Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Confronting the Stereotypes

We have been abundantly blessed by an amazing community of people since we first made our plans to adopt public last September. We have felt supported, prayed for, and loved through every step of this journey thus far. People lovingly ask quite frequently how things are going and if we have any updates that we would like to share. We are always honored to share how God has been carefully guiding our adoption process with others...within special guidelines.

I will say, however, that lately I have been shocked... mmm, maybe appalled is a better word... at the questions we've been asked.  Although questions are incredibly good natured (most of the time), the stereotypes that live around adoption and present themselves in the form of questions gets my blood pumping so fast. I've quickly come to learn, especially since our visit to Florida, that ignorance is incredibly alive and well in adoption stereotypes.

Let me just address some stereotypes. However, I'll address them in the form of questions that we have actually been asked more recently:

"Is the birth mom young?"

There is large myth among those that aren't educated in adoption that a birth parent is a single, young mom. Let me stress the fact that this is myth. Birth mothers aren't always young, clueless druggies living on the street. In fact, it's quite the opposite! Birth families (yes, it's also a myth that it's always a single mother. Birth fathers are often in the picture as well) can range in age and reasoning behind making an adoption plan. To assume that birth mom is young is hurtful.

This question is usually the first thing people I'm asked in regards to our open adoption. And, no matter how good intentioned your questions are, if I'm being completely honest, this question in particular immediately turns me off to the conversation. Quite frankly, the age of our birth mother is no one's business but ours and it has nothing to do with how our adoption is going. This is just not an appropriate question to ask.

"Why does she want to give up the baby?"

I don't like these words: "give up the baby" because their so far from the truth of what a birth family is actually choosing to do. Using the words "give up the baby" insinuates that a family wants nothing to do with the child and feels no emotional attachment to this decision.

Correct language in this case would be "make or choose an adoption plan." When a birth families chooses adoption, they are choosing a selfless act that offers the child something for a lifetime that they would not otherwise be able to provide, whether that's financial stability, time, two parents, etc. These decisions are not without emotion and struggle. As any social worker would tell you: Many times, when a birth family shows up on an agency's door step, the family has reached their last resort and has exhausted every other option. The emotions of this decision are weighty and should never be minimized to simply 'giving up a baby.'

"Will the baby be normal?"

Oh my gosh I about died when my husband told me that he had been asked this question. In answering, my husband assumed the person was asking if the baby would be healthy (i.e. no drugs, alcohol, etc). I almost wish that's what was being asked... Instead they were asking if the baby would be a caucasian baby... Yes, I'll let that sink in for a moment. Doesn't that just make you want to scream? As if only caucasian babies are 'normal.' Ugh...

There's also an awful stereotype that only minorities make an adoption plan for a child. Once again, not true. In fact, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, caucasian children are the highest percentage (37%) of children to be adopted in the United States. And 50% of domestic adoptions, are of caucasian children. That kinda squashes that stereotype, huh?

All this leads me to my final question. If this question doesn't make your jaw drop to the ground...

"So was she just some girl who got drunk at a party or something?"

Hearing this question gives me a wide range of emotions... it's safe to say that my mama bear instincts kicked in in full force. Let me begin by asking, what even gives someone the right to ask that question? How, in any universe, did you think that that would be okay to ask? Did you even think through those words when they came out of your mouth? Whew... Okay, I'm calming down now.

I think the stereotype addressed in this question is pretty obvious: birth moms are not drunk teenagers who can't control their hormones and make stupid decisions. Birth families come to adoption for many varying reasons. Some come because they know that they cannot financially provide the means to raise this child as they believe the child deserves. Others choose adoption because they want to give their child opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to offer. Still others come because they just know that this is the right choice for their family, no matter how painful the process will be. Birth moms do not get pregnant void of inhibition, carry a child for nine months, and then terminate their rights without carefully thinking that decision through and, likely second guessing the decision several times. Adoption is anything but a simple process for both the adoptive families and the birth families. Assuming that an adoption plan is a result of one night of fun is ignorant. Voicing that thought in regards to our situation is ... well it's just plain rude.

I write this post, not because I am angry (although obviously some of these questions get me a little fired up), but because I promised to educate others about adoption through my blog. The only reason that I no longer carry the stereotypes about adoption that I used to is because our adoption process has allowed us to go through extensive training about the realities of adoption versus the stereotypes. Therefore, I realize my vision in this is a little skewed.  So I typed this post up because I wanted to educate others as well.

Finally, I realize that this post may be offensive to some people and I truly am sorry for that. But I refuse to let others walk in ignorance regarding this topic. Because ignorance is not bliss when you're voicing those stereotypes in questions to families that are actually experiencing the reality.

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