for what it is.  That's half the battle.  

If you have Post Adoption Depression, you need help.  You need support (think an adoption support group, an adoption-competent counselor, a spiritual leader, and of course, family and friends).  You need people to tell you your feelings are valid, but who offer you the encouragement to take steps forward.  

You need space:  space to feel the feelings.  It's OK to feel what you are feeling, to acknowledge that feeling, and to deal with that feeling.  In fact, that's healthy!  Because you are going to have that feeling whether you call it out for what it is or not:  so why not just keep it real?  

You need education.  What is it you need to learn more about in order to break free?  To emerge from the fog?   Who can provide those resources for you?  Learning more about a specific topic can empower you, melting away the ignorance (fear), the misconceptions.  Is it the struggles you face in an open adoption?  Special needs adoption? Transracial adoption?  Is it attachment?  Is it past trauma?  

You need action-steps.  What, based on your education, do you know that you need in order to move forward?  Perhaps it's attachment parenting techniques.  Perhaps it's more your time (self care).  Perhaps it's counseling.   Perhaps it's a combination of things.  Whatever is right for you, is right for you.

You need faith.  If you're a person of faith like I am, but you're in the rut of Post Adoption Depression, you've perhaps either turned away from God in this season or turned on God (blaming Him).  Either way, can I tell you I believe God is strong and mighty, and He's waiting for you with open arms despite your feelings toward Him in this moment?  

You need grace.  You will not move forward from any struggle in a matter of seconds.  There's no quick schemes here.  Time.  Space.  Good days and bad.  But the key is to see the issue for what it is, know that you aren't alone, and give yourself grace to stumble. 

You will get back up.  You will press on.  You will be the mommy your child needs.  Because that fire in you?  That's your mommy instinct, burning bright and fierce, and Post Adoption Depression will not have enough water to put it out.  

Maybe right now, your fire feels more like a fragile spark.  That's OK.  You've got something there.  It just needs to be fanned and fed.  Take the steps.  A better day is coming.  

Have you or someone you know faced Post Adoption Depression?  How did you emerge from the fog? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Why Adoption Fees Should Not Be Based on the Child's Race

This week, a reader asked me to address this issue:  Is it OK for adoption agencies to charge fees based on the race of the child?   

Short answer:  no.  

Long answer.  Here it goes.  

1:  An adoption journey should cost what an adoption journey costs.

If an agency is charging based on the race (or sex) of the child, that means they're charging money FOR the child, not for the adoption journey.  Because adoption journeys, generally speaking, cost agencies about the same amount of money.  The adoption journey costs should be averaged and that's what EVERY family should pay.  

Essentially, charging money based on a child's race ensures that there is baby-buying and baby-selling, not an ethical adoption where parents are paying for a process, not a person.  

2:  It can be detrimental to the parents. 

An agency that charges based on a child's race encourages lower-income (white) hopeful parents to adopt a child they are not prepared for or do not truly desire.  

If an agency hikes up the adoption fees for the most "in demand" babies (typically white, healthy newborns) while "discounting" the adoption fees for babies in less demand (children of color, especially males), they are not only baby selling (see point #1), but they are also allowing only the wealthier families to adopt white children while "limiting" less wealthy families to children of color.

The problem?

Not every hopeful parent should be parenting children of color. (And by the way, a bi-racial child is a child of color, so I completely disagree with agencies allowing hopeful parents to be open to a white or bi-racial child, but not a "full" child of color.  Colorism in adoption is NOT ok and is also detrimental to the adoptee whose parents fail to understand transracial adoption and race.)

Transracial adoption requires many things.  And honestly, it is OK that not all families are open to children of any race.  Some families may lives in areas with little-to-no racial diversity.  Or they may have racist family members.  Or they may simply feel ill-prepared to adopt a child of color. 

