Adoption culture involves many interesting and unique aspects. Here are a few things you should know.
1) Adoptive Families have a different perspective on how families are formed. Many adoptive families have fought very hard to be a family. They have been scrutinized from every aspect, filled out stacks of paperwork, and sometimes waited years for their children to come home. Because of the intense struggle, most adoptive parents have a great appreciation of the gift of parenthood.
2) Adoptive families realize that blood is not the only thing that makes a family. Love makes the family. When they look at their children, they only see their children, not an adopted child. The adopted child is their “real child.” There is a line in an anonymous adoption poem that says “you didn’t grow under my heart but in it.” Adopted families don’t need genetics to make them a family.
3) Every adopted child has “their” special day. It is a day unique to them. It is like a family holiday just for that child. Our family calls it Gotcha Day. My friend’s family calls it Adoption Day. Still another family I know calls it Family Day. So what is this special day? It is the day the adopted child came to their forever home.
Our family chooses to look at Gotcha day as the day that our son got a family he needed, and we got a child we longed for. We “got” each other. We became a forever family. On this day, our family recounts the joyful day that we met our son. I would be remiss if I did not mention that not every child has the joyful homecoming stories that our boys do. While we may shield the hard parts of their early days until they are older, our boys came to us as infants and their stories are not as heartbreaking as some. Some children hate their Gotcha Days because it brings up feelings of loss and painful memories. Families call it different things and observe it different ways, but it can be a beautiful reminder of how special the child is and how thankful the family is that that particular child is with their forever family.
4) When a family adopts a child whose nationality or ethnicity is different than their own the adoptive family will often retain parts of the child’s ethnic heritage and incorporate it into family life. Making sure that the adopted child is familiar with aspects of their native culture is very important to the child understanding who they are and where they came from. Building relationships with other families who share the child’s heritage or cooking meals from their first culture are great ways to connect the child to their ethnic heritage. Sometimes books, toys, and artwork can be found to reflect the child’s heritage.
5) Sometimes adoptees retain various forms of communication with their biological families. Adoptions can be open, closed, or semi-open in communication. Communication can be as basic as an annual update letter, to as complex as interpersonal relationships depending on the family and situation of the biological family. Having this extended family can add a unique dynamic to the adoptive family.
6) If you associate with a family who has adopted, you may hear them use terms that may be very unfamiliar to you. It’s true, we do have our own lingo and acronyms. While there are too many to list in this article, here are a few that you may hear.
- Home Study – the process required before a child can be placed with a family for foster care or adoption. It includes references, medical reports, financial statements, background checks, social worker visits to the home, and a variety of required training. Upon completion of the aforementioned, a document is drafted stating approval for adoption.
- Final Order of Adoption – the court has signed the final ruling that the child is legally and forever your child
- Semi-Open Adoption – a non-identifying interaction between the child’s biological family and the adoptive family, usually through a mediator such as the adoption agency/attorney.
- Open Adoption –identifying information is shared between the biological parents and the adoptive parents and an amount of contact following placement is agreed upon by both parties.
- Closed Adoption –there is no contact between the biological family and the adoptive family.
- Match – when a potential birth family and a potential adoptive family are found to have suitable qualities and agree to pursue placement.
- Profile Book – a mini biographical photo album of an adoptive family’s likes, interests, family, and friends that is designed to introduce them to potential parents seeking to place their child for adoption. There are also online profiles.
- Placement – when the adoptive child comes to live in the adoptive family’s home.
Adoption culture is pretty amazing. Just like any culture, it can be as varied as the people in it. Each family has its own special dynamic, experience, and traditions. If you are curious about adoption culture, don’t be afraid to ask because another neat thing about adoption culture is that most adoptive families love to talk about adoption.