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National Adoption Month: Faux Pas

To wrap up National Adoption Month, here's what not to say when talking about adoption.

As I interviewed families who were willing to share their adoption stories this past month, it was inevitable to hear some of the innappropriate things that have been said or asked.

From strangers in the check out aisle at Target to friends not quite understanding what adoption is, here's some things not to say: How much did he/she cost?

"I did not buy my children, I paid for services to adopt my children," Michelle Berglund said.

Did you try to have children of your own? "These are my own children," Berglund also said.

What language did they speak? "English!" Debbie Bishop said when a stranger asked what language her boys adopted from Guatemala spoke.

What are you? Kim Hanauska was asked that question often as a part Korean/part Caucasian girl growing up. "We don't walk up to other Caucasians and say what are you, German? Swedish? I'm a human born in Korea."

Was it hard for their mom to give them up? "What kind of question is that? Also, they weren't given up, they were given an adoption plan," an adoptive mom who asked to remain anonymous said.

While reading these things might seem like common sense things not to say, one would be surprised. It's a good reminder to us all to be more intentional with our words and how they can affect others.

Rose Thunder November 29, 2011 at 03:01 PM
The comment I always get is, where is his mother? I AM RIGHT HERE! I am his mother! Here is a little information from Adoptive Families Mag that has been helpful just for my own family: http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/pdf/PositiveLanguage.pdf. Thank you for bringing awareness to the wonderful possibility of adoption!
Erica Gindele November 29, 2011 at 04:59 PM
As an adopted child, I have always been open to questions about my personal experience and rarely take offense to an innocent faux pas. After having my own children, it was even more clear to me how easily pregnancy and birth are forgotten and that being a parent has nothing to do with physiology, and everything to do with the human soul's capacity for love. Here are a few more tips: Never, ever refer to me as Tom & Becky's "adopted" daughter. I am their daughter, period. My grandparents have never referred to me as their "adopted" granddaughter, my cousins do not refer to me as their "adopted" cousin. I am simply their granddaughter, cousin, niece, and sister. At one time in my life, I associated with people that consistently referred to members of their own family as "so-and-so's son, you know the adopted one". Not cool. Upon discovering I am adopted, people always ask if I ever want to find my "real" parents. The answer is very simple; my "real" family found me a long time ago. "Birth parents" is a better term.
Willow November 29, 2011 at 07:57 PM
I placed my daughter for adoption 21 years ago. It's an open adoption and I have a wonderful relationship with my daughter and the rest of her family. If it comes up, I say that I'm her birth mom and I always refer to her adoptive parents as "her parents". I gave up my right to be her parent when I signed the adoption papers but it's been an honor and a privilege to witness her growing up through photos, letters, and our once or twice a year get togethers. When people ask dumb questions I try to remember that it's hard to know the right way to ask or to know if it's ok to ask at all if it's a new situation to you.
Mike Schoemer (Editor) November 29, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Thanks all for sharing.
Sarah November 29, 2011 at 09:38 PM
Here are some of the questions I have received: • How much did it cost to get your baby? • Do you love them as much as you would love your own kids? • Do you know their real parents? • Why did their parents give them up? • Are your kids brother and sister? • You are probably going to get pregnant and have your own kids now. That always happens to people who adopt. For the record, I could not possibly love my children more than I do, no matter how they came into my life. We appreciate and talk about our children’s birth families and we are their real parents. I love to share our experiences! For that reason, I usually ask questions to find out why people are interested and tailor my message appropriately. However, like any parent, I simply ask that people be respectful. Respect that my children are listening to what you are saying and how I respond. Respect that some children may be experiencing identity issues or have painful backgrounds. Respect that their birth stories are theirs to tell, not mine. They own the decision on what they want to share and with whom they wish share it.
Samara Postuma November 30, 2011 at 02:45 AM
This is all great stuff and important for people to be aware of. Sarah, I like the reminder that your kids are listening, that's such a good point!

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