Author Topic: Adoption etiquette  (Read 11996 times)

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Betelnut

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Adoption etiquette
« on: September 16, 2011, 12:43:10 PM »

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. 


People who are interacting with adoptive parents or adoptive children:

•   Don’t say, especially in front of the child, “Oh, I could never give up/give away my child!”;
•   Don’t say, “Where did you get him/her?” or “Where did she/he come from?”  (It may surprise you but the vast majority of adoptions in the US are domestic so the answer to that question will probably be “Peoria” or the equivalent even if the child “looks” foreign);
•   The adoptive parent is the “real” parent both legally and emotionally--the birthparent is called birthmother, birthfather or first mother, first father;
•   Adoptive brothers and sisters are “real” brothers and sisters even if one child is adopted from Russia and is white, another sibling is a domestic foster adoption and African American and the third kid is biological;
•   Don’t tell an adoptive mother or couple, “Oh, now you’ll get pregnant!”
•   Not everyone adopts because of infertility—don’t ask;
•   We don’t adopt to “save” a kid and we aren’t “saints” for adopting a child—we are just parents;
•   Foster kids aren’t broken children;
•   Not all or even most birthmothers are teenagers or drug addicts—don’t make such an assumption;
•   It surprises people sometimes, but, yes, you can love your adopted kid just as much as your biological child;
•   Open adoption is the norm now (at least in the US), so learn about it and don’t assume that open adoptions are bad or confusing for the child.  Some open adoptions work marvelously, some don’t;
•   Adoptive parents pick international adoption for many different reasons—please respect that and don’t harangue them for not “saving” “one of our own”;
•   Don’t tell an adoptive child that he/she should be “grateful” for being adopted—no child should feel like he/she needs to be “grateful” for his/her existence in a family;


If you are talking with a birthparent:

•   Don’t say, especially in front of the child or birthparent, “Oh, I could never give up/give away my child!”;
•   Not all or even most birthmothers are teenagers or drug addicts;
•   Don’t tell her that “Well, at least you didn’t abort your kid!”

If you are talking with an adopted person:

•   Don’t say, “At least your birthmom didn’t abort you!”
•   Don’t imply that he/she should be grateful to have been adopted.  Adoption is a great thing but it also includes a huge sense of loss and identity questions.  My daughter, adopted from Guatemala, gained a lot from being adopted (better health care and education plus being raised by me!) but also left behind parents, two siblings and her culture.  That is a lot to lose for an 18 month child.
•   Don’t imply that his/her adoptive family isn’t “real” and/or that he/she isn’t really part of that family;

I’m sure I’ll think of more but that is what I have so far.
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Wonderflonium

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2011, 12:49:36 PM »
I actually started to tear up when I thought about people saying this stuff to parents/birth parents/children. I can't believe how awful people can be.

My 2nd cousin and her husband adopted 2 children of a different race, and her grandfather didn't want to acknowledge them. It broke my heart. Luckily, her parents were pleased as peacocks to be grandparents, so when I saw them at a reunion, I got to see lots of pictures of the babies. They later had a biological child. In a way, I giggle at the thought of someone telling her that they now have a "real" child, but only because I know that she would, in her polite southern way, verbally eviscerate someone who implied the older 2 weren't her real children.
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Betelnut

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2011, 12:56:00 PM »
WF--yeah, it is amazing that people actually DO say those things! I go on an adoption forum and people there frequently post about rude/mean things that others have said to them.  (I've actually promoted ehell a few times over there because of the outrageously rude comments people have made!)
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Mopsy428

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2011, 02:15:47 AM »
-Don't refer to an adopted child as "the adopted one" as if it's the child's last name or bring it up in every single conversation, particularly if it has nothing to do with the story.

-As a corollary to adoptive parents being real parents: an adopted child's child is the adoptive parent's grandchildren. Example: If Donna adopts Susan, and then Susan has Jack, then Donna is Jack's grandmother. Do not say, "Oh! Donna's the grandmother out of politeness! Susan was adopted!" No. Donna IS Jack's grandmother. Period. End of story. She's not the grandmother "out of politeness".

lollylegs

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2011, 11:08:54 PM »
I am so grateful for this thread! A childhood friend was adopted and it was such a touchy topic that I'm a little awkward when it comes to adoption now.

If an (adult) friend tells you they're adopted, is it okay to ask if they've met their birth parents?

ncgal

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2011, 02:37:07 PM »
My daughter is adopted.  It blows people minds when they ask where she was born and I name the local hospital and not a different country!

One person has made the comment in front of me, in my own home about my daughter's "real mom", thankfully I was saved from any comment as his wife was standing right there and responded " she is her real mom"  :D

Betelnut

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2011, 03:46:47 PM »
I am so grateful for this thread! A childhood friend was adopted and it was such a touchy topic that I'm a little awkward when it comes to adoption now.

If an (adult) friend tells you they're adopted, is it okay to ask if they've met their birth parents?

If you know the person really well, I think it would be okay.  But I'm not part of that triad--I'm the adoptive parent, not the birth mother and adopted child, so I'm not 100% sure.
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Wonderflonium

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2011, 04:57:20 PM »
I wouldn't bring it up unless you know the person well. I had a friend in college who was adopted, and we were friends when she found her bio mom. She talked about it to some people and wasn't sensitive about it, but it didn't come up that much outside our inner circle because her parents were her parents, not this person.
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dawbs

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2011, 05:21:51 PM »
I am so grateful for this thread! A childhood friend was adopted and it was such a touchy topic that I'm a little awkward when it comes to adoption now.

