Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Reasons Why You Should Not Adopt a Child

Yes, you read that correctly.

I know what you're thinking:  there are so many children in the world who need a "good and loving" forever family.  Why would I discourage people from adopting?  

The reasoning is this: when you choose to adopt, the child must be the #1 priority.   

Here are 10 reasons why a person should not adopt, and why: 

1:  You are anti-connective and attachment parenting.

Arguably, adoptees have experienced trauma to some degree (the separation from their biological parents, at birth or later, causes trauma).  That's why parenting based on the understanding of trauma is so important when you're raising an adoptee (person who was adopted).  You cannot parent an adoptee the same way you would parent a biological child, though I think Empowered to Connect (that is, parenting based on "connection and then correction") is reasonable to use on all children.  Want to learn more?  Check out The Connected Child.  

Attachment parenting helps a child, who has had the "break" from their biological family and/or subsequently others they have attached to (foster family, another biological family member, etc.), adjust to his or her new family.  Attachment parenting includes actions such as babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding or "bottle nursing," cocooning, and much more. 

2:  You believe "love conquers all" and "love is all you need."

Love is an essential foundation for any healthy relationship, but it is not "all" that a person needs.  To believe that love will tackle and heal all struggles is naive and does adoptees and disservice.  Of course, love is critically important, but it is a base to build upon, not the "be all, end all" to parenting a child who was adopted. 

3:  You want a child to fulfill your dreams.  

Listen, we adopted because we wanted to be parents:  period.  But we DID NOT adopt a child expecting them to be a certain way in order to fulfill our dreams.  Adoptees come with their own genes (that aren't yours), personalities, preferences, needs, talents, gestures, and physical appearance.  They are who they are, and your job is to embrace them, not seek to change them to fit a "mold" you dreamt up.  Some adoptees struggle with feelings of rejection, and to have you, his or her parents, further "reject" him or her would be detrimental.

4:  You believe a newborn baby or young child is a "blank slate."

A woman is pregnant, full-term, for 40 weeks.  That is 40 weeks of development, growth, and learning for the unborn child.  You are not receiving a child with a "blank slate."  Not even close.  Adoptive parents who have been parenting awhile can confirm this for you.  Again, our children are who they are.   

5:  You don't have the support of your "nearest and dearest."

Adoption is a tumultuous journey.  There are so many ups and downs, and you are going to need support.  And not just general support, but specific support that not only embraces the child to come, but also embraces adoption in general.  There are some great resources for your "nearest and dearest" including In On It and Adoption Is a Family Affair.  I highly recommend that you purchase these books for family members and close friends.

6:  Your circle of friends doesn't include people who will be like your future child.

If you plan to adopt, it would make sense to be friends with people in the adoption community who can help guide you for the long-haul.  These individuals include adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents.  Joining an adoption support group will help you make connections and friends.  If you're adopting a child of color, do you have friends of color?  What about a child with special needs? 

7:  You plan to "tell all."  

Your child's adoption story is his or her story.  It's not yours to share to satisfy the curiosity of others or to give you "all the feels."  Of course, your child's story overlaps with your story, and you do have a family story.  But you need to be very, very careful to never compromise the trust your child has in you to protect his or her privacy.  Your most important job is to raise your child.  

8:  You believe "color doesn't matter."

If you're adopting transracially, it absolutely matters and will matter forevermore.  There is no blowing off race or pretending not to see it.  Race should be celebrated, not ignored. Acknowledged and embraced.  

9:  You see adoption as "plan B" or "second choice" to having your "own" children.

Sometimes, adoption IS your second or third or fourth opportunity to build a family.  However, it is not, or it should be, labeled as something "less than" to the "best" option of having biological children.  If and until you are at the point in which you can pursue adoption with the heart-set that adoption is the way you want to build your family, hold off on adopting.  It's not fair to your future child for you to see him or her as "less than" anything. 

10:  You see adopting a child as a moment in time and not a lifelong journey.  

Adoption is forever.  It doesn't begin the day you start your homestudy process, and it certainly doesn't end the day the judge declares the adoption final.  Because adoption struggles - and joys too - are lifelong.  Just ask any person in the adoption community!  Because adoption is lifelong, you'll need to be prepared to learn about adoption always!  This is an opportunity, not a chore to be dreaded.   Make sure you have the right mindset before embarking on an adoption journey.  

For more on the domestic infant adoption process, from beginning to forever, check out my latest book.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

How To Support Your Loved One Who Is Adopting a Child

Your friend or family member has announced some BIG news:  adoption plans!   And if you're wondering, how do I support him or her on this journey?  What are the right words and actions?  

