Since I’m just one mom in one family, I asked for input from other adoptive parents on what kinds of misconceptions they’ve faced from the general public, but also some misconceptions that we adoptive parents had before we adopted. The parents who contributed to this post vary greatly: we have input from those who have adopted infants to those who have adopted older children/teens; from parents who have adopted locally to parents who have adopted internationally; from parents who have both biological and adopted kids, to parents who have only adopted children. In other words, I tried to cover all the bases here.
Last year I wrote a post specifically about my own expectations and misconceptions: Confessions of an Adoptive Mom, where I shared much of what I’ve discovered in my own experience.
So, let’s address some common misconceptions vs. truths…
Misconception: All the children have problems.
(Or, “I couldn’t deal with the problems.”)
TRUTH: Parenting is a challenge, period. This is true whether you gave birth to the child or not. I will venture to say that nearly every parent will, at some point before their children reach adulthood, have moments where they feel like a parenting failure. Here’s a secret: there are NO perfect parents and there are NO perfect children. Giving birth to your kids does not guarantee a problem-free parenting life.
From one mom: “One of the greatest misconceptions people have, I think, is regarding older kids in the system. I have heard over and over that, ‘I can’t adopt older children because I couldn’t handle all of their behavioral problems.‘ As I write this, I think that it isn’t a misconception that older children who have been in the system have behavioral problems, because they often do, but rather, that people think they can’t handle it… We have a daughter who has some pretty difficult issues, but we can and are handling it, because she’s ours. Biological parents love their kids who are born with special needs, or develop issues, and they do what they have to do to deal with it because they are their kids.” It’s the same for adoptive parents.
Another mom says, “You just take one day and one year at a time and find what works for you and your family. And pray, pray, pray!” This advice, my friends, applies to every child in your family, biological or adopted!
Misconception: There are no babies available for adoption.
TRUTH: A foster adoptive mom of two says she felt that if she chose to adopt, she was giving up the possibility of having a baby. However, she ended up adopting two children, both under the one year old. Not everyone wants to adopt babies, of course, but there are babies out there needing homes.
Misconception: It’s too expensive.
TRUTH: The cost of adoption is a big concern for people, but there are ways to work around this, and some adoptions don’t cost a dime! (I’ll address this next week!)
Misconception: The child was not loved by his/her birth parents.
TRUTH: In reality, especially in infant adoptions or any adoption where the birth parents chose adoption, this is not true. Birth parents who choose adoption are sacrificing in order to give the child what they believe will be a better future, but it is never easy. Even in cases where a child is forcibly removed from the home (as in most foster adoptions), the child is usually loved, but the birth parents have issues they have not been able to overcome in order to parent well (such as drug addiction, mental illness, or many other possibilities).
Misconception: I won’t be able to love an adopted child like a birth child.
TRUTH: Every adoptive parent will tell you something different about exactly how this was for them. Expect a getting-to-know-you period, no matter what the age of the child. Also keep in mind that in families with several children, even if they are all biological, the love for each child may be different: not more or less, but different based on the personalities of the parents and the children. This is the case with adopted kids, too. (I’ll have a whole post later in the series on bonding with adopted children.)
Misconception: Adopted kids will be grateful for their “new family” and everything will be “rainbows and unicorns.”
TRUTH: We tend to underestimate the impact of the trauma and loss that kids have come through. Adopted kids, especially older ones, need time to feel safe and secure before they can begin to learn what unconditional love looks like.
One mom who adopted two teens from the Ukraine says, “People have actually walked up to my girls and said ‘Oh, aren’t you so happy and thankful to be in America now?’ and it totally invalidates [the kids'] history.”
I fell into this trap myself. I found myself shocked that Lindsey wasn’t more grateful to finally have a family and her own bedroom and all of the things we were providing. What I finally realized is that I wouldn’t be skipping around joyfully all the time either if I’d just been uprooted from EVERY thing I’d ever known: new home, new family, new city, new school. Not to mention overcoming many years’ worth of hurt.
Misconception: Love heals everything.
TRUTH: Regardless of if you adopt a baby or an older child, you will need a large support system to help raise that child. Several moms shared about disillusioned adoptive parents who thought that love would heal their child’s wounds. Love HELPS heal wounds, but sometimes professional help is needed to put that love into practice in moment-to-moment, practical ways. It is no reflection on your parenting to seek outside help to meet the needs of your child.
A few more misconceptions are answered with truth here on the AdoptUskids site: Common Myths About Adoption.
–> Have you experienced other misconceptions about adoption in your own experience? Share them in the comments!
**Please come back next week, when I’ll be addressing more adoption-related topics!
(It’s gonna take me a long time to read all the fabulous posts from all those fabulous gals above, but I know it’ll be worth my while!)