What’s Your Motivation for Adopting?

Last month I read an article titled “The 11 Worst Types Of People You Get Stuck Behind In Line At The Grocery Store.” My worst type is the person who needs to know why I adopted my daughter. Needless to say, this type of person was not mentioned in the article.

I was asked, “Why did you adopt?” when my daughter was an infant, when she was in preschool, when she was in elementary school and when she was in high school. Yes, she was standing right beside me in the grocery line, but they still asked.

Your motivation to adopt is central to your family’s lifelong journey of adoption. The “why” is asked by friends, family members, the adoption agency and even strangers. How will you answer? What will your child hear you say? How will those answers impact her perspective of you as the parent? How will your answers impact the way he sees himself?

Now is the time to carefully consider why you want to adopt and how this decision is in the best interest of the child and your family.

For those of you who are married, let’s begin with your motivation. Are you adopting because you want to support your spouse? Early in the adoption process, most couples have a “dragger” (driving force behind the adoption) and a “draggee.” In time, both are equally vested in the decision to adopt. If not, the “draggee” will expect the “dragger” to carry the majority of the responsibilities for parenting the child. This eventually leads to marital problems and a child feeling unwanted by the “draggee” parent.

Are you adopting so the child in your home will have a brother or sister? One parent said, “My child will have a playmate and friend for the rest of his life.” Sibling relationships have positive value, but the expectation of an intimate bond is not realistic. The child currently in your home will learn, from you, how to cope with the adjustment, trauma and challenges of the new sibling. Orphanage culture is different than family culture. Even foster care culture is different than your family culture. Are you sure you want to help your child learn to navigate a new kind of sibling relationship?

If religious, spiritual or altruistic motivations are your primary reasons to adopt, please remember that there are many ways to help children without legally adding them to your family. We find that many families applying to adopt say they are called to adopt and some believe it is a Biblical mandate.

The Bible states the importance of caring for orphans, widows and the fatherless. The Bible also presents a God who wants decisions that are in the best interest of children. So when difficult times come, what do you think God wants you to do?

What resources has God given you to help a child heal from physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wounds? If your child does not believe in God, what wisdom will you use to parent a child who does not believe? Does your call to adopt also include the strength to work through problems or do you believe your call gives you a “spiritual bypass” to the wounds and challenges your family will face? As you prepare to adopt and encounter educational materials about the potential challenges, do you think, “God has called me to adopt so He will not let these problems happen in my family”? As you consider your motivation to adopt, ask yourself, “Am I using God’s calling to avoid the reality of adoption?”

Determining what is in the best interest of the child you plan to adopt is never easy.

Most very young children are happy they were adopted. By the time they are 7 or 8 years old, they begin to wonder why they were adopted and why they were not kept by their birth family. During adolescence they have a lot of questions. This is normal development of children who were adopted.

What you tell others and your children about your motivation to adopt will impact these times. Think about why you want to adopt and what you are telling others. Here are some actual statements from children and teens:

  •  “I mess up a lot. My parents were angry and I overheard my Dad tell my Mom he never wanted to adopt.”
  •  “My parents tell people that they adopted me so my brother wouldn’t be an only child. I wish they would have adopted me just for me and not for him.”
  •  “If God is so good, how come His destiny for me was to be adopted instead of staying with my Korean family?”
  • “My parents rescued me from Haiti and I try to be really good because they took me in.”
  • “Every time my parents are with others, I feel like a science project. They talk about how they adopted me and how well I have done since they adopted me.”
  • “My parents talk about being called to adopt, but they never talk about anything else God called them to do. Why did they have to hear from God before they would adopt me, but they just decided about other things on their own?”
  • “You know my parents adopted from four different countries and the United States. They joke about their collection of kids, but I feel like I am their souvenir from India.”

How will your child perceive your motivation?

—By Karin Price, MSW, LSW, Dillon International’s director of education & post adoption services

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