Adoption is just the best (in my totally unbiased opinion). It is how we have built our beautiful, eclectic family of seven and how our world was changed beyond our wildest imaginations. However, it does bring a whole lot of questions. As an adoptive family, it can feel overwhelming to be the new spokesperson for adoption, but it is just part of the territory. People can be accidentally rude, or truly have a bad experience first or second hand. It is helpful to plan on what to say when those conversations inevitably come up. Here are five ways to educate people about adoption.
- Invite the curious friend to coffee and share your experiences. Have you ever had someone you don’t know you so well or someone you haven’t seen in a while, bump into you in the grocery store and start asking 3000 questions about the adoption of your newest child? Well, the grocery store isn’t a great place to have an in-depth conversation, but if the person is genuinely curious (not in a rubbernecking, train wreck kind of way, you can blow those people off no problem) maybe a coffee date for a later time could be a good compromise. Then you have time to prepare for the questions, get out of your house for a little bit of time, and build on a friendship.
- Adoption websites are a great place to start if you don’t personally have a lot of time to chat. Adoption.com is a great resource to point curious folks to and there are articles from everyone’s perspective from birth family to adopted child. There are hundreds of awesome websites about adoption, perhaps you have your own favorite. If you don’t have a lot of time to have a conversation (and who really does these days while we are out running errands) a quick “check out this website, it’s been a favorite of mine to answer questions I have had”
- Recommend your favorite book on the topic. A few of my favorites in our journey have been “The Connected Child” by Karen Purvis, and “Another Place at the Table” by Kathy Harrison. “A Child Called ‘It’“ by Dave Pelzer is a harrowing tale of a young man who grew up first in an abusive home and then foster care. It’s a hard read but offers a unique perspective from a child of abuse.
- Handouts. Hear me out. You don’t want your child’s information “out there” but you’d like him to not be ostracized because he has a hard time in class. A simple, bulleted handout for teachers and coaches can help explain your child’s history in a short, easy to digest way. They don’t need all the details, just enough to keep your kid safe. Explain what adoption is, what adoption positive language is, and how it all affects your kid and his relationship to the world around him. This is not an easy solution but it can save you some time and heartache in the long run, especially if your child is younger and can’t explain for himself. You could also print out a broad definition explanation of what adoption is and isn’t to hand out to curious friends/people.
- Adoption agency informational meetings. These are the best because people can ask whatever questions they have, and for most agencies, they count towards your adoption/foster parent training. Many agencies hold this type of meeting once or twice a month but some will be more sporadic. The people at the agency are typically very well informed and can be the best for explaining the intricacies of what it takes to be an adoptive family. Just going to one doesn’t obligate you to anything and they are typically completely free.
For us, typically the education of others has come by all of these ways; however, the best education for others has come most by authentically and openly living our lives with the people around us. Questions pop up and where and when appropriate we answer with honesty. That is not always the case and people are not always worth the time it takes to explain, but for us, it has been worth it. Good luck on your journey.