Once more, for those in the back: don’t call it adoption if it isn’t. (Please. Just. Don’t..)
Here’s why we’re putting this out there…
Adoption is a sacred vow, a tender transfer and a legal commitment that’s meant to last.
It’s not “just an arrangement” or a business transaction.
Nor is it a “pretend family” or a casual domestic deal.
Genuine, legal adoptions are so much more. And should be acknowledged as such.
There’s Different Ways to be Family…
There’s no doubt that people become family in many different ways.
Our Family Services Coordinator, Amy, and her late husband were foster parents for a precious set of sisters. They developed a loving family relationship with these children (and their mom) that continues still, as the two families even moved to Texas together. That connection is real, but this is not an adoption. Being honest about this doesn’t lessen the power of these families’ relationship; if anything, it makes it all the more special.
Our Executive Director, Elizabeth, grew up with a “summer sibling” from the inner city of Chicago. They were of different races, but every summer, Robin stayed with Elizabeth’s family. She called her hosts “Mom” & “Dad” and even now, the (grown) girls refers to each other as sisters, but never was Robin’s family excluded or their role discounted by any false adoption claim.
There are different ways to be family, no doubt about it. Some families are nuclear, or biologically-related. Others are foster families, or step families, or extended families. There are plural families, and there are de facto families.
Still, adoptive families are in a class all their own. Yes, there are different kinds of adoption; like private adoption, open adoption, closed adoption, kinship adoption or public adoption. Not every adoption is necessarily a success story. Yet there are important differences that define “real” families built by adoption.
Legal Adoptions Deserve Distinction
Nobody adopts by accident. There’s no such thing as a “common-law adoption.” You can’t stumble into a Vegas wedding chapel and accidentally adopt. When you’ve really adopted, you know it. And when you didn’t, you know it, too. (Or you should.) Genuine adoptions should never be cheapened by false claims, nor must they be hidden.
Legal adoptions have merit all their own, as each is evidence of the faith of the court in the parents’ promises to love and nurture the adoptee as their own, always and forever. Those who stand before the judge have had their lives and homes thoroughly investigated and studied. They have actually been licensed to parent. They have endured months (or in some cases, years) of supervision. And the differences don’t end there.
Is it the dogged determination to love another’s child? The vulnerability of exposing one’s entire life to others for love of a child not even yet known? The myriad of parental sacrifices from application to finalization and beyond? Or the endless list of responsibilities that follow the issuance of the actual adoption decree? Answer: it’s all of the above.
And this is why we’re reminding everyone, once again: “don’t call it adoption if it isn’t.”
So, In Summary…
Feeling like an adoptee because a relative raised you isn’t the same. Abandoning a child at a QuikMart or fire station doesn’t make you a birthmother who lovingly made an intentional adoption plan. Helping out your girlfriend’s brother when his mom died doesn’t make you an adoptive parent. Babysitting a troubled mother’s child, even if you crossed state lines to do it, doesn’t automatically entitle you to adopt that child. Claiming someone as your kid without giving them your last name doesn’t mean you legally adopted.
Those who have legally placed, adopted or been adopted should be upheld, recognized and respected, if the best interest of children was truly their goal. Those who have been part of genuine adoption deserve to be heard, if they choose to share their own story. Those who didn’t should listen and learn.
So let’s respect this (and them), and don’t call it adoption if it isn’t… or when it really wasn’t.