So, You Have a Question About My Choice of International Adoption

I tend to be pretty polite when people ask me about international adoption. I assume that people are eager to learn, and I’m flattered that they are interested in my children and choices. However, there are some questions that I know are just plain lazy, or ignorantly combative.

Here are a few of the ones I get too often.

Why did you adopt internationally when there are so many kids in the United States that need homes? Well, let’s take a look at that one. First of all, there may be a lot of children in the U.S. foster system, but the vast majority of them are not available for adoption. The system rightly favors helping keeping families together, and foster care is ideally viewed as a short-term stopgap rather than a permanent solution. So, ruling out the children who aren’t available, there are closer to 100,000 children who are available for adoption, and most of them are beyond my skill set.

Why don’t you take one of those children, then?

First of all, many of the children who are available for adoption via the foster care system are older, or have multiple siblings. I am a first-time parent, and (correctly) realized that I was not up for the job. I adopted siblings, and that has been struggle enough. The same was true for children with special medical needs – although I was perfectly willing to face any health challenges my adopted children might have, I had neither the temperament or experience to seek such problems out.

If you really wanted to help these children, why aren’t you giving money so they can stay with their real families?

Now you are just getting obnoxious. I chose to adopt so I could be a parent, NOT to save the world. Why don’t YOU give some money if you are so outraged that I’m not helping out? Also, there was no “real family” for my kids anymore, and that’s all I’m going to say about that, so don’t pursue it. And, even though it is none of your damn business, I provide support for family preservation efforts in my children’s country of origin.

What about their culture? Aren’t you taking them away from it?

Yes, I am. However, they study the history of their country, eat their country’s food regularly, attend festivals for people from their country, and listen to the music of their country. When they are ready to go back, we’ll take them back to see their country. It’s not perfect, but that imperfection started with the circumstances occurred that made my children orphans.

What about the corruption? I’ve been hearing about (INSERT TERRIFYING DETAIL HERE).

You are right. As I have said elsewhere, international adoption is rife with corruption. I’m aware of it, and I’m horrified. I am 100 percent certain that my children’s situation was represented accurately, but other parents I know have had the experience of finding out that they have been misled in numerous different ways. Please don’t judge them harshly. They aren’t predators – they acted in good faith on false information. Many of them are actively seeking to find out the truth and right these wrongs.

What happened to their mother/parents/why did they get put up for adoption?

If you are a friend, I might tell you some of it, but otherwise that’s part of their story. Trust me, though, the reason is tragic. The reason is always tragic. (Also, sometimes I’ll let some of it slip if my guard is down. I regret it immediately.)

Are there other siblings?

Yes, there is an older sibling who wasn’t made available for adoption. It is our dream to reunite them someday. That’s all I can tell you.

Did you pick them out? They are so cute!

Yes, they are preposterously cute; however, what little kids aren’t preposterously cute? The answer is no. We qualified to adopt two siblings under the age of six. When children meeting that criteria emerged, we were given a referral along with their background and some photos. I assure you, if we had told the agency that we didn’t like the kids’ appearances, we would have been rejected summarily.

Were you infertile? What had you tried?

Just don’t. Please.

Do you have any tips for talking with international adopters? (OK, no one asked me that one. It’s a softball I’m throwing to myself.)

As with any concept related to fertility, family and sexuality, stop for a second before you ask anything. Ask yourself if you really need to know. If you do,  listen to the answers. Treat the people you are talking to with respect and assume that a lot of thought and research went into their decision.

By Moretta

Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is

14 replies on “So, You Have a Question About My Choice of International Adoption”

I realize you want to be affirming, trying to educate people, but I also care about how you sometimes must be victim to some real stupid-head and intrusive questions, and maybe even your children might be in earshot to some inconsiderate louts. I applaud your decision for an international adoption, and if we were 30 years younger, we would have done it too. i might have a list of personal questions on hand to ask those people:
1. Why do you want to know? 2. Tell me about the genetic makeup of your family.
3. How much money do you have in the bank? 4. Who was in charge of teaching manners at your house? 5. Have you ever read a book? and on and on

I can’t speek to always but 20 or so years ago when my parents were looking to adopt in the US they were told that the only child available to them was a disabled child who was a few years older than me. They didn’t feel that as two working parents they could provide the nessisary support for a disabled child, and they didn’t think I would cope well with having an older sibling all of a sudden (I was four or five at this point). I think they would have found a way to make it work if it was only one or the other, but both was outside of what they felt capable of doing. So at the very least this is not new.

Just the fact that you are concerned about overstepping probably means you wouldn’t. Also, if you are interested in adoption, many adoptive parents would be glad to discuss their decisions with you at length. I certainly would. It’s the people who ask things in the grocery store in front of the children who aren’t getting it.

It’s a thin line between being interested and asking questions that are too personal. However, any “Why didn’t you?” question should only ever be answered with a rude gesture. I have nothing but respect for your decisions and the struggles that they bring. You are awesome, and I hope such questions don’t get you down for long.

Thank you for this article. I’m always fascinated by unusual family stories, and I’ve been appallingly rude without realizing it (at the time, anyway). It’s helpful to have a reminder that while those stories are fascinating, they’re someone’s life, and that being intrusive for the sake of curiosity is kind of an obnoxious thing to do.

It’s always the people who are concerned about overstepping who probably aren’t overstepping. I think the big thing, though, if you are worried about asking the wrong questions is to remember is that most adoptive parents are extremely conscious of the fact that their child’s past is their child’s story, not theirs. They aren’t in a position to consent to it being discussed. They’ll give context if it will help their child (e.g., my son drank a frightening amount of water during his first year here because he had not had regular access to clean water before, something his teachers needed to know when he wanted to go to the water fountain several times an hour), but they are wary of crossing that line.

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