Please don’t adopt this holiday season! Don’t adopt a soldier, don’t adopt a family, don’t adopt a tree. Please stop misusing the word adoption. Adoption is a full and final legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities. It is not temporary, momentary, or only for a season. It is not just about financial provision or assistance; I would call that sponsorship. It isn’t cute, it isn’t easy, and it isn’t about kudos.
Adoption is forever. Especially considering all of the discussion surrounding re-homing recently, it is important that we emphasize the permanency of adoption. Children who have joined families through adoption can have major anxiety about that relationship ending; not only have they already lost family at some point in their young life, but many harbor fears about rejection and abandonment. Liberal use of the word adoption can feed these deep-set anxieties in our children. Adoptive parents work every day to decrease fear and help our children feel safe, loved, and an essential part of their families. Watered-down usage of the word adoption can undo months of this work. Adoptive parents are committed to whatever work is necessary for our kids, but we can be awfully protective (read: mother bear) about things that hurt our children. Please don’t make my child insecure for your marketing.
Yes, I will buy Christmas presents for my child and I make sure that he has clothes and shoes for school and I will ensure he has a Christmas dinner just like those of you who choose to “adopt a family” will, but there is a difference. I also make sure that he gets three nutritional meals each day and as many healthy snacks as possible, preparing most of it from scratch. I do the laundry. I wipe the tears. I wake up in the middle of the night any time he calls me. I help him practice his school work. I fund his activities. I take him to the doctor. I remind him to bathe and enforce bedtime. I am just a mother. I don’t ask for or deserve any more recognition than any other mother. It is just what a mother does. But adoption is what made me a mother. When I adopted, I committed to the 24 hour a day responsibility, the work, the sleeplessness, and the heartache as much as the joy.
Parenting is much bigger than writing a check, signing a card, shopping for strangers, or preparing a meal. Parenting takes up every possible thought, emotion, and moment. Parenting is as painful as it is wonderful. Sponsorship via an “adopt a family” program has an entirely different ratio. The time and financial cost are minimal. Programs would not survive if they asked too much of you. They try to balance the feel-good factor with the personal cost.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I think these programs are good for all involved. I help a church shop for children whose parents are in jail during the holiday season. This program, though, doesn’t use word “adopt” in the title or marketing. My only issue with these programs is the misuse of the term adoption and the cultural misunderstanding it can create. Adoption is wonderful and amazing, but difficult and costly. I want prospective adoptive parents to walk in with eyes wide open. Most importantly, I want children to feel secure in their permanent place in their families and the commitment of their parents.
This holiday season when considering sponsorship, outreach, and charitable giving, please avoid the phrase “adopt a…”. If one of your favorite programs uses this phrase, talk to them about changing their marketing. While it may pull at the heartstrings, I’m afraid that it does more harm than good. If you post it on Facebook, I will hide it from my stream. I will avoid any display or table mentioning such things. I don’t want my son to see such a frivolous use of a word that represents how important he is to me and our entire family. By next year, he will be able to read the word “adopt”. Can you help me eliminate seasonal adoption before then?