If an (adult) friend tells you they're adopted, is it okay to ask if they've met their birth parents?
I wouldn't unless I was close enough to be privy to such information pretty 'naturally'.

(especially with the existence of things like 'kinship adoptions', who a birth parent is can be painful.  And I've actually seen the look of despair on a kid's face when she had to try to explain "yes, my birth mom is Aunt A")


To add to the list:
Comments about 'returning' the child will always be unwelcome.

Comments about the cost are generally inappropriate too.

Badmouthing or making saints of parents (birth parents or adoptive parents) isn't helpful--all of these people are real parts of the child and his/her life. 

« Last Edit: September 26, 2011, 05:32:51 PM by dawbs »

blue2000

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2011, 07:01:13 PM »
Making a big deal of adoptees being 'unwanted' or 'all alone' in front of a small child.

Oldest Bro and his wife were both in car accidents within about a week of each other (no serious injuries, but it was a very bad week!) My niece is adopted. She was worried that if they died she would have to go back to the orphanage, because that's where kids go when they have no parents, right?

That was one heck of a conversation. :(
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turnip

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2011, 08:06:12 PM »
Speaking for some friends of mine:

Don't pepper people with questions just because their child appears to be a different ethnicity then they are.

First, the child might not be adopted.  Genetics are a funny thing, or it could be a child from an earlier relationship.

Second, even if the child is adopted, they may not wish to go into a discussion of it with someone they just met.  This is a classic "just treat them like everyone else" scenario - feel free to ask friendly questions about how old the child is, what school they go to, and whether or not they like transformers, but adoption questions should be saved until you are on more intimate terms. 

Betelnut

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2011, 10:20:00 AM »
Oh yes, don't say anything about "buying" a baby or the cost. 

Look, my daughter's adoption did cost quite a bit of money but I was not buying her--I was paying bureaucrats, lawyers, social workers and the adoption agency to help the adoption happen. 

EVERYONE pays to have/get a baby (unless you happen to one of those rare women on "I didn't know I was pregnant") but no one asks a biological parent, "How much did you pay for her?" even though the bio parent (or the insurance company) pays for pre-natal vitamins and supplies and for doctors, nurses, the hospital, doulas, and midwives to help with the birth of his/her child.
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Maujer

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2011, 10:38:52 AM »
I wouldn't bring it up unless you know the person well. I had a friend in college who was adopted, and we were friends when she found her bio mom. She talked about it to some people and wasn't sensitive about it, but it didn't come up that much outside our inner circle because her parents were her parents, not this person.

Agree. I met my best friend's biological mother when I visited her aboard. It was an emotional experience for me (her birth mother thanked me for being there for my best friend when she went through the process of locating birth mother) so I can't even imagine how emotional it was for best friend when it first happened. I know it's not something I would want to talk about in casual conversation. She is a very lucky that it was a positive experience, but that's not the case for all adoptees. My MIL is adopted and she met her biological mother, but has no contact with her or her half-siblings anymore.


lollylegs

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2011, 06:28:15 PM »
I am so grateful for this thread! A childhood friend was adopted and it was such a touchy topic that I'm a little awkward when it comes to adoption now.

If an (adult) friend tells you they're adopted, is it okay to ask if they've met their birth parents?
I wouldn't unless I was close enough to be privy to such information pretty 'naturally'.

(especially with the existence of things like 'kinship adoptions', who a birth parent is can be painful.  And I've actually seen the look of despair on a kid's face when she had to try to explain "yes, my birth mom is Aunt A")

Right, I didn't even think of that. Thanks.

Oh yes, don't say anything about "buying" a baby or the cost. 

Look, my daughter's adoption did cost quite a bit of money but I was not buying her--I was paying bureaucrats, lawyers, social workers and the adoption agency to help the adoption happen. 

EVERYONE pays to have/get a baby (unless you happen to one of those rare women on "I didn't know I was pregnant") but no one asks a biological parent, "How much did you pay for her?" even though the bio parent (or the insurance company) pays for pre-natal vitamins and supplies and for doctors, nurses, the hospital, doulas, and midwives to help with the birth of his/her child.

 :o Did someone actually say that to you?

On the same topic, if someone is complaining about the cost of adoption, don't say things like, "Well if you can't afford to adopt, are you sure you can afford to be a parent?"

mariannedashwood

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Re: Adoption etiquette
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2011, 05:58:57 AM »
Yes, please refrain from "Have you ever searched for/ met/thought about looking for your birth parents?" Even if you couch it in the politically correct terms it's still so deeply personal and fraught with implications that I prefer to only talk about this with people that I'm very close to.

I have had so many people say to me "Oh, I could never adopt" and that hurts, especially after having heard people say to me, knowing I was adopted, "Adopted children are the refuse of the world: even their own mothers can't love them"

Avoid "blood is thicker than water" kinds of remarks. I've also been squicked out by people commenting on the psychological necessity of, for instance, grandparents needing the grandchildren to bear a family resemblance. I remember how it hurt to hear my mother refer to the "family nose" on my cousin to her brother. It seemed so important to her.

Someone might disagree with me, and I'm certainly open to that, as this whole subject just stirs up a mess of trouble in me, but I also get itchy when people discuss genealogy. If it's discussed as history, that's one thing : it's a question of interesting stories that explain a family culture. But when it's couched in terms of "This is my blood" "Blood will tell" that sort of thing, it's offensive.

Ehell would probably disapprove of the time that I responded to a man who said proudly "I can trace my family back to the 15th century. Not a lot of people can say that" "Yes. I don't know who my parents are".