Being a Family

Recently, there have been many stories in the news regarding international adoption. Stories about corruption and trafficking, about unethical agencies and uncaring parents, about abuse and about neglect, about unprepared families and uninvolved agencies, but are those stories really the truth about what international adoption is? In the face of these stories, the Joint Council on International Children’s Services has asked that all adoptive families speak out about the truth of international adoption.

But what is the truth of international adoption?
  • The truth is international adoption is not for the ill-prepared or the uncommitted- but then, that is true of parenting- PERIOD.
  • The truth is your child comes to you with a history that you were not a part of, and you may never ever know. Some of that history may involve their first families or foster families, and you will realize that these people have become part of your lives, regardless of whether or not you have ever met them or even know what they look like.
  • The truth is smiles and hugs, tears and tantrums, joys and sorrow.
  • The truth is that you will always cringe when people ask you if you have children “of your own” because you understand how totally and completely your child is yours even while others can’t understand how that can be.
  • The truth is that your child is yours, but not yours alone.  They also belong to their first families, and that is okay.  Love is not finite.
  • The truth is that your child’s story becomes part OF you, yet it doesn’t belong TO you. It is neither yours to tell or to interpret.
  • The truth is that love is not enough.
  • The truth is that you occasionally feel that you have to explain or defend your family to others, and this includes the seemingly positive statement that you “saved” your child. No matter how bad a situation might have been for that child, what happens after an adoption is parenting, not saving.
  • The truth is you need to think about things you may never have considered before, and things that maybe you would rather not consider- things like racism, classism, privilege, power, and entitlement.
  •   The truth is the tiny handprints on the wall, little footprints on the floor, potty training, homework, band-aids, piles of laundry, sloppy kisses, bouquets of dandelions, and belly laughs.
  • The truth is that every news story about your child’s country of origin now matters to you, too.
  • The truth is that great sadness at what was lost can exist in the same space as great joy at what was gained.
  • The truth is that a child can be the bravest person you have ever met.
  • The truth is that international adoption is messy and complicated and hard and amazing and wonderful.
Before we began the adoption process, we took some adoption classes. On the last night, there was a panel of adoptive parents (all of whom had only adopted children).  One by one, they each told their stories; each said they could not have loved their child more if they had been born to them. And while I understood that academically, I wondered how they could be so sure. I now look at my daughters and know birth is not the only thing that makes a parent. I look at my girls and know they are mine- yet at the same time, I also know they are not mine alone. I look and wonder whose eyes do they have, where does their personality come from, and how much is nurture and how much is nature.
  • The truth of international adoption is that family is determined simply by the act of BEING a family.
Mom to four wild and wonderful kids, two boys (age 8 and 12, both born to her), a daughter (age 6, adopted from China) and a daughter (age 4, adopted from Ethiopia)  A special needs preschool teacher by day and a mom by day and night, Momma C spends all her time surrounded by amazing tiny humans, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.  If she had free time, you would find her on the beach somewhere.  However, if you would like to read more about this guest blogger, please go to 


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