Monday, June 13, 2011

List of things I wish people knew - Adoption and Special Needs

For some time, I have wanted to do a post highlighting some of the crazy things people say to me in random, public places when they notice that our little boy is obviously not our biological child, and that he deals with physical challenges. I am learning that some of these questions and inquiries are to be expected when your family looks a little different. And I have come to realize that there are so many adoptive moms and moms to biological children with special needs who have been facing probing questions, hurtful comments, and strange looks at the grocery store or the library long before we began our adoption process. So, at one time I was as clueless as I consider many others to be about being an adoptive parent and a parent to a special needs child. The being clueless part does not bother me, but the being down right cruel does.

To be honest, our family has been blessed with an incredible amount of love, support, prayers, and encouragement poured out upon us from our parents, church family, and friends. Very few negative comments have been thrown my way by people I don't know or don't know very well.  But I have read of many harsh things said and hurtful comments made to other adoptive families, and it is hard to comprehend.
So, I am dedicating this list of a few things I think everyone should know about adoption and special needs children to all of the families out there who have been frustrated and hurt by someone who felt it necessary to comment or ask probing questions about your parenting, family, decision to adopt, child's struggles, etc. Many of these are not inspired by my own personal experience, but by the stories shared by friends, on blogs, and in books from moms of adoptive and special needs children.


1. Please do not pity my child and say "bless his heart" because he has some physical or mental challenge. At his young age, he has overcome more obstacles, shown more strength, and found more joy in the smallest milestones reached than most of us will ever experience.

2. Yes, we chose to adopt from another country even though there are children in the United States who need to be adopted. That is not because we hate America or think children here are "less worthy" of a family. It was a specific call on our family at a specific time to adopt from a specific place. We support and pray for many families who have adopted domestically. And even now, we pray and leave our hearts open to more adopted children in the future, regardless of where they were born.We hope that everyone who feels a need to point out to us how many children in our country need to be adopted will seriously consider fostering or adopting themselves.

3. Adoption is expensive, but we are not rich. We would sell everything we have if we needed to do so in order to provide medical care and resources to our biological children. So, why would we think twice about spending money on an adoption which will bless our family with a child? Is the life of a child worth less than half the price of the SUVs that are parked in many church parking lots on Sunday mornings? We did not sacrifice to bring this child home, we were blessed to have him become a part of our family!

4. Children with special needs do not "mess up" a family, they enrich our lives, bring more love and joy into our family that you can imagine, and remind us every day how precious each life is because each life is created by God. My child may annoy you or make you uncomfortable, but I challenge you to look in her eyes and see the beautiful creation of God she is. And if you cannot be kind, please walk away without comment.

5. My biological children are not suffering or being deprived of the necessities of life because we adopted--they may have less stuff, but they are learning that life is not about material things, self-serving attitudes, and following the crowd. It is about God and following Him where He leads. Through this process, not only have they "gotten" a new brother, they have seen God's hand in every detail of this process. They love their brother, and would bring 5 or 6 more kids in to our house today if it was their choice!

6. Before you ask me a question or make a comment about my child, please ask yourself the following:
       (If the child is adopted) Would I ask this question if he or she was a biological child?
    (If the child is of a different race than his family) Would I ask this question is he was the same race as the
        family who adopted him?
    (If the child is special needs) Is it really okay to ask a stranger deeply personal questions about her child
          just because I don't know anything about children with physical/emotional challenges?
    (And in all situations)Why do I want to know?
7. Please know that I welcome the opportunity to talk about my adoption journey and/or my precious child to anyone and everyone who is genuinely concerned. Any questions that are filtered through the list in #6 are welcomed! ;)

If you got through the list, please forgive my snarkiness. I never really say these kinds of things to people in the grocery store, although it might be fun to try it sometime! Instead, I attempt to be gracious and smile, or at worst keep my mouth closed and walk away. Because I am sure at one point or another in my life, my lack of knowledge in certain areas has led me to hurt many people with my own comments or questions (even though at the time I had no idea).

Now, I want to hear from my readers, many of whom inspired the list. What are some of the crazy/random/downright mean things people have said to you about your children or family or adoption and how did you respond (or how do you wish you had responded)? Please comment. I would love to hear your stories.

Loving and Learning,

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I love Jesus Christ, am a seeker of beauty, and am a grateful child of God who would be lost and hopeless were it not for His grace. I am learning to walk in love, see interruptions as divine appointments, and value people and relationships above agendas and results. I pray my life is grace-filled, and brings joy and encouragement to everyone I know and meet. We are a family of 6, built by God through love, birth, and adoption, living in the beauty and the struggle that accompanies parenting kids from hard places. Got questions? Email me at

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