If you're feeling perplexed, you are aren't alone.  

When we were waiting to adopt, especially the first time, we received a lot of well-intentioned responses...but many of them just weren't helpful.  Instead, they were often awkward, uncomfortable, or just "off."  

All is not lost.  You CAN support and support well.  

1:  Ask how they're doing.

Avoid always asking, "Have you heard anything?" or "Anything new?" (both of which is baby-focused).   Instead, ask, "How are you doing with the adoption journey?" and "How can I best support you right now?"  Then, support!  

2:  Offer to host a waiting-for-baby shower.

So many times, adoptive parents are overlooked.  Just because we are building our family in a non-traditional, less-common way, doesn't mean we aren't real parents with true desires to celebrate.  A shower might be more appropriate after the child is placed in the family.  And speaking of baby-showers, don't forget that a shower might be appreciated for an older child.  

3:  Learn as much as you can.

Learn about adoption:  the terminology, the process, the post-adoption needs, and parenting adoptees.  Two great books to check out (for friends and family) include In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You to Know About Adoption and Adoption is a Family Affair.  Attend an adoption conference alongside your adoptive-parent friend or family member.  Ask your friend or family member for resources. 

4:  Be honest, yet balanced.

It's OK to have your own parenting struggles, to have a biological child (and announce the pregnancy), etc.  If you avoid all "child talk" with your friend or family member who intends to adopt, it will be sensed (AWKWARD) and become an issue in your relationship.  On the other hand, going on and on and on about your breastfeeding struggles gets annoying and uncomfortable for your loved on.  Be sensitive to your friend or family member's journey, but don't hide behind your own.  

5:  Be thoughtful.

Send a "thinking of you" card, buy them an adoption book or a book for their future child, take them on a coffee date (just because), etc.  You know your loved one well:  what would best minister to them as they wait?  

How have you learned to support those who are choosing to adopt? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

5 Ways You Can Love Adoption Differently Than The Majority

Happy Valentine's Day week, dear one!  I thought it fitting that this week, we talk about how to really love adoption, by treating it with the respect it deserves, vs. being "common" like the majority. 

1:  Let the open adoption relationship grow organically.  

Do not rush.  It's not natural.  It's not healthy.  

I know sometimes there are "deadlines" to these things.  Maybe you've been chosen three weeks before the baby is due.  This doesn't mean you're in a state of relationship emergency where you throw all common sense to the wind.  

Remember, the best relationships are ones of quality, not quantity.  The number or texts you exchange doesn't equal the intimacy and commitment needed for a long-standing relationship.  

2:  Say no, even when it's difficult.

You will make many, many decisions along your adoption journey.  Some may seem like no big deal or "easy," while others will be obviously major.  However, all decisions you make are important.  

I've shared many times, every single decision you make today can very well impact your child, the adoptee, forever.  

This is why it's critical that you have a comprehensive understanding of what an ethical adoption is and how to be part of one.  Without this foundation, you'll be subject to making unethical choices, even if these are unintentional.   

When you know something isn't right, you need to have the courage and conviction to say "no" without apology.  You won't regret doing the right thing.

3:  Carefully select an adoption professional to work with, not being easily fooled.  

I've shared so many times that just because an agency has "Christian" in their title, doesn't mean the agency is ethical.  Just because an agency offers you short wait time, because they are "busy," doesn't mean they are a good fit.  Just because an agency has a posh website and maternity home, doesn't mean they are worth the money they demand of you.  

Be a critical thinker.  Choosing an adoption professional isn't solely a heart decision.  It's a head decision, too.  

4:  Commit to a lifetime of adoption education.

Your education is just beginning, because your child, an adoptee, will have needs throughout his or her lifetime that are related to adoption.  How do you get educated and keep getting educated?  You are part of an adoption support group, you are befriending adoption triad members, you are connected to an adoption-competent family therapist, you are reading books and blogs and articles, you are attending conferences.  You do these things so that ultimately, you can give your child what he or she needs.  

5:  Learn as much as you can about connective parenting.  

Connective parenting is gold.  There are solid reasons for parents who have adopted to choose this way of raising their children:  because it works.  Trauma changes the brain.  And honestly?  Connective parenting works for any child.  The methods (eye contact, voice control, re-dos, time-ins, etc.) make life at home more predictable and peaceful.   Even though my four children are very different from one another, they are also all in need of the same things:  connection first, and then correction.  And, of course, love.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

To the (Adoptive) Parent: You are NOT Enough for Your Child

Yep, you read that correctly.

