National Adoption Day began in November of 2000 with the collective partnership of the Danny Thomas Foundation, The Freddie Mac Foundation, and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute to spotlight the topic of adoption. It was inspired by the Honorable Michael Nash, who served as a judge for Los Angeles County’s Juvenile Court. In continuing with the spirit of Judge Nash’s work, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to use my voice in some way in November.
It only felt right to share a little about my family’s journey through adoption and some tidbits I have learned over the past five years.
In 2018, my family finalized the adoption of our son. It was a day of utmost joy and pride, much like the day I gave birth to our daughter, minus the exhaustion. I experienced first-hand that intimate and life-changing moment that Judge Nash created for those families in L.A. County. But what happened after our day in court has transformed how I educate and advocate for birth and adoptive families.
I have learned three imperative things as an adoptive parent and as an adoption-competent social worker that I want you to consider when coming alongside families touched by adoption.
Three things not to say, if you will.
Please don’t tell me my spouse and I are the best parents for our adoptive child.
When you tell an adoptive family they are the best parents for a child you diminish the fact that another mother and father could not parent. It also implies that “family” can only consist of one mom and one dad. We will never fully know the circumstances around why an adoption plan is made for a child. And we must hold space for the fact that maybe that parent(s) made decisions that were best for everyone when they relinquished their rights.
Please don’t tell me, “This was God’s most perfect plan,” or “It was God’s plan all along,” or “It was in His timing.”
Full transparency, friends, at the beginning of our journey through adoption, I said these things to myself. The reality is that for adoption to transpire crisis must exist. Saying it was ‘God’s plan all along’ means He also planned for a birth mother to be in crisis. If I can take you one step further, it also means that God meant for all biological parties – mother, father, child – to experience incredible grief and loss. I want you to pause and take in the heaviness of that. I believe that Jesus meant what he told the disciples in John 14:18. As our family navigated the adoption process, I realized toxic positivity like, ‘This was God’s plan’ stifled my grief and loss as I healed from infertility. And they simultaneously negated the unparalleled crisis of my son’s birth mother and the gravity of the loss that she feels.
Please don’t tell me, “You’re saving their life” or “You’re giving them an incredible life.”
This misconception is why adoptive families are often viewed as having a savior complex. Adoption is complicated. It is filled with unimaginable losses – biological parents, caregivers, homes, friends, schools – entangled with a search for identity and purpose that can last a lifetime. I promise you, in my work with adoptive families, it is very few and far between the number of families who believe their adoption story is about saving another human’s life. Saving a child’s life is not the driving force behind why families choose to adopt. Neither you nor I know what would or could have been the adoptee’s life.
The legal act of adoption is one finite moment that changes your life forever. It is so much more than the perfectly curated 1×1 square that captivates your attention on a social media story, reel, or feed. The path to any adoption began well before that moment, and it will continue for the birth parent(s), adoptee, and adoptive family long after that 1×1 square has become a distant memory.
On November 18, 2023, I hope you can come alongside a birth or adoptive family in your life and recognize the extraordinary strength of these individuals as we celebrate National Adoption Day.