An agency that encourages any hopeful parents to accept the placement of any child that the hopeful parents are prepared to raise is irresponsible of the agency.  Agencies that "encourage" placements of kids of color into families who cannot afford the adoption fees for a child they are prepared to parent (white children) is so disturbing and disgusting, and clearly indicative of an unethical agency.  (See point #4.) 

3:  It harms the adoptee.

This is point #3, but is certainly the most important argument for agencies NOT basing their fees on the child's race.  Because the innocent party in any adoption, the one who has no say-so, is the adoptee.  The adoptee is reliant upon the adults in the situation (the agency, the hopeful parents, the biological/expectant parents) to make good, healthy, responsible, respectable decisions.  

Allowing families who shouldn't be adopting transracially to adopt transracially does the adoptee a major disservice.  Worse, it could completely ruin the child's life!  Furthermore, how would an adoptee feel knowing that their parents got a "discount" on adopting him or her?  

What is done in the dark will always come into the light.  I'm a firm believer in telling our children the truth.  About handing over to them, when age-appropriate, their adoption files.  Disclosing to them information about their adoption stories throughout the child's entire life.  Transparency and authenticity build trust, and all good relationships are firmly planted in trust.  I can see how trust could be completely broken if you either do not share information about adoption fees with your adoptee and/or your child realizes he or she was "less" because of the color of their skin!  And you, as the parent, approved of that.  

4:  An ethical agency isn't being used.

In my opinion, an agency that charges based on the race of a child isn't an ethical agency.   

Because an ethical agency would charge reasonable, fair fees for an adoption journey AND would focus on what is best for the adoption triad, mostly on the adoptee, and not on capitalizing on the race of the child and the income of the hopeful parents.  This goes back to both points #1 and #2.   

Using an unethical agency has so many negative and forever consequences.  So though just one problem is fees, there are many, many other problems with using an agency that charges based on a PERSON and not on a PROCESS.

Finding an ethical agency is so incredibly important.  I spend a lot of time detailing why and how to find an ethical agency in my latest book.  For anyone considering embarking on a domestic infant adoption journey, or someone who is in the midst of one, I cannot emphasize enough how important ethics are and why you must, above all, be committed to an ethical adoption.  

If you sign up for my e-newsletter, you can receive my FREE e-book, "The Magic Letter in Adoption," right to your inbox.  There I explore why ethics (among other things) are crucial to your journey.


We have adopted four children over the course of a decade, and we have never used an agency that charged families based on the race or sex of the child.  We also do not use agencies that base their fees on the income of the hopeful parents for some of the same reasons I listed here, but mainly, because I have ethical concerns with it.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this very important issue.  Let's connect on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.    

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Multiracial, Multicultural Family Life: A Conversation with Diedre Anthony

"Are they all yours?" asked the stranger standing behind me in the checkout line.  She gestured toward the four children with me:  two arguing, one attempting to smell all the gum packets, and the other squealing loudly (just for the fun of it).

I wanted to say, "What do you think? I don't bring four random kids to the store to have a good time."   But I don't, even though I'm tired and irritated.  Instead I just say, "Yes they are!" and then turn my attention back to reminding my son to put the gum packets back where they belong. 

We attract attention and always have, since the day our very first child joined our family.   With the addition of each child, the attention increased:  second glances, questions, smiles.  Not all attention is bad, but it's not something we crave.  We really are just a normal family who does normal things and lives a normal life.  And taking four kids anywhere is an adventure, so I'm mainly focused on making sure we stay together as a group and maintain some sort of sanity. 

Diedre Anthony, author of the blog Are Those Your Kids?, is in a similar situation.  As a mom of two (soon-to-be three!) and a Black woman married to a white man, she's no stranger to questions and comments.  Yet this mama has been rockin' it, taking her passion and knowledge and channeling them into a Facebook group, e-book, and, of course, her blog.  And today, she's offering us some insight on caring for Black hair and navigating multiracial family life.

Rachel:  Earlier this year, you started a Facebook group for moms in multiracial families.  Why did you think this was important?  What do you love about your group?  What do you hope members gain by participating?  

