Often with the best of intentions, adoptive parents can be asked
offensive questions. Here are some of my favorites from three
different excellent sources.
Adoptive families hear lots of things from friends and strangers
alike. But many remarks and questions make these families
uncomfortable, even if you don't mean to be intrusive. "People
unfamiliar with adoption may think they're showing interest or
support by asking questions," says adoption educator Ellen
Singer, a licensed certified clinical social worker with the
Center for Adoption Support and Education in Burtonsville, MD.
"But some comments can be upsetting or damaging to families."
Here are the top eight things you should avoid bringing up, what
you can say instead and when to keep quiet.
1. He's so lucky to have been adopted by you.Even if you're
trying to compliment an adoptive parent, you're implying she
"rescued" the child or that adoption is an act of charity, says
Singer. The statement also discounts what the child's given up.
"Adoption involves loss," says Megan Terry, a mom of three who
blogs about adoption at Millions of Miles. "It's the loss of the
child's first family, familiar surroundings, rituals, routines
and often the birth country, culture and language. To say he's
'lucky' invalidates his experiences and feelings." A better
approach: Say something like, "How wonderful that life brought
you all together."
2. How much did it cost to adopt?People often ask this
insensitive question, which makes parents cringe. "It sounds like
you're referring to the child as a purchase," says Dr. Baden. In
addition, it's incredibly invasive. "Yes, there are fees
associated with adoption, as there are with childbirth," notes
Alison Noyce, a mom of four who blogs about adoption at They're
All My Own. "Besides, this information is available on the
Internet." If you're considering adopting, ask, "Can you please
refer me to organizations or classes where we can learn more
about adoption?" instead of requesting personal financial
details. If you're not looking into adoption, steer clear of this
3. You'll probably get pregnant now that you've adopted.First of
all, "The comment makes it seem as if this child is not as
valuable as a biological child or that the family is somehow
'settling' for this child," says family therapist Leigh Leslie,
PhD, associate professor at the University of Maryland in College
Park and a researcher in transracial adoption. Secondly, it
assumes all families adopt due to infertility issues, which isn't
at all the case. Instead of speaking about the child as if she's
second-best, celebrate the joy the family feels about having a
new family member. A simple "Congratulations!" is all that's
4. Why was she given up?This question has many variations,
including "What do you know about her background?" or "What
happened to his birth mom?" In any form, they're intensely
personal and usually not something families wish to share with
anyone. "Think of it as similar to being asked in what position
you conceived your child," says Dr. Baden. Plus, there's a chance
the family doesn't know the answer to your question, and asking
them puts them in an awkward position. Bottom line: "This is not
one to ask, ever," says Terry. "It's my son's story, not mine. We
shouldn't expect children's stories to be a matter of public
5. Are your children siblings?The unspoken message is that
there's a difference between adoptive and biological siblings,
says Dr. Leslie. "My kids are obviously brother and sister
because we adopted them both," says Scheindel. Another reason not
to ask this: Again, the child's background is his or her story
and doesn't have to be shared with everyone. Instead of
concentrating on a topic that's truly not your business, offer a
genuine compliment such as, "Your children are so well-mannered."
6. What if she searches for her real parents?"This kind of
question perpetuates the myth that adoptive families are only
'babysitting' until their children locate their biological
parents," says Singer. It also reveals a misunderstanding about
adoption today-it's not the closed system it was in decades past.
"Many people don't realize that the days are gone when families
wouldn't tell a child she was adopted, as if it were something to
be ashamed of," says Terry. Though there's less of a stigma about
being adopted, it's still best to avoid this question, say the
7. Why did you choose international adoption when there are so
many kids who need homes here?"Asking parents to justify how a
beloved child came to be theirs is hurtful," says Noyce. "There
are children all over the world who need families. No child is
more deserving of a family than another, regardless of where he
or she was born." Avoid these judgmental remarks, and focus on
the happiness the child brings, rather than her birthplace. If
you'd like to show support to a close friend who's adopted
internationally, Terry suggests checking out books and websites
about the child's birth country, if the parents have shared that
information with you.
By Arricca Elin SanSoneOriginal article appeared on
1."Your Son Is So Lucky"Save the halo for someone that deserves
it like Mother Teresa. Hands down, we are the lucky ones.
2. "I Could Never Give My Baby Away"Did someone ask you to? A
woman who places a baby for adoption does it out of love for her
child. It's a gut-wrenching decision and no one takes it lightly.
3."I Have This Friend Who Was Adopted And [Insert Horror Story
Here]..."Sharing your negative adoption story is a bit like
telling a pregnant woman a bad labor story. I can't predict the
future and neither can biological families. All I can do is be
open to my son's feelings and attuned to his temperament
Single Dad Laughing's Guide to Adoption Etiquette:
1. Never, ever, ever, ask how much a child costs. This includes
the phrase, "how much did you pay for him?" First of all, it's
none of your business. Second of all, if you're interested in
adoption, research it through the appropriate channels. Speak
with an adoption agency. Adoptive parents don't purchase
children. They simply pay legal fees and agency fees. Just like
biological parents pay hospital and doctor bills. Don't turn the
child into nothing more than a commodity.
2. Never ask if a celebrity inspired the adoption. Believe it or
not, Tom Cruise, Connie Chung, and Angelina Jolie did not
convince me one way or the other in the biggest decision of my
life. Are you serious?
3. Never ask "where is his real dad?" Forget the fact that it
will hurt my feelings. How do you think it will affect my son's
feelings to feel like I'm not a real dad to him? Adoptive parents
are real parents. The term you're looking for is "birth mother"
or "birth father".
4. Don't say things like, "as soon as you adopt you're going to
get pregnant" when you find out somebody is adopting. First of
all, there are usually many, many years of pain and financial
burden strapped to infertility, treatments, and heartache. Do you
really think that what you're saying will help them? Secondly,
while it is funny when it happens, it's rare.
5. Never say, "why did she give him away?" Do I really need to
explain why this one would hurt a child? The proper term is
"placed". A birth mother and birth father place their child for
adoption. And again, it's personal and none of your business, so
don't ask if you aren't my BFF.
6. Don't say, "it's like he's your real son". This is similar to
number three, but worthy of mentioning. He is my real son, damn
7. Don't say, "do you love him as if he was your own?" Ummm…
probably more than you love your little terror, that's for sure.
And again… he is my own, damn it.
8. Never say things like, "you're so wonderful to adopt a child".
I am a parent. Just like anybody else with kids.
9. Don't start spewing your horrible adoption stories. "This one
time, my friend's sister's aunt's dog's previous owner's niece
adopted a baby and the real dad came back and they took the baby
away after they had him for two years." First of all, it probably
isn't true. Second of all, how would you feel if I told you about
all the ways you could lose your child. Adoption is permanent.
And in the extremely rare circumstances that something like that
happens, it's not something you should spread because the hurt
that exists for all the parties involved must be immeasurable.
10. Don't say things like, "is it hard for him to be adopted?"
Well, it wasn't, until you asked me that right in front of him
you freaking idiot.
11. I don't want to hear about your second cousin who was on a
waiting list for twelve years and never got a baby. Granted, this
one was much more annoying when we were going through the
adoption process. Nobody wants to know that some people never get
chosen. Show some kindness. Even to ugly people.
Dan Pearce, Single Adoptive Dad Laughing
If you or someone you love want to welcome a child into their
lives and families, as my husband and I did, we can