This morning I participated in a HuffPost Live Segment: “Fighting Misconception of Adoption” hosted by Nancy Redd with Psychotherapist Dr. Barbara Freedgood and adoptive mother Whitney Smith of http://www.someoneelsesvagina.com. I enjoyed listening to these wonderful women and would like to add that some of the misconceptions about adoption: It’s too expensive; American foster children have behavior problems. I can’t adopt without a partner; I can’t love a child who doesn’t look like me; Social Workers are unprofessional are rooted in fear. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation about who the children in foster care are and how they got there remain in freefall. Celebrations like National Adoption Month were put in place to raise awareness about adoption, increase the likelihood of foster children finding forever families and clear the backlog of families waiting for their child’s adoption to be finalized.
As a single adoptive parent, it boggles my mind that our country is still stuck on the notion that a family consists of two-parents and therefore single people should not adopt. I wish this fantasy would die, for while that is an optimal scenario, it is not always a reality. How one defines family is personal and single women or men wishing to adopt, should do so. There are lots of organizations that support and encourage single adoptive parents. Going it alone means actively creating a community for the adopted child that includes male and/or female mentors to assist in nurturing a child’s development.
I regularly speak and write about adoption and continue to hear that Blacks and other minorities do not adopt. In communities of color, relatives often step-up to parent younger family members. Even if an adoption is the end result, we tend to keep those details to ourselves. For those of us who share our adoption journey, our experiences are not go-to features in the media. Thankfully, outlets like matermea.com, MyBrownBaby.com, Black Voices/Huffington Post and “Adoptive Families” Magazine provide a space to talk about being adoptive parents.
Successful adoptions are a result of prospective adoptive parents doing their homework. Knowledge is power and the best way to ease fears about what it means to adopt. I think the best resources are seasoned adoptive parents. Adoptive parents are fountains of information and can tell you that love at first sight is not the litmus test for whether the child you are planning to adopt is the one. Whitney Smith, who adopted two children, thought she was a failure because she had to learn to love them. Like all blended relationships, success does not happen with the stroke of a pen. It takes time and commitment and in some instances, asking social workers or therapists for help. Humility is key.
Older children in foster care get dinged for things beyond their control, like their age and have sadly been portrayed as defective. These youth have spent their young lives being moved around and rejected at an alarming rate. Imagine being 7-years old and still in foster care… That’s a heavy burden and to minimize her hurt, she erects protective walls to keep the most loving parent out. They need adoptive parents to love past their hurt and not give up on them.
Whether or not one adopts, parenting is hard work. And even when you have information, there are blind spots. Children do not come with instructions and the most comprehensive adoption manual will miss something. My advice to prospective adoptive parents is to ask themselves why they want to adopt and understand that wanting a child is not the same a loving a child in need. For adoption has to be about the child.
In a just world, every child would have a family to call her own. Until that time, it is important to keep the conversation about adoption going and that is the purpose of National Adoption Month.