Diedre:  Being in a multiracial family brings unique challenges that monoracial families can't relate to. We often face criticism or have questions about life happenings that can be difficult to find the answers to. I wanted to create a space that was safe to share these challenges and a place to provide answers and additional resources for multiracial families.

I think what makes my group different from many others is the fact that I screen members and spend a lot of time moderating conversations.  I love that everyone comes to the table with unique ideas, opinions, and experiences, but I allow everyone to express their opinions without being offensive or pushy with other members. I have been known to turn off commenting on a post if I felt like the conversation was taking a negative turn. 

I like for my group to be a positive and supportive place. The word is filled with so much negativity. My group will not add to that.  

Rachel:  You are Black, your husband is white, your girls (and baby-on-the-way) are bi-racial.   What's the best thing about being a multiracial family?  What's the most challenging?  

Diedre:  I love that we are truly a melting pot. My husband was born and raised in South Georgia. His family has traditions that he shares with me, and I share the traditions and food of my Jamaican family with him. We've been lucky because our families love us and get along. We've spent many holidays together and we are raising our children in a beautifully blended multiracial/multicultural family.  

Rachel:  Tell me about your new e-book!   Why did you write it?  What will readers get from it? Where can we buy it? 

Diedre:  In my Facebook group and on the blog, I get a lot of questions about curly hair care. As a naturally curly girl myself, I understand the struggle! There are so many products on the market that it's difficult to know which one to choose, and can be frustrating when you've spent a significant amount of money on products and none of them work. 

You can purchase the e-book here.  

Rachel:  You grew up as a military child.  How did your childhood experiences shape you in terms of diversity, acceptance, and racial-confidence? 

Diedre:  I absolutely loved my upbringing! My friends were a mixture of races and cultures and that was my normal. When someone new moved into town, it was almost a battle to see who could be friends with them first. I was always intrigued by their latest travels and where they had been in the world. I loved when my neighbors came back from overseas and brought candy and food from wherever they were. It was always an adventure!

My parents both came from Jamaica as teens, so they faced some discrimination when they came to the States. They taught me to be polite to others and eat at least a little of what you are offered, even if it doesn't look appetizing. I learned to appreciate other cultures based on my upbringing. 

Rachel:  For fellow multiracial families, whether built by biology or adoption, when we encounter someone who is condescending, judgmental, nosy, or critical, what is the BEST way to respond when our kids are watching our every move and listening to our every word?  

Diedre:  To me, it's sad that people still expect everyone in the family to look alike. Even in monoracial families, there will be kids that just don't look like their parents. We are in 2018 and things have changed so dramatically in our world, that it really surprises me when people are shocked by my family dynamics. As my children age, I think I will tell them (if they ask) that people ask about our family dynamics because maybe they don't get out much :)

While they are little, I will just respond with yes they are my children. When you are out in public with your children, sometimes the questions don't come at the most convenient time. I know some of my more sarcastic responses come when I'm already frustrated with my children. But it is important to me to remain calm and in control. I want my kids to see that ignorance does not control my response and that I am ultimately in control of my emotions.

I think the best response is going to vary by comfort level. I definitely would not encourage being rude, especially because your children are watching.I would answer that yes, they are my children and then change the subject or walk away. I think that sends a pretty clear message that the conversation is over and inappropriate. Walking away is perfect when you are in a store (which is where this typically happens to me). You don't owe this stranger anything. 

Rachel:  How do you build your children's racial confidence?  How do affirm them racially?   

Diedre:  We read A LOT. I surround them with diversity through books in our home, and even with toys. They have dolls in just about every race available. It's also important to me that we break gender and cultural stereotypes. They have toys like microscopes, trucks, and cars. We eat at ethnic restaurants. Growing up on an Air Force Base taught me that this was normal. So this is how I raise my kids. 

Diedre's daughters reading our book: POEMS FOR THE SMART, SPUNKY, AND SENSATIONAL BLACK GIRL