My entire life has been peppered with questions about adoption, and depending on the situation I will politely ignore or educate. Sometimes, intensely. My experience is just that, and the adoptee reality runs the gamut. So when I read fellow adoptee Christina Romo's blog, I loved how it addresses many of the issues I've tried to communicate about adoption over the years.
I reached out to Christina and she has kindly allowed me to share this post from her blog at Diary of a Not So Angry Asian Adoptee. A sort of primer, if you will, for adoptive parents, written from the point of view of an adoptee. And as an adoptee, I concur that these 10 things are often at the forefront of an adoptee's life.
But all of these are now things I'm learning to address from the other side, as an adoptive parent. I was never made to feel "rescued" as an adoptee, but I know for a fact that some people consider adoption to be "saving" a child. And with S jr, we've gotten a lot of "He's so lucky," and "What a lucky baby," and NO.
WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES.
I understand the sentiment – it's meant as a compliment to us, as parents. But the language of adoption is powerful, and it starts even before you bring your child home.
If you're considering adoption, or know someone who is, please share this with them.
An Adoptee's Perspective: 10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know
1. Adoption is not possible without loss. Losing one’s birth parents is the most traumatic form of loss a child can experience. That loss will always be a part of me. It will shape who I am and will have an effect on my relationships—especially my relationship with you.
2. Love isn’t enough in adoption, but it certainly makes a difference. Tell me every day that I am loved—especially on the days when I am not particularly lovable.
3. Show me—through your words and your actions—that you are willing to weather any storm with me. I have a difficult time trusting people, due to the losses I have experienced in my life. Show me that I can trust you. Keep your word. I need to know that you are a safe person in my life, and that you will be there when I need you and when I don’t need you.
4. I will always worry that you will abandon me, no matter how often you tell me or show me otherwise. The mindset that “people who love me will leave me” has been instilled in me and will forever be a part of me. I may push you away to protect myself from the pain of loss. No matter what I say or do to push you away, I need you to fight like crazy to show me that you aren’t going anywhere and will never give up on me.
5. Even though society says it is PC to be color-blind, I need you to know that race matters. My race will always be a part of me, and society will always see me by the color of my skin (no matter how hard they try to convince me otherwise). I need you to help me learn about my race and culture of origin, because it’s important to me. Members of my race and culture of origin may reject me because I’m not “black enough” or “Asian enough”, but if you help arm me with pride in who I am and the tools to cope, it will be okay. I don’t look like you, but you are my parent and I need you to tell me—through your words and your actions—that it’s okay to be different. I have experienced many losses in my life. Please don’t allow the losses of my race and culture of origin to be among them.
6. I need you to be my advocate. There will be people in our family, our school, our church, our community, our medical clinic, etc. who don’t understand adoption and my special needs. I need you to help educate them about adoption and special needs, and I need to know that you have my back. Ask me questions in front of them to show them that my voice matters.
7. At some point during our adoption journey, I may ask about or want to search for my birth family. You may tell me that being blood related doesn’t matter, but not having that kind of connection to someone has left a void in my life. You will always be my family and you will always be my parent. If I ask about or search for my birth family, it doesn’t mean I love you any less. I need you to know that living my life without knowledge of my birth family has been like working on a puzzle with missing pieces. Knowing about my birth family may help me feel more complete.
8. Please don’t expect me to be grateful for having been adopted. I endured a tremendous loss before becoming a part of your family. I don’t want to live with the message that “you saved me and I should be grateful” hanging over my head. Adoption is about forming forever families—it shouldn’t be about “saving” children.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I may need help in coping with the losses I have experienced and other issues related to adoption. It’s okay and completely normal. If the adoption journey becomes overwhelming for you, it’s important for you to seek help, as well. Join support groups and meet other families who have adopted. This may require you to go out of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it. Make the time and effort to search for and be in the company of parents and children/youth who understand adoption and understand the issues. These opportunities will help normalize and validate what we are going through.
10. Adoption is different for everyone. Please don’t compare me to other adoptees. Rather, listen to their experiences and develop ways in which you can better support me and my needs. Please respect me as an individual and honor my adoption journey as my own. I need you to always keep an open mind and an open heart with regard to adoption. Our adoption journey will never end, and no matter how bumpy the road may be and regardless of where it may lead, the fact that we traveled this road together, will make all the difference.
Christina Romo is an adoptee who was adopted from South Korea at age 2. She works for a child welfare organization and lives in Minnesota with her husband and their two sons. Please contact Christina at ckcasale2romo at gmail dot com if you wish to use or distribute this piece.