When we first started fostering, I was pretty uninformed. I could blame it on being young, but the truth is I just don’t think that any training can adequately prepare a person for so many different aspects of adoption and fostering. Most of them you figure out just fine as you go, but there are a few I wish I had understood better before we started.
You Don’t Have to Share Your Kids Story
When our children were first placed with us through foster care, everyone we met always wanted to know why. Were they abused? Neglected? Found wandering in the woods with nothing more than a few crumbs of bread and the clothes on their backs? Every person we met seemed to need the answers to these questions. I felt uncomfortable when asked, but at the same time felt obligated to tell the story. It seems silly now, but I worried telling others it was none of their business sounded rude. It’s not rude, and in fact the painful little details of your child’s life is no one’s business but their own. It’s perfectly okay to tell inquiring minds, “That’s their story and we’ve decided to keep the details private.”
Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist (Even You)
I can tell you the exact moment I realized I was a little bit racist. I had just met a new friend who was black. We were talking about what our parents did for a living and she mentioned that both her parents were doctors. I didn’t show my surprise on the outside, but inside I remember my exact thought process and thinking “wow I wouldn’t have guessed that.” I don’t know what I thought her parents would have done, but the idea of two black doctors surprised me a little bit. That’s racist. (Technically implicit bias – but having not thought about racism much at the time, I had no word for it). I wish someone had told me before I adopted transracially how important it was to start unpacking my privilege.
Your Child’s Culture is Really Important
I don’t think I understood the magnitude of this before I adopted. Sure, I had racially affirming toys and books, but I don’t think I truly grasped what my kids were losing when they were placed with me. I wish someone had told me early on how important it is to prioritize your child’s culture. Attending that one festival every summer or buying that one cultural outfit might not be enough. It’s hard to get culture back after you’ve lost it, so try not to lose your child’s culture to begin with.
Don’t Lie to Your Kid
Children have an excellent bullshit meter, especially those over the age of 5. It’s tempting to tell them things like “Oh your mommy loved you so much so she picked adoption for you!” and for some kids that may really be true, but if it’s not true for your child don’t just spew it out to weave a perfectly happy adoption story for them. If you’ve painted a perfect picture of their adoption, it will make the truth hurt that much more when they are older. Tell your child, in an age appropriate manner, the true details of their life and story.
It’s Not Always Easy, It is Always Worth It
Before I adopted, I’d heard a million and one happy rainbow unicorn adoption stories. I’d also heard a half dozen or so absolute horror stories (kid kills the cat, burns down the house, gets the parents thrown in jail… you’ve probably seen all these story lines on the Lifetime Original Movie Network). When we first started fostering someone genuinely clipped a scary adoption story from the newspaper and saved it for me. Naturally, I read the headline and tossed it. No one ever told me a story in which adoption was really hard at first, but then got better. After connecting with hundreds of other adoptive families over the years, I really feel like that’s the true story that most of us experience. When a child is placed with you, particularly an older child, it can be really tough for awhile. It is so worth it to struggle through those hard times. Adoption is never all rainbow unicorns, but there are plenty of magic moments.
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
I apologize for not posting the link up last month. I woke up on what should have been July’s link up day thinking it was Wednesday rather than Thursday. It’s not until I received a few emails asking about the link up that I realized I was a day off. Apparently this whole working/schooling/momming gig is keeping me so busy I don’t even know what day it is anymore.
Today’s optional topics are Ask an adoptee to do a guest post and What no tells you about adoption (Things you wish you had known or things you wish had been covered in training). You can also link up anything else you wrote!
Grab a button for your post and join us!
New to linking up? We’d love to have you join us, here’s how.