5 Things Never to Say to an Adoptive Parent


photo by JayGirlsMom

A while ago I was thinking of adopting a child. When I told a friend she asked, "But don't you want any of your own?" I was floored. Years later, a co-worker always referred to her friend's kid as "Lisa's adopted baby." That would be like saying, "Lisa's egg donor baby" or "Lisa's IVF baby" or "Lisa's got-drunk-and-forgot-to-use-a-condom baby." Grrrr.

I just don't get it. Even the press feels the need to distinguish between a couple's biological and adopted children: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have "three biological kids and three adopted kids." Why don't they just have six kids? I never did adopt (although I haven't ruled it out), but all of this drives me completely nuts. I can't imagine how such remarks affect someone who has adopted a child.

I know moms who conceived their children in all kinds of ways and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So I asked one of my friends here at CafeMom who has adopted, JayGirlsMom (the very proud Baby Mama of 13-month-old JayLyn), if she could help us out. Here, she gives us five don'ts when speaking to someone who is considering adoption or who has already adopted.

1. Don't Tell Her Horror Stories

If someone is starting out in the adoption process, don't tell her about all the failed
adoptions you’ve heard about, read about, or even been through yourself. "Congratulate her!" says JayGirlsMom. After all, when someone tells you she's pregnant, you don't warn her about miscarriage and all the other things that could go wrong. If something does go wrong during the adoption process, support them.

2. Don't Refer to the "Real" Mother

JayGirlsMom was at the social security office filing a name change for her daughter after the adoption had been finalized. The clerk asked, "Does her real mother have anything to do with her?' JaysGirlMom quickly responded, "Yup, I'm with her every day!"

3. Don't Ask if The Baby is "Hers"

"The other day while shopping with my daughter, I was asked by four people, four people, while just in one store, if JayLyn was mine," says JayGirlsMom. "Yup. She's mine all right. All Mine! Why do people think it is their business to say that to a stranger?"

4. Don't Say, "Where is the Baby From?"

"Our daughter is Native American, Asian, and Hispanic," says JayGirlsMom. "We are Caucasian. While out, people look at her and say, 'China?' She is from Iowa! Born Here! Adopted here! Just because she is not Caucasian that doesn’t mean she was an international adoption. The United States is a culturally diverse country. In many domestic adoptions, the child has a different ethnic background than the parents."

5. Don't be Afraid to ask Genuine Questions

JayGirlsMom says, "I can only speak for myself, but I love to talk about our adoption if the person asks in a nice way. I just hate the rude sideways looks and blunt questions. All someone has to do is show an interest in our story and I love to share. I always figure they could be thinking about adoption and then I know they are really asking because they are scared about their own journey."


The bottom line: When you're talking to another mom, remember there are many ways of becoming a parent. Some women get pregnant the old-fashioned way, some use sperm donors, some use egg donors, and some adopt (and there's a whole lot more that I'm leaving out). None of these ways is better than another—a mom is a mom. Lord knows, years from now when you're trying to get your kid to brush her teeth or do her homework, you won't be thinking about how you conceived her.

As Bob Considine, a writer in Chicago once said, "I have four children. Two were adopted. I forget which two."

I would love to hear from all of you out there who have adopted (or who became moms in other ways) if you'd like to share your stories, or your "list of don'ts."




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JayGi... JayGirlsMom



Great job!  One thing I tell my children and others - families are built in MANY ways.... you might receive a gift from FedEx, UPS, the USPS, DHL, or I might hand deliver it - it's still a gift... just like my children were ALL delivered in a different manner - they're STILL my children :)

icook icook

We had one child and adopted one child, and I COMPLETELY agree with your post. I do love to talk about our process to anyone who is genuinely interested, and I have fended off comments about my kids like "She must look like your husband" or "they are brother and sister? They look so different." You'd think that this day in age people would at least realize that an adoption had occured and be sensitive to it, not just assume that I have two different baby daddies, and am apparently married to the second one since I have a ring on my hand!

bluet... bluethenpink

As always you are awesome!!!!!

Being a parent to a child is always (no matter how one did it) a gift of lifetime! I can so relate to the sideways glances and the rude comments, I do my best to look the other way but have to admit that I don't always get that chance. I also love to share my story to the peeps that are truly interested in adoption. I don't appreciate the ones who ask me how much my children cost. I would never be so nosey to someone to ask them how much their hospital bill was so why do some people think it is ok to ask an adoptive parent how much their adoption cost? Now with that said if someone is truly interested in adoption (and you can tell the ones) then I would share with them our experiences on the adoption road. I love being a mommy and I also love to educate people on the wonderful world of adoption!

I love your quote from Bob Considine!!  That is a really great one!!!  :O)

you rock

joy2b... joy2bamom

Love this!  Thanks for helping to get the word out : )

Cafe... Cafe MicheleZ

This piece brought tears to my eyes! Thanks so much Suzanne, and thank you JayGirlsMom for sharing your story and insight.

Peajewel Peajewel

So Jaygirlsmom is my friend also and she IS the best. She is an awesome Mom too!  And thank you for sharing this information with everyone.  I don't think that all the time people mean to be rude they just don't think about it and they don't know any better!  Thanks guys....what a great article!

degsyuna degsyuna

I unfortunately disagree with one small point in your article:  "when someone tells you she's pregnant, you don't warn her about miscarriage and all the other things that could go wrong."

It's terrible, but people do say things like that all the time!  However, that doesn't make them appropriate!  That advice sounds good to me; I don't get why people make such a big deal about adopted children, they are just as much a mother's children as any others!

JayGi... JayGirlsMom

to the person above me....degsyuna......your totally right! I think I should have said.,.,,,,,you shouldn't say those things in either situation! why are people so wierd, as to tell a pregnant person about all the things that can go wrong, as if they don't already know! same with an adoption..
I guess people are insensitive in general......

thanks for pointing out how there are parallels between pregnancy and adoption!

ameli... ameliasmama1026

This was a great article. Children are always blessings no matter how they come to you.

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