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10 things not to say to an adoptive parent

July 29, 2014 8 Comments

shoosh image 150 10 things not to say to an adoptive parentFirst off, I have my tongue in my cheek when writing some of these, and I have to apologise to anyone whom feels embarrassed by this post, it is not meant to point fingers, merely highlight the gap in knowledge that still exists within the world of adoption in the UK.

I acknowledge the fact that had I not been through the process, I probably would have said some of these as well.

Many of these have been said to either my wife, myself or friends we know with adopted kids.

“What do they call you?”

Someone asked me this of my son shortly before we adopted him. I grimaced at the fact they referred to him as ‘they’ but couldn’t let slide the notion that we would be called by our first names, or worse “Adopter A” and “Adopter B”. It is a sad reflection on society that people are unaware of the basic concept of adoptive parents.

“Do you get to keep them?”

I don’t know if this was said in jest or not, either way it is a ludicrous question… unless someone genuinely mixed up adoption and fostering, then I suppose you could give the benefit of the doubt.

This question for me however, has the ring of a supermarket product trial offer to it, and therefore is pretty insensitive, and possibly insulting. Err on the side of caution; hold your tongue.

“How could you not love that face?”

In referring to my son’s face, the person who uttered these words was guided by the the pretty regular misconception that my son was in care because of a lack of love. For those who are new to adoption, this is very rarely the case. Birth parents love their children, they are removed from their care for other, very complex reasons.

“The birth parents should be strung up”

Once again, upon hearing these words I had to correct what was someone’s blinkered and uninformed view of our adopted son’s situation. In our case particularly, my son’s birth parents have an argument for being the unluckiest folk on earth. It certainly was not their fault that he was removed from them. Punitive measures are way off the mark.

“Is that why he was adopted?”

Someone has asked us this after we explained some of our current issues with the boy, and at that point I could feel my eyebrows physically rise. Behaviour of the child is not a reason for adoption, I have said it before, and will probably keep saying it.

“Don’t worry, it never did me any harm”

I know this is meant to be a reassurance for adoptive parents, but depending on context it could prove quite harmful. If referring to smacking a child for acting out, then I would say with all children it is a definite no go, but with a child who was removed from a violent house, it would be very difficult to recover from.

“Social workers are useless”

I am sure some adoptive parents would agree, but again placing blame at what some would identify as the easiest target doesn’t help.

Social workers have a tough job, made tougher by the ignorance of people who don’t know.

“Does he have any weird habits?”

This question is not necessarily insensitive depending upon what context it was used in. If referring to his emotional state after being in care being manifested in some strange idiosyncrasies, then it is pretty insensitive, so be careful.

“He is just like a real son”

I will let you all respond to this in your imagination, needless to say, I think walking away muttering:

“He isn’t Pinocchio you f**king pr*ck.”

Was the safest policy.

“Are you glad the IVF failed?”

Never let an inappropriate and insensitive remark get in the way of filling the silence… is what some people must clearly think before opening their pie-holes. Sometimes, silence is best though.

If you have any more of these, then by all means let me hear them, and again my apologies to anyone who I have offended… but it is only a blog post.

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About the Author:

Andrew is an adoptive father, and stay at home dad. Having adopted his son in January 2013, he is a new adoptive parent, but well versed in the adoption process. He is a married, coffee drinker, Xbox addict, and a Marketing graduate. Andrew McDougall is an alias he uses to protect the identity of his adopted son.

Comments (8)

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  1. Nicky says:

    Wow, I was surprised at how many of these have been said to me. Nice to turn it into some light-hearted education. Good post!

  2. Emily says:

    Thank you for writing this, I have been putting together my own list and have come up with similar. My favourite was – did you think of any other options before adoption – my reply was no, we started at the beginning of the alphabet.

  3. Corinna says:

    Congratulations on your new addition to the family! Adoptive parents are special and I say that since I’m an adopted girl. I was born in South Korea and arrived in the USA at just 3 months old. I’m basically as American as they get since I have no ties to the country or culture, but I recently found out an older friend of the family asked my parents when I was newly arrived, “what they would do when I began to talk,” assuming that my native language would be unintelligible and foreign. This rather prominent member of town actually told them, “See!” when I began to babble as a baby and they were baffled that an educated person would be so unintelligent. Hopefully everyone’s been positive for you and your family and I wish you all tons of love and support.
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  4. Ros says:

    ‘At least they were too young to remember it…’ referring to whatever happened in the child’s life pre-adoption is one that really gets me!

  5. Sky says:

    I have only been an adoptive Mum for 5 months and have already heard most of these.. Another favourite of mine is “when will he get to see his real Mum again?” I let it go the first time, but politely pointed out that there are other words we use for different mums the second time she said it.

  6. Jane says:

    Brilliant! We have had most of these! The term “real mum” is the one which sends my temperature through the roof!

  7. Sorcha says:

    My personal favourite was ‘ Did you not want one of your own?’….

  8. Rachael says:

    Excellent points.
    We get asked ‘what will you do now if you get pregnant” all the time too.

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