10 Myths of Adoption I No Longer Believe

I don’t typically write about adoption on my blog, but I couldn’t resist.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month in the United States and my workplace, EnergyCAP, Inc., was recently recognized as a Best Adoption-Friendly Workplace by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Plus, my wife and I adopted two boys from the Philippines—one in 2009 and one this past August.

We’re part of a growing trend in the Church to be families for orphans. The fact we adopted is not so much a reflection of us, but rather the God we serve. Psalm 68:6 says that God sets the lonely in families and James 1:27 says that pure religion looks after orphans. So before you say how great we are for adopting, first say how great God is—adoption is God’s idea.

According to the Barna Group, adoption is on the rise in the United States, a fact we should celebrate! But as we celebrate, let’s do so with understanding. There were many things I wish I understood about adoption before we received our boys.

Here are ten myths of adoption from our experience:

Myth 1: The hardest part of adoption is waiting.
When we completed our adoption dossier, our social worker said, “If you don’t hear from me in a year, don’t worry—that’s normal.” And she was right. Waiting was so difficult…until we received our boys. Then we realized the waiting was easy and the hardest part of adoption is actually getting your child.

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Myth 2: There’s not much to do while you’re waiting for your child.
Wrong. As soon as you get your child, your world will turn upside down. Spend the time preparing to offer the best care possible. For example, what trauma has your child possibly suffered? How will you care for a victim of childhood trauma? Set up your support network ahead of time—including those with experience in adoption-related issues.

Myth 3: Adoption will make you feel really good about yourself.
At first you’ll feel like a hero for giving a child a family. But that’ll wear off quickly as you ride the roller coaster of emotions. You’ll feel guilty for expecting good behavior, crushed when he rejects you, and angry that he affects you so much. Adoption made me feel worse about myself before it made me feel better.

Myth 4: Your child will think adoption is the greatest thing to happen to him.
It depends on the age and situation of the child. But most likely he’ll think of his adoption much differently than you will. It’s your dream to get a child, but it’s his nightmare. He’s being taken from his familiar environment to a strange place among strange people—perhaps never to see his former caregivers again. For a child who has already been traumatized, adoption itself can be a trauma.

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Myth 5: The best way to make him feel welcome is with lots of people.
Before our first adoption, I invited my family of origin to an adoption meeting in our company conference room. Suddenly the doors flew open and my coworkers surrounded each family member, hugging them, getting in their face, greeting them happily. It made everyone feel uncomfortable. The point? To demonstrate how awkward we can make a new child feel. Perhaps the best welcome you can give is from a distance.

Myth 6: If the child is smiling, then he’s doing great.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “He’s doing so well—he smiles all the time!” If I got paid for every instance, it could fund another adoption. I get it—everyone wants to think the child is doing well, but smiles can be a cover-up. Only those who are consistently around the child know how he’s really doing.

Myth 7: Adoption will complete you.
We adopted our first child because of infertility. We were hoping to complete our family because we felt insufficient. But this was too much pressure to put on him. How could a broken boy complete us? Instead, adoptive parents need to know who they are so they can be who the child needs them to be—whole, resolute, and overflowing.

Myth 8: Your adopted child owes you love.
This myth seems ridiculous to print, but here’s how it breaks down: the child needs a family, you give the child a family, the child owes you love for doing so. You may say, “No sir, I will never think this.” But one day after he has rejected you, you will think, “How can he do this to me? He’s supposed to love me.” And your heart will break twice, once for what he did to you and twice that you thought such a thing. But the love you must have for your child is the love that expects nothing back.

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Myth 9: The best way to integrate your new child is to return to normal life.
When you adopt, you inherit a new normal and everyone will be affected by it. We learned to shrink our world, which meant limiting the people we were around, our activities outside of the home, and even our boys’ exposure to extended family and close friends. Everything changed. This might upset others, but the preference needs to be given to your new child. Form your new normal life around your immediate family and a consistent routine.

Myth 10: Save your money for the adoption process.
Adoptions can cost a lot, so you have to save money for the adoption process. You may also receive money from organizations. We received help from my workplace and my church, which had both established funds for the adoption process. However, just saving money to acquire your child is incomplete. Plan to save money for adoption after-care like family therapy, future adoption conferences, or other educational resources. Financially plan to not just acquire the child, but to care for his needs once you have him.

By understanding the unique issues related to adoption, you can better serve adoptive families—or be a family to an orphan yourself.

Are there any myths we’re missing? You can comment by clicking here.

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Chris believes you can love your work. He's the Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., where he helps employees to succeed. He's also a Certified Professional Life Coach and a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach. He loves to coach people, write, and speak around the topics of engagement, coaching, strengths, and growth. He blogs often at ChrisHeinz.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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17 thoughts on “10 Myths of Adoption I No Longer Believe

  1. Dear Chris:
    Wonderful word on the Myths of Adoption.
    As always, I so appreciate your wisdom, honesty, candor, transparency and vulnerability.
    Thanks for you and all you do.
    Blessings,
    Doug

  2. Chris-Great blog, I suppose if I think about it, we believed most of these myths in one fashion or another. I just have to say if you’re called by God to give a home to an orphan, even an American special-needs child through an adoption which PAYS you to adopt the child, (SSI), even this isn’t a good motivation. Fortunately for us we can honestly say we only knew that the adoption process was less expensive, (pretty much just processing fees for paperwork, etc.), but we had no idea initially that we’d be paid to adopt! However, the myth, however briefly for us was that we could use the money for “whatever” we needed it for as a family-we got over that pretty quickly when we realized we would need the specialist’s, the therapist’s, etc., etc., etc. What an honorable calling, though if God leads you to adopt one of His children without a family! 🙂

  3. Great post! I couldn’t agree more. We adopted brothers from the Philippines in 2012, the younger of which is deaf. Before the boys, our family of 4 was stable and picture perfect. Now it is an exciting roller coaster ride, with a high intensity and many ups and downs. Even on the hard days, we are glad we took the plunge!

