April Fallon on What Not to Say to an Adoptive Parent

Did you know that Denver is a cutting-edge place for adoptive families? 

Three cases in point: (1) Parker Adventist Hospital was the first birthing center in the nation to have an adoption liaison through the Family to Family Support Network. (2) The Denver area boasts a plethora of adoption-competent therapists, such as those at the PASS Center. And (3) Denver is home to an internationally renowned adoption podcast, Adoption Now.

ADOPTION NOW – “Telling Your Adoption Story” is a podcast dedicated to telling real stories about the joys and challenges of the adoption journey. It talks about infant and international adoption, foster to adopt, and embryo adoption. The stories are told from the perspective of the adoptee, birth parent or adoptive parent.

I asked Adoption Now’s founder, April Fallon, to tell me what NOT to say to an adoptive parent. April should know. After all, she is a mom-by-adoption four times over, and she has heard many stories from adoptees, first parents, and other adoptive parents. Here’s her advice.

The Very Real Questions We Get

“How much were those kids?”

“Is this your daycare?”

“Was the birth mother on drugs?”

“Those kids are so lucky.”

Oh, the joys of being an adoptive parent in a trans-racial family.

These are real questions we get every day when we go out as a family. It happens everywhere…in a grocery store, while eating out, or even at church.

Once I had a lady come up to me and ask if my kids were “real” brothers and sisters.

I said, “Do you mean biological siblings? No, they are not all biologically related, but they are REAL brother and sisters because they are all in our family.”

Then she told me that she could totally understand adoption because she had adopted a kitten.

The Real Truth

All of these interactions taught me that educating others on how to speak to an adoptive family is so important.

The truth about adoption is that it is expensive; it’s challenging, and it’s a long process.

It cannot be compared to adopting an animal, and we do not feel that our kids are lucky. We feel lucky to get to parent these adorable little humans.

In most cases, the real truth is that adoptive mothers and fathers worked very hard to create their family. They poured all their resources into agencies, parenting classes, and often travel to bring home their child. After all that, it can still take months for the child to attach and adjust.

Adoptive parents dedicate their lives to the adoption journey, as it is one that goes on long after the child is in their home.

Even the most innocent question can be exhausting to an adoptive family, especially when they are just trying to buy some fruit in the grocery store.

Sometimes the questions can cause the children to be triggered. Then, after the person leaves, the parent is left to explain why someone would say such strange things as they are sitting in a shopping cart.

So What Should Be Said to Adoptive Families?

There are several things you can say when you encounter a what may look like an adoptive family, statements that are likely to be welcomed and supportive:

Your family is beautiful. You are doing a good job. We love adoption. What cute kids; I can tell they love each other.

If you genuinely want to know more about adoption, then a great way to approach an adoptive parent is to give them your number and say I would love to ask you some questions and maybe meet for coffee.

I remember once a lady approached my cart with her teenage children. My son was four years old and stood up to block his two sisters from something she might say that would be hurtful. Then the lady said, “God bless your family. I brought my teenage kids over here so they could see how beautiful your family is and how love is what makes a family. It’s clear your mama loves her babies.”

I was tearing up. My four-year-old son stepped aside and let her see his new baby sister who was only one week old.

He realized NOT ALL STRANGERS say crazy things to our family. He said, “Mommy, that lady was so nice! She loved our family.”

Encouraging an Adoptive Family Goes a Long Way…

…farther than you might even imagine. We know that love DOES help make a family. Simply share with us your love, understanding, support and validation.

And as for the question, “How much were those kids?” I say, “Priceless.”

If you’re in an adoptive family, what’s the oddest thing a stranger has said to you? How did you handle it?