Now before you hit me up on social media telling me what a jerk I am, please allow me to explain.

Adoptive parents spend a lot of time proving themselves.  It starts when they are simply considering adoption and start applying to adoption agencies.  Those applications are like ten pages long and ask some intimate information. 

Once accepted, a longer application, plus background checks, fingerprinting, interviews, home visits ("inspections), financial forms, a physical, and much more.  Then it all has to get approved. 

Once approved, an adoption profile book.  Then the wait.  Then the profile showings and "rejections." 

Then, eventually, a match.  Perhaps a relationship with the expectant parent(s). 

Then the baby is born, and then more waiting. 

Once a placement happens, the six month (give or take) waiting-to-finalize period in which there are post-placement home visits by the social worker, more physicals (of the baby), and reports. 

Finalization:  the ultimate "are you worthy" moment. 

It's a lot of holding your breath.  Of wondering, worrying, and confusion.  Walking on eggshells, even. 

And if you have an open adoption with your child's birth family, you continue to prove yourself forevermore...

It can be exhausting.

I'm not complaining.  I'm stating the truth.  Proving yourself is HARD.  It's mentally draining.  It might even contribute to post-adoption depression

The "prove yourself" is a necessity, of course.  No ethical social worker is going to place a baby with a family that isn't capable of parenting an adoptee.   But that doesn't change the difficulty of always being "on."

Once you've proven, time and time and time again, that you are worthy of parenting, then comes the real life part:  actually parenting.

And I know sometimes (oftentimes?) you want to DIY.  You have yearned, planned, waited.  You are READY to DO THIS! 

But I'm here to tell you, after my decade (plus) of parenting, you are not enough for your child. 

Yes, you read that correctly. 

You are NOT enough for your child.

When you chose to adopt, you chose a very serious, honorable role as a child's mom or dad.  But not just ANY child's mom or dad, an adoptee's mom or dad.

Some argue that there's "no difference" between biological and adopted children.  I do not have the experience of having both.  All of my children were adopted.  However, adoptees tell us, time and time again, that we need to parent our kids in a way that is empathetic to their experience as adopted people. 

What does that mean, exactly?

In essence, adoptees do not share the same experience as biological children.  They often have gaps or mysteries in their pasts, how they "came to be."  They have big feelings and questions about adoption.  Holidays can be hardTraumaversaries are real.   Family tree projects can be challenging.  These are just a few of the many examples. 

And because you didn't conceive, grow, and birth your child, there IS a difference in parenting an adoptee vs. a biological child.  Biological ties are STRONG and innate for some adoptees, and that should be respected. 

What can you do about it, knowing that you aren't enough for your child? 

1:  Always respond with empathy. 

This is my #1 piece of advice.  Your child's struggles SHOULD NOT be met with anger, a brush-off, defensiveness, offense, or anything else besides empathy.   But in order to be empathetic, you MUST understand your child's position.  Therefore, you have to get educated on adoptees:  proactively!   Of course, there is no "one size fits all," but you should explore resources created by adoptees (blogs, books, articles, documentaries, conference speeches, etc.) in order to be prepared!   Two of my favorite adoptee resources are Michelle Madrid Branch's site and Madeleine Melcher's book.   I frequently suggest adoptee-created resources on my Facebook page, too.  (You can grab my free e-book that talks about the importance of empathy here.)  Have plenty of adoption books on-hand like these transracial adoption children's picture books.

2:  Befriend adoptees. 

NOTHING beats face-to-face, hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart conversations.  Social media is awesome, as it can connect people across the world that we may otherwise never know.  However, those relationships aren't intimate or sacred. 

3:  Have an adoption-competent counselor on stand-by.

Again, be proactive.  Find an adoption competent counselor you/your family can check in with when need-be. 

4:  Have a mentor for your child.

I talk about this often in my writing and speaking engagements, because it's so critically important.  Ideally, this person is a same-race (as your child) mentor or an adoptee (or both). 

5:  Understand and appreciate your child's racial culture and implement it.

For our kids, we have a hair braider (for the girls) and a barber (for our son) who are both Black adults.   We also frequent Black owned businesses and historical sites/festivals, and buy books/movies/art/music/toys that feature Black people.  For ourselves as the parents, we read Black written articles, subscribe to Essence magazine, watch movies that educate us, etc.   The learning NEVER stops.  The connecting NEVER stops. 

6:  Speak the truth.

Tell your kids the truth:  that you are SO thankful to be their parents, and you invite others in to your "inner circle" in order to make sure your children feel appreciated, supported, and racially/adoptionally confident. 

How have you supported your child?