Adoption for children
Every so often, Abrazo gets random phone calls in which it’s necessary to explain that we do adoption for children, not for pets.
We appreciate that people are concerned for both children and animals. We know that both require loving care. We know for some animal lovers, their pets are like their babies.
Yet we wish folks wouldn’t equate adoption for children with the acquisition of stray critters.
It’s not “just the same” and suggesting that it is has disturbing implications for some adoptees and their parents (birth and adoptive), as well as for our culture at large.
Adoption is a legal proceeding in which a licensed social work certifies an adopting family’s readiness to parent a child not born to them, a biological parent is legally relieved of their duties and obligations by the courts, and a judge grants permanent legal custody to the adopting family only after they have proven their suitability and demonstrated their commitment to the child in question.
That is typically a lengthy process which includes hours of counseling, interviews, home inspections, fingerprinting, reference checks, court appearances, written reports, sworn testimony, months of supervision, and plenty of tears (both of sadness and joy.)
This is not a brief transaction. It is not a simple exchange.
It requires a lifetime commitment– in human years, not just dog years or cat years.
Getting a pet isn’t just like adopting a child
Nearly all of Abrazo’s staff have pets who were rescues. (Although we readily acknowledge that “who rescued who” may be an open-ended question?) So we get it: animals need care, too.
We fully appreciate the importance of providing a nurturing environment for those without a home.
Yet none of us underwent a full-blown homestudy in order to take our pets home from a shelter. None of us obtained the consent of the pet’s parents to ensure that they were making a fully-informed decision for their offspring’s future. None of us underwent extensive preparations to ensure that our home would stand up to the scrutiny of shelter staff, nor did we undergo a half-year or more of post-placement supervision. None of us went to court to obtain legal guardianship, and none of us swore before a judge that our commitment was forever.
So, no… we didn’t “adopt” our pets, and frankly, it’s unfair to adopted children for anyone to conflate the two processes.
Adopting a child is not as easy as going to an animal shelter and picking out the four-legged creature of one’s choice. Children available for adoption are not strays. And adjusting to being adopted is not as simple as an animal adapting to a new caretaker, either.
There may be similarities, but please, stop using adoption language to describe pet acquisitions. (You don’t refer to having “married” Fido or Fifi, even if your pet does require nearly as much care and feeding as your spouse, right? But equating your husband or wife with your chihuahua or pitbull or tabby or hamster would likely be insulting, and the same is true for children who were once adopted.) And while debating pedigree may be perfectly fine when choosing a pet, this is not an appropriate priority when considering children for adoption.
Adoption language is for people, not pets
See, positive adoption language is not “just pretty words,” nor is it merely about marketing. The language we use really matters to people– not to pets– and that’s why it’s so essential that we use the language of adoption appropriately and don’t shortchange our most sacred rituals of building families by equating adoption with the purchase or pickup of a pet (however much we love our animals.)
How we talk about adoption for children shapes how they feel about it, and children who have been adopted deserve to view their origins with pride, not shame. They need to know their birthparents and have continued access to them. And they need to be know that the process by which they joined their forever family was in no way just like a visit to the pound to pick out a pup.
We’re not telling you not to acquire a pet, if you want one; we agree that rescuing stray animals is an important endeavor and should be supported as such.
But if you’re looking to adopt, then please remember that adoption is for children.
At Abrazo, adoption for children changes children’s lives for the better– and the addition of a child to any home through adoption is something even the most beloved pets should likewise welcome with joy.