Adoption can be a sensitive topic. Some may even believe I’m not qualified to write this article because I have not faced these hurtful questions by strangers about my children. I am not an adoptive mother.
I am, however, an adoption attorney who has cried tears of joy and sadness with adoptive parents along the way. I have been blessed to receive an education by both adoptive and biological families. Thankfully, my journey has led me to meet wise and patient adoptive parents who not only corrected me but helped me understand why the words we use matter. Here are a few phrases that adoptive parents would like to never hear again:
“Is he your real son?”
This question presumes that an adopted child is somehow inferior to a biological child or the parent/child relationship is artificial. It is simple, adopted children are their REAL children. The distinction is offensive.
“Where did you get them?”
One should no more ask this question than ask about any baby’s conception. Adoption is a very personal journey. It may be appropriate to let the adoptive parent know you are curious and would like to learn about the adoption process.
“What happened to her mother?”
Adoptive parents are the child’s parents. Asking any question about the child’s biological family without clarifying that you’re asking about the genetic parents assumes that the people caring for and loving that child are somehow not mom and dad. Further, questions focused on the biological family should not be entered into lightly, especially in front of the child.
“Is he yours?”
To be forced to clarify that the baby you are holding in your arms is “yours” is likely to be offensive to a new mother. If she walks like mom, talks like mom, has spit up on her shirt like mom, she is probably mom. When in doubt, assume a parental relationship exists: “Your daughter is so sweet.”
“How much did he cost?”
I’m sure we can agree why this is offensive. A child is not a commodity to be bought and sold. An adoption has a cost, yes. Adoptive parents pay for services in order to facilitate and legalize an adoption.
“She’s so lucky.”
A child was placed for adoption because something about their biological situation was not ideal. Most adoptive parents feel that if their child was lucky she would’ve been able to stay with her birth family. Additionally, adoptive parents don’t feel like they are doing their adoptive children a favor by parenting them. They aren’t saviors. In fact, I think most adoptive parents feel like the baby saved them. From my perspective, both parties are extremely blessed — luck had nothing to do with it.
Think before you ask someone at Target about their family, especially in front of their children.
What you are asking runs deep and has implications you may have not considered. Under the right circumstances most adoptive families are happy to share the blessing of adoption with others through their story. We need to have conversations that normalize adoption. Starting that conversation is always a good thing when done respectfully.
One statement that will always be welcome?
“You have a beautiful family.”
Megan Monsour is an attorney with Martin Pringle Law Firm. Her practice is devoted to adoption, assisted reproductive technology (ART) and child permanency litigation. She is committed to helping individuals and families realize their dreams of building a family. Megan represents both adoptive families and biological parents in their adoption journey and in a variety of other matters as well, including contested adoptions, foster care adoptions, step-parent adoptions, relative adoption, same sex and second parent adoptions. Additionally, she represents intended parents and carriers in surrogacy agreements. Megan is a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and has been recognized by Kansas and Missouri Super Lawyers as a Rising Star since 2011.
If you have questions about adoption, please feel free to contact Megan directly,[email protected], or 316-265-9311.
For more information on Martin Pringle’s adoption & surrogacy practice, please visit their website.