  4. Adoption can even be free! Adopting out of the foster care system is free and the government will even pay you a stipend until the child/children is 18 if your child meets certain criteria such as age, race, medical condition, or if you are adopting a sibling set. They will also assist you with after care such as therapy or medical care if the need arises. This is not to say this adoption road is easy should you chose the foster route, the myths Chris wrote about are still very real, but it is important to know that the child you want to serve might be in the next town over!

    • Hi Hillary, a very good point! There are 100,000 children in the US foster care system and each year, 23,000 – 26,000 of them age out, meaning they turn 18. That means they will head into life with no family. Some are interested in domestic adoption, some in international adoption. I’m glad because there are are so many kids who need families. It’s great to hear that after-care therapy can be paid for. Thanks Hil.

  5. I’m not sure if this is a common myth or if we were the only ones who thought it. But we truly believed that our love, our “great” parenting, and the love of Jesus would cause our adopted children to grow up to be devoted disciples of the Lord.

    It didn’t work out that way. Outcomes included one of our adopted children molesting one of our birth children–for years before we found out. A run-away. Addictions. Teen pregnancy. Grandchildren taken away from our adopted children. Trouble with the law. Pain. Sorrows.

    Thinking that way also caused us to measure our “success” by that standard. We felt like major failures. We wondered why we’d sacrificed so much–and caused our birth kids to give up more than they could ever regain in time and attention we gave to the adopted children–when we didn’t seem to have made a real difference.

    We had to redefine success, and our birth kids helped us do that. We did keep our adopted children together, which no one else was willing to do. (They’re a sibling group of four.) We loved them, and still love them today, unconditionally, even though we do have expectations for their behaviors. We know that seeds of God’s Word were planted in their hearts and minds, and it is powerful. The end of the story hasn’t yet been written.

    And even though we didn’t effect the kinds of change in their lives we hoped for, amazingly, WE changed. We stretched. We grew. We were stripped of self-sufficiency. We learned how much we needed Jesus, and still do. We’ve learned that success is actually measured in surrender and becoming more like Him, letting Him live through us. Our unrealistic picture of the perfect Christian family has been smashed, and what is left is His workmanship instead.

    Last month we celebrated 22 years since our “gotcha” day. The last three years, and especially the last few months, we’ve seen gradual changes, with our adopted children turning to the Lord and back to our family in ways we’ve prayed for a long, long time. We’re encouraged because God is faithful, even when we fall short.

  6. Myth #2: Adoption brings a family a new life together.

    Actuality: Adoption can also be a death instead of a life. Yes, the new family structure takes on new direction or life. But we had no idea how much we would feel like there had also been a death: the family we had and enjoyed and loved before we got our new kids. It really was a loss. It didn’t mean we didn’t also enjoy and love the new one–sometimes more than others. Smile. But it was years before we were able to put our finger on why we also felt grief.

    Good news: after our adopted children grew up and left home, our original family began to do things alone together again, and it was almost like experiencing a resurrection. We still love and cherish the “big” family, but it’s okay for us to thoroughly enjoy again the core family that started this whole thing. 🙂

    • Wow Becky, thank you for the perspective that it’s okay to name the former life as good, even though you’re also thankful for the new normal. I think that will free people up to celebrate what the family once was before it changed. Thank you.

  7. Excellent article and great insight.

    I have a young man that I kind of raised. He and his wife adopted 2 children before they had one of their own. They were trying to fill a void in themselves and their marriage. It’s been difficult to watch them work through,
    An article like this would have helped.

  8. Love it! Thank you!
    We have 3 bio children 8, 12, 17 and we recently adopted 2 siblings from foster care 9, 13. The 9yr has RAD (reactive attachment disorder).
    I would add the myth (although it is the hope of course) that you can fix all their problems with enough love. Its more than love, its commitment. Learn about RAD and seek knowledge. Prepare yourself and your family for this possibilty. Its easier to understand when you know what to expect. God bless. Lots of prays ♥

  9. “If we just love them, it will be enough”.
    We adopted African American boys, and that is just not true. They went through many things/feelings that i can’t even begin to comprehend. When they found their bio family it was awful. One has chosen a criminal lifestyle, and we had to distance ourselves. Would i do it again? Quite simply, yes.

  10. Thanks so much, I love how you wrote this and think it would be so helpful for families who are waiting and families who have their children. You’ve stated some things people do not want to say out loud, and I think it would be extremely therapeutic for families to know they are not the only ones who have had the same thoughts, but have been afraid to tell anyone.

  11. I just wanted to say thank you so much for writing that article. My husband and I are in the process of adopting a 6 year old boy who basically has been in foster care the last 3 years of his life. It’s tough because no one we know has ever adopted. DFCS has been great but the ups and downs are rough. We just got a call yesterday and his mother had another baby! They asked if we are interested. Anyway I just wanted to say its nice to hear the real truth about the ups and downs of adoption.