What Adoptees Need
Adoption is supposed to be all about what adoptees need, yet so much of the adoption process seems focused instead on the needs of their parents, doesn’t it?
Part of the reason, of course, is that most adoptions begin before the child to be adopted is even known to anyone.
Adopting parents shop for adoption services based in large part upon whether those services can likely deliver what they are hoping for, which is usually the successful adoption of a healthy infant. (And if you’re surprised to learn that adoptive parents “shop” for adoption services, know that this is not at all unusual, considering the burgeoning numbers of adoption resources vying for the business and the financial investment involved in the average adoption.)
Prospective birthparents have also been known to explore multiple adoption resources, as they search for help. Some search for the adopting family that looks the most able to offer their child a good life. Some look for the attorney or adoption agency that offers the most maternity support. Many look for someone who will provide them with an open adoption or a closed adoption, as fits their wishes.
But at the beginning stages, adoption is largely a consumer-driven quest, in which the adults’ desires and wishes are the primary motivation for what is to follow. Lost in translation is any real focus on what adoptees need, and what they might tell their parents, if they could somehow speak with them before any placement ever occurred?
In a child-centered adoption, which is what every adoption is supposed to be, what would the adoptee want us to know, if they had a voice in this process?
Dear Potential Birthparents…
You are, of course, nothing but my parents before I’m born and placed, so I need you to take that role very seriously, even though you don’t know me yet, because right now, I need nobody more than I need you. And if it were all up to me, knowing what I know about you right now (which is everything and nothing,) there is nobody else I would rather be with, so please take this into consideration as you ponder my future. Adoption has got to be your last resort, chosen only when you’re absolutely sure no other alternative will truly be best for me.
See, even if adopting parents and adoption professionals assure you that my needs will all be met, the truth is that in a perfect world, every kid would grow up loved and cared for by their first parents, and I would (of course) like to be just like every kid, if possible. If you cannot parent me yourself, however, and meet my every need, then I’m going to need you to take your time to be sure of this and to check out all the options before coming to any final decision.
I will need you to find me the family that seems the most like you and yours, if all things were ideal, and I need you to really know them personally before you send me off with them. I’ll need you to spend quality time bonding with me after I’m born, so I will know how to form secure attachments right from the start of my life, since you are the only people I already know. And I’m going to need you to be sure that whomever you choose to raise me is secure enough to honor our connection in a very real way, all my life long.
I cannot be responsible for your grief or for any regrets you may carry in life. I need you to understand that I will need to have information about and access to both my birthparents, whether or not you two still get along or keep in touch. I will need to be reminded that the adoption decision was made “for my best interests,” based on what you thought you knew at the time, but that I am not responsible for your choices in life. And I’m going to need you to get your act together, so that I have tangible evidence that you actually made good on your promises at the time of my adoption to better your life and mine, as a result of all this.
There are going to be times when you’re not sure where I fit in your life or your family, and I may have the same uncertainties, but I need you to always be there for me if I need you, and to give me my space if I don’t. I realize this may seem rather unfair, but this is supposed to be about what I need, and sometimes, what I’ll need most is time to find my way and the freedom to ask my own questions.
Thank you for understanding this, and for wanting to do everything just right for me.
Dear Prospective Adoptive Parents…
I genuinely appreciate your interest in becoming my parents. I realize that ultimately, the decision is out of my hands (even though, it really should be up to me, when you really think about it?)
I need you to find it in your heart to truly care about my first family, to forgive any shortcomings they may have, and to embrace them as my relatives. I know this might be asking a lot, but if you cannot welcome them into your lives, then how can you ever really welcome me? Those are my people and they have to become your people, too, on some level, if we’re ever really going to become a family.
This is a huge commitment you’re taking on, I know. And if you’ve found me after weathering the wrenching losses of infertility, then I know you have sacrificed much to become parents. I know I will become the beneficiary of all the hopes and dreams you carry in your heart for the children you could not have. Yet I need you to remember that I am not a stand-in, nor can I be their replacement. I hail from another family’s tree, and I am going to have my own traits and talents and differences and I will need you to truly embrace those, as well.
I will need plenty of time with my first mother after I’m born, even if you’re longing to cuddle me nonstop, and even if she wants you to do that. You want to be able to be my everything, and I will love that you love me that much. Still, I need you to remember that I will need some things that can only come from my family of origin, and I will need you to honor them, even if there are times when they test your patience. My love for them is not a betrayal of my love for you. And it will be vital that neither of you ever fight over me nor expect me to prove my loyalty to either of you.
I’m not going to be a perfect kid. (There isn’t any such thing, of course, but you wouldn’t know that I already know this.) There are going to be times when I hurt you by questioning whether you’re my “real” parents, and there will be times when I don’t make us proud of me. There will be times when I grieve over being adopted, and there will be times when you hurt for me, too. There will be times when I make mistakes, and there may even be times when you question if adopting me was the right choice, although I hope you never say this aloud? But please know I will always need you to never give up on me, no matter what.
Thank you for wanting to give me the best possible life. And thank you for giving me plenty of room to grow and become whomever and whatever I choose, even when you long to be able to hold onto me, or protect me forever.
Remember: what adoptees need must always be at the forefront of all our plans– whether we are placing or adopting– and over all the years that follow, as well.