Friday, January 10, 2014

$%$#@ not to say to adoptive/foster parents

$%$#@ not to say to adoptive/foster parents

This article can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link above. While my story is very different as we are not foster parents and adopted our son as an infant, we are still taken aback by some of the things people say. I don't get mad. I educate! And I hope you do too!

I want to preface this by saying this has been a process for us, as well, and we are far from perfect about the language we use and even questions we ask other people.  While each experience is unique, this is a list compiled from our own experiences as well as the experiences of other foster/adoptive families we have connected with.  The intent is not to shame or blame, but to increase the support for other adoptive families by sharing our experiences.  Thank you for caring enough to read this!

1) “That is normal/age-appropriate behavior.”  I assure you, our experience is not normal.  Yes, it often looks normal in public.  Invisible disabilities are just that…invisible.  While there is a constant battle in trying to sort out trauma behavior from age-appropriate behavior, and clearly we do experience lots of age-appropriate behavior, it is incredibly invalidating and hurtful to hear our very less-than-normal experiences normalized.  A simple “I hear you” would speak volumes, regardless of what you think.

2) “I don’t know how you can foster – I would care too much to be able to give them back.”  That implies that we don’t care enough.  On the contrary, we believe these kids deserve love so much that we are willing to go through that potential heart-break so that they can experience that.  Instead, “that loss must be difficult – I’m here” or something similar would be greatly appreciated.

3) “I don’t know why you have to label them.”  Those “labels” aren’t for our own entertainment or an effort for us to become martyrs, nor were they given by us.  They are actual diagnoses, often medically based, that allow our kiddos to receive services that will help them be successful.

4) “They are so lucky!”  They are actually about the poster children for “unlucky.”  We believe it’s a human right to have a family and be loved, not luck.  Instead, “I’m happy you found each other” would be a wonderful way of wording those good intentions.

5) “How much did they cost?”  or “How much do you get paid for them?”  No.  Just…no.

6) “Do you think you will have more of your own kids?”  All of our children, biological, adoptive, or foster, are “our own,” just as we are theirs.  It’s hurtful for our children who didn’t come to us biologically to hear this terminology.  If you are asking if we want more biological children, you can ask if we want more biological children.

7) Do you really think this is good for your biological child(ren)?”  I certainly enjoyed growing up with siblings, so I hope they will, too!  While bio kids might get prematurely exposed to some hard things, they also get prematurely exposed to extra empathy, kindness, and compassion.  I, personally, think that’s pretty good for kids.

8) “What happened to their real parents?”  You’re talking to them!  You might be trying to ask if their biological parents are around.

9)  “You can love them through anything.”  We will love them through anything, but love may not be enough to heal them.  Please don’t make us feel like failure if our love can’t heal.  Love can’t fix fetal alcohol exposure, years and years of trauma, or severe attachment issues.  We sure wish our love could fix everything, but it can’t.

10) “You are a saint!”  We just wanted to expand our family.  We happened to do that in a less-than-traditional way.  It makes us uncomfortable to hear how “great” we are for expanding our family.

11) “Which ones are adopted and which ones are biological?”  We don’t want them to hear any more separation than they already probably feel.  And honestly, we don’t think about this often…I wish you wouldn’t, either.  They are all our kids.

12) In response to venting about behaviors, “Well, what did you expect?”  Or…”You signed up for this.”  When I complained about our bio child not sleeping through the night for like 8 years (ok, 3)…no one told responded like this.  I wish the right to “vent”  or seek support could be given, regardless of how a person’s children